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4.5 out of 5 stars
Cromwell [DVD] (1970) [2003]
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97 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on 5 December 2003
There are two ways to view this 1970 "classic".
The first is to see this as typical overblown but very enjoyable Ken Hughes classic, the second is as a very grand but totally inaccurate historical relic.
On many levels this is a superb film..the superb battle scenes,Guinness as Charles the 1st,the amazing scenery and the even paced script and camera work.However historically this film is full of holes...very little matches the real events of 1640-1655(the time frame of the film) and whilst Hughes is clearly good at the overblown epic style these historical inaccuracies weaken the overall effect.
One huge flaw however is Richard Harris, he dominates the last hour of the film and manages to portray Cromwell as a one dimensional bore, who is either brooding or shouting.His Puritan zeal seems to be playing second fiddle to Harris hamming it up and after five viewings of this film, it seems more and more inadvisable of Hughes to allow such over-acting.
The DVD mastering is great, the picture quality is fantastic and the colours good.
Over 75% of viewers will enjoy this but more as a grand Ken Hughes romp than gritty,historical drama.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A valiant and not entirely successful attempt at a very English 'thinking-man's' epic, Cromwell is one of the most interesting of the historical dramas of the early seventies - and also one of the most flawed.

The first third of the film is very ropey indeed, with banal dialogue full of stilted clichés (the best lines are from history, not Ronald Hardwood or Ken Hughes), a very mannered performance Richard Harris and a clumsy dilution of history. It is only too easy to think that the English Civil War was fought because Cromwell didn't get on with the King's wife and that it was won and lost on the outcome of two battles.

The first battle scene is surprisingly weak - even the extras die unconvincingly - and it is not until its aftermath and the training of the New Model Army that the film really finds its feet and gets some fire in its belly. Hughes saves his visual imagination for the Battle of Naseby, (long since turned into a motorway by the decree of an ungrateful Parliament) and gives a surprisingly gripping account of its aftermath that puts some humanity into the history.

As a warts and all portrait, the wart is most definitely missing but Richard Harris' Cromwell is a complex and convincing character, always being forced into action rather than forcing events. Alec Guinness' Charles I is also a considered portrait, a mixture of integrity and pragmatic duplicity (recalling Parliament to raise finance for a war with the Scots, he ends up allied to his enemies against his own politicians) that is entirely understandable and on occasion even sympathetic.

The cast of supporting players for the most part prove rather less convincing. Nigel Stock is quietly impressive as the King's ultimately disillusioned confidante and Geoffrey Keen solidly reliable as ever as one of Cromwell's political allies; but while Timothy Dalton's Prince Rupert of the Rhine cuts a dash as he brings his pooch into battle on his arm, Patrick Wymark's Royal advisor is a parody worthy of Blackadder the Third - as Guinness points out, "You're too loud, Lord Stafford. It is most unpleasant to the ear."

The first hour has no driving force or feeling of the relentless rush towards an irreversible destiny: the force of history is almost totally absent. Similarly, it does not really gain that much in Scope. Geoffrey Unsworth's photography is ill-served by the production and costume design and Hughes lack of visual sense. Indeed, much of this first third is surprisingly slipshod. There are some very clumsy edits, both on sound and picture and Frank Cordell's often damaging score offers an object lesson in how not to score a film.

Where Miklos Rozsa and Dimitri Tiomkin integrated their grandiose style into the fabric of the drama, composer Frank Cordell points every action with sledgehammer subtlety with crescendos on every move and under every key line of dialogue. Atrociously spotted with no faith in the audience's intelligence, there is too much Benjamin Britten in Cordell's music, which is more of an opera than a film score. Some of the problem can be put down to the appalling mixing that results in the score overpowering a scene rather than underplaying it. Only in the preparations for battle does it gain the grim restraint it needs to work.

Not a great film - for that it really needed a better script, score and director - but, after a very bad start, a very good one.

Some of the opening credits are so finely printed that they are unreadable (as they are on the video) but otherwise the print quality is quite superb, as if taken from a brand new print, though lovers of the roadshow era will be disappointed that Columbia have removed the Overture and well-timed Intermission. And what happened to the original stereo? Tut tut. No extras either.
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53 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2003
This is a marvellous film, entertaining, visually stunning, intelligent, full of fine performances and set-pieces, along with an atmospheric score to boot. It is set in mid 17th century England, and centres on the conflict between King and parliament which leads to civil war, the execution of the King and the establishment of a republic. Cromwell is played By Richard Harris, and he gives one of his best performances, full of swagger, intensity and inner turmoil, tuning his range perfectly to the demands of each scene. In contrast, Alec Guiness as King Charles I, gives a masterly display of Kingly cool, sparring playfully with his fellow actors. The scenes that lead us through the trial and execution of the King are remarkably well crafted by Guiness, touching and pathetic in turn, and all the more dramatic for the contrast in style to Hariss's Cromwell. The film manages to sweep the audience along on an epic tour of English history, and in the humble opinion of this reviewer, is well worth repeated viewings. There are some fine supporting actors on display - Frank Finlay, Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin, Timothy Dalton, Stratford Johns to name but a few. So sit back, dim the lights and enjoy this rich slice of English history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 February 2015
The perfect gift for all movie buffs is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker

Riveting biographical drama about Oliver Cromwell, his role in the English Civil War and the subsequent execution of King Charles I. For a History buff like me, this film is a real treat, despite its inaccuracies.

Richard Harris is believable and captivating as Cromwell, the reluctant revolutionary who gradually becomes more and more radical. But he is more than matched by the superb Alec Guinness who plays King Charles as a flawed human being who despite his shortcomings as a leader, ultimately wins our sympathy with his stoic dignity.

Hughes's direction is sure-handed and (thankfully) non-showy, while top-notch art direction, cinematography and memorable secondary roles help elevating this film from a dry historical lesson to a memorable cinematic experience overall.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 7 April 2011
I give this movie 5 stars simply because it delivered on my expectations. I expected a great performace from Harris playing Cromwell and he did not disappoint. While it is true that it is by no means totally accurate from a historical point of view it is still entertaining and you cant help but believe Alec Guinness is King Charles I himself. Stunning and compelling. A movie I will watch many times in the future.
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I will review this film as a film and not an historical document. There are enough reviews already decrying the historical content and inaccuracies.

I have watched this film many times and have recently bought it on DVD. I find the film fascinating, especially Richard Harris's depiction of Cromwell. There is always a tension within his portrayal, between a man who just wanted to get on in a "normal" life and a man who was constantly being pulled into action by first the King and then his fellow members of Parliament. Alec Guinness also plays the complex character of King Charles perfectly. Guinness's mannerisms, eye movements and gestures all give the impression that the King was two faced, a liar, a cheat and a squanderer of the Crown.

The direction by Ken Hughes is done very well, so are he costumes and sets. It gives the feel of 1600's England. I can watch this film over and over again and always see something I did not see before. It is purely an entertaining film with a good story. Whilst I cannot say it is a great historical record of what actually did happen in the English civil war, it is nonetheless a wonderful 1970's English production, with charm and great acting by the two stars.

An enjoyable film, if you can ignore the inaccurate scenes.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this film - dramatic, lavishly costumed, visually exciting, great cast - but I do not go to the cinema for history lessons; had I done so, I should have been disappointed and greatly misinformed. Historically this film is not accurate as very little matches the real events of 1640-1655 (the period covered by the film). For many who do not know their history, this may well be their version of that time, which is always a problem with films of books and historical periods, e.g. "Braveheart".

Nevertheless, as a film it works very well. Alec Guinness is brilliant as Charles I and anyone who has seen Anthony van Dyck's triple portrait of the monarch will know why he was chosen; the likeness is startling. Richard Harris's Cromwell is less convincing and he appears petulantly one-dimensional. The supporting cast, the best of British acting at the time, plays their roles effectively.

This is a couple of hours of lavish, well-acted enjoyment which does help to re-create this complex, politically fraught period in British history, a time which seemed particularly un-British in many many ways. For historical accuracy, go elsewhere, e.g. Simon Schama, but the DVD is worth the investment and time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Despite the changes to history that were made in order to encapsulate it into a movie it does capture the essence of the man and his greatness.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2000
I was at first bowled over by the almost scarily and uncanny portrayal of King Charles I by Alec Guinness in , possibly,one of his most under rated roles.Even down the to the slip of a Scottish accent at points of emotion, and the stammer that Charles had until his last moments at his trial and execution. I wasn't as impressed with Timothy Dalton's performance as Prince Rupert- a bit too much of a parody , for the otherwise serious content of the film.Richard Harris's performance is similarly a bit over the top at times, but otherwise convincing as Cromwell himself. It still remains one of my favourite films , but as with the major battle scenes ( which look a bit more like the historical productions of the 20's and 30's such as Errol Flynn's films- focussing on the spectacle rather than the events themselves.) The soldiers look more Spanish of the sixteenth century, rather than anything believable. But, that is the difference between history and film representation. Otherwise, the overall attention to detail can't really be faulted, and makes for a realy good , if still underrated, masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2013
This is a film I've seen many times and enjoyed very mcy. Richard Harris and Alec Guiness were both wonderful actors
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