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111 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch Great War Drama
I remember watching this on television when it was first screened by the BBC back in 1986, and was mightily impressed. Twenty one years later, the 'Monocled Mutineer' has lost none of its impact.
Loosely based upon the real life story of a Nottinghamshire ne'er-do-well who finds himself drawn inexorably into the carnage of the First World War, the 'Monocled Mutineer'...
Published on 28 Aug. 2007 by An Englishman abroad

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The UN Complete BBC Series Monocled Mutineer
This is a great Drama,

But sadly i feel it has been ruined by whomever brought
it out on DVD.

They have cut an hour or more from the original TV Series

it is very sad as it detracts from the quality of the drama.

Whilst still a brilliant show, It would be fair to let others

see the full uncut version...
Published on 14 Jun. 2011 by P. Hanbury


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111 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Notch Great War Drama, 28 Aug. 2007
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I remember watching this on television when it was first screened by the BBC back in 1986, and was mightily impressed. Twenty one years later, the 'Monocled Mutineer' has lost none of its impact.
Loosely based upon the real life story of a Nottinghamshire ne'er-do-well who finds himself drawn inexorably into the carnage of the First World War, the 'Monocled Mutineer' offers a highly original take upon what might seem like a familiar period of history. Scripted by the controversial Alan Bleasdale, it manages to be funny, moving and sometimes shocking, all the while maintaining a strong and engaging story line. A key episode involves the so-called 'Etaples Mutiny' of 1917, when British soldiers ran amok in protest at the brutalities of the nearby 'Bull Ring' training camp. The film's depiction of these events caused a stir in 1986, with Tory MPs outraged at what they considered to be a slur upon the record of the British soldiers who fought and died in Flanders. Yet such reactions were wide of the mark, as the 'Monocled Mutineer' takes a balanced view of the episode, and makes it clear that the limited outbreak of disorder was sparked by the systematic bullying of veterans who had already been pushed to the limit. The film deals frankly with the horrors of trench warfare, and also the comradeship and black humour that enabled soldiers to endure them.
The script is excellent, with convincing dialogue contributing to a strong sense of the period. The young Paul McGann was perfectly cast in the central role of Percy Topliss, the working class lad and humble Tommy who periodically adopts the persona of a dashing, monocle-wearing officer, and casually assumes a leading role in the 'Etaples Mutiny'. These are crimes for which the Establishment can never forgive him, and in the war's aftermath, Topliss becomes the most wanted man in Britain. McGann plays the part with exactly the right mixture of cynicism and compassion. The rest of the cast - which includes the likes of Timothy West and Cherie Lunghi - is equally good.
All in all, a well-crafted, atmospheric and gripping drama.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, 26 Sept. 2007
I have just finished watching this now, over three evenings and enjoyed it as much as I did so many years go. I think this is the best thing Paul McGann has done except for 'Withnail and I'. Philip McGough who plays the secret service officer determined to track Percy Topis down, is also very good in a quiet, understated way.

It is all very well acted and there is a fair amount of humour. Toplis comes across as a bit of a rogue, reluctant to be a hero.

It is now debated whether Toplis was at Etaples. Paul McGann is quoted as saying "I don't think he was at Etaples. The units that he served in and was attached to simply weren't around. At the same time, given the fact that he came and went, that he was a bit of a loner, and moved between people and places, it is not inconceivable that he was there". Apparently we may know the truth in 2017 when the files are opened.

A number of the scenes, especially towards the end do faithfully match what is known about him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a rare insight into war, 29 Mar. 2011
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WWI is an historical event less talked about than WWII. We are sick of hearing and watching any show about genocide, holocaust and Hitler, but how often do we see anything about the gruesome details on the life of soldiers in the WWI? That's what made this series so valuable. The scene that made the most impact on me is in one of the earlier episodes where a young officer was court-martialled for desertion. The heart-rending monologue by the 20 year old young officer was a rare revelation into the reality of war - a waste of human life it was. The execution of this young officer was a pivotal moment for the hero - Sergeant Topliss, who has since turned into a complete cynic, a rebel without cause. Although Topliss did exist in British military history, one should remember this is a work of art, not a documentary, so there is no need to nit-picking on the historical accuracy of the story.
The series is well made and well acted, although it was a bit slow to start with. I would say it's a tragedy in the guise of a comedy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated WW1 gem, 23 Dec. 2013
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Back in the eighties, it was ITV who ruled at the costume drama, with classics like Brideshead Revisited and The Jewel in The Crown spread over eleven and fourteen episodes. They literally don't make them like that any more. The BBC's period dramas had acting that was as cardboard as the set.

The Monocled Mutineer is what the Americans would call a mini-series. It doesn't quite have the scale of the ITV productions; it's four episodes- three 75 mins and the finale is 90 mins. This is a spoiler-free review because I haven't actually seen the final episode! I just got so excited that I decided to review anyway.

The DVD back cover humorously says that it is a "supposedly true story", whereas the general consensus is that it is willfully historically inaccurate. To be honest, unless you are particularly familiar with WW1 minor figure Percy Toplis, I doubt it will bother you. If it does, never watch a play, film or TV show again. The look of the whole thing, from what I can tell, is factually accurate. It's certainly not the 1940 film of Pride and Prejudice, where everyone's wearing outfits from Civil War melodrama Gone with The Wind! The cover also clears up the myth that the show has never been repeated; it was repeated once, in 1988, but not since then.

You know when people go a bit gooey over the 'golden era' of Hollywood? I have the same reaction to these eighties mini-series. They're well-written, well-acted, well-shot...simply good stories that gave us a look at British history that was both nostalgic and critical. With its script written by 'Boys From The Black Stuff' writer Alan Bleasdale, The Monocled Mutineer is mostly critical. At the time, people complained that it was all part of some lefty agenda at the BBC and that it was ruining the honour of the soldiers who fought in it. The Monocled Mutineer certainly has things in common with Boys From The Black Stuff- Toplis's mutiny is clearly reminiscent of the worker's unions- but it's not a rehash or allegory, even if Thatcher Britain saw things in it that reflected their own society.

In a way, I would have liked it to have been longer. Unlike Brideshead or Jewel, which are rammed full of fascinating characters, the focus of The Monocled Mutineer is on, well, 'The Monocled Mutineer'- AKA Percy Toplis. This was Paul McGann's first big role and he just exudes charisma and talent. Though he looks as if he wouldn't last a day in the war, this works in his favour, as Toplis tries to avoid getting involved in, well, anything. Maybe that's what wound up the public; Toplis is a self-serving anti-hero. His big trick is to impersonate an officer so he can go off and have a bit of fun occasionally and McGann manages to play both working-class Yorkshire lad and public-school educated officer beautifully. It's an interesting commentary on how class is simply an accident of birth and that there is nothing inherently special about the upper classes. Another actor would undoubtedly have been stronger playing one class than the other (imagine Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady) but McGann plays them equally as well, giving the impression of a young man whose identity is completely fluid.

I'm not sure how close this is to the real-life Percy Toplis. From photos, Toplis looks like a shifty scallywag, whereas McGann is strikingly good-looking. You might argue that it's just romanticising history but I think that Toplis needs to be at least superficially attractive for the audience to see how people might have fallen for his charisma. McGann's character is still scally-waggish and a bit unpleasant- refreshingly, Bleasdale finds some black humour and irony in this. Instead of making Toplis the baddie or trying to underplay his unpleasantness and making him a working-class hero, Toplis remains enigmatically ambiguous. Is he a reluctant hero or merely just a stirring trickster?

However there are two other great characters- Timothy West as Brigadier General Thomson, who allows the brutalities in the Etaples training camp to happen and mourns that the days when an officer was respected are no longer, and Penelope Wilton as Lady Angela Forbes, who serves the tea at the camp and objects to the sadistic training methods. The dialogue and power play between the two is hilarious, even though the subject matter is brutal. Aside from McGann, Wilton has the best lines. I won't paraphrase because it'll lose some of the brilliance, so you'll just have to watch it!

As for the DVD itself, it's a bare bones version. Unlike the VHS, which merged episodes into one long film, the DVD is split into the original four episodes. Happily, there are English subtitles, which is more than you'll get on some DVDs, and as a nice little treat, the main menus use the glorious theme tune as a background and the scene selection menus use McGann's lovely version of 'Let The Great Big World Keep Turning'. You might want some smelling salts by you for that moment in the series because any woman is bound to swoon.

Interesting trivia: Paul McGann was originally meant to star in nineties historical TV series Sharpe, and he shows all the necessary qualities in The Monocled Mutineer. However an injury meant that Sean Bean stepped in- for the better I think. Excellent actor though McGann is, I don't buy him as a fighting type (though he's played many dashing soldiers), whereas Sean Bean is a man's man as well as a ladies' man. McGann got his chance to steal a role when he beat Withnail and I co-star Richard E Grant to the role of the Doctor in Doctor Who. Ah, the many what-ifs of film and television...
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why did we have to wait Twenty Years ?, 12 Oct. 2007
Why did we have to wait Twenty Years ?

The first episode was transmitted on the 31 st of August 1986 by the BBC and was split into four episodes and if you have never seen it then you are in for a Huge treat.

Yes I appreciate that although it was claimed at the time to be ' 100 % accurate ' that it may or may not be as accurate as Claimed.

The political crisis that was caused by the BBC's broadcast of Alan Bleasdale's adaptation, "The Monocled Mutineer" was fuelled by the British press and its denouncement of the factuality of the series, retired staff of the British High Command sent letters to newspapers angrily refuting that there had ever been a mutiny by the British army in 1917.

The true account of Percy Toplis' involvement in the very real mutiny by the conscripted soldiers in the training camp (known as The Bull Ring) at Etaples will perhaps be made a little clearer in 2017 when the official military files concerned will be released into public domain.

Even when the official papers are released in ten years time will we be any the wiser as there is bound to be a bit of spin put on it .

Really I doubt if we will ever know the full truth but one thing is for ' certain ' its taken over twenty years to reach DVD and with out a doubt it has to be Paul McGann's best work.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The true story and adventures of anti-hero Percy Toplis, 22 Jun. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Monocled Mutineer [VHS] [1986] (VHS Tape)
Paul McGann is fantastic as the seldom known Percy Toplis who, as many young working class men, was forced into the trenches of the first world war. However Percy Toplis is a rebel, and using his skills as a confidence trickster turns the war to his own advantage. We witness his life from a child to his death at the hands of the police. Along the way we join in his adventures, seeing him masquerade as a high ranking officer, become a bolshevik and then later take control of a mutiny at Etaples training camp, eventually becoming the most wanted man in Britain and going in the run. The insight into Toplis' character is fantastic. we begin to understand him perfectly, really liking him and even get angry with the characters surrounding him. He is, I suppose, a cross between Del-boy trotter, James Bond, Blackadder and Private Walker from Dad's Army. The backdrops are great and the musical score outstanding, creating a real old fashioned atmosphere. The scenes in the trenches are particularly haunting. It is a bit like a period drama, but with wit and action. It is a true fact that the Etaples mutiny was covered up by the government for decades, and only became public knowledge in the late 1970's.This is The reason the real Percy Toplis is not so well known today, so although some scenes differ from the factual book by William ALlison and John Fairley, The Monocled Mutineer does have some historical importance.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - we more like this to be prodcued today, 6 Mar. 2008
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W. Hutchinson "whutchin2" (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
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Like other reviewers I was glad this came out on DVD (I also have the video tape version). One reviewer sated that it was not like the book, which is partially true. However, it does reflect the times and the circumstances of that rebellion at Entaples (which is still shrouded in mystery). The programme itself is brilliantly acted and the story entertaining and credible. I think it captures the period during and just after the First World War. Alan Bleasdale has done a good job of dramatising this. I certainly did not find it boring as one reviewer did. True, it does not have constant action and violence but the story is told well and not only entertaining but edifying as well. It certainly does not rely on special sound effects or slick and 'clever' camera tricks that mar so much of contemporary television.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, and stands the test of time., 25 Nov. 2013
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I saw this in the 1980s and was curious to see if it stood the test of time as I loved it then - and love it now. This show set me off on a quest to find out more about my own great uncles, both killed in WW1 (my grandad survived the war). It turned out, one of them, a corporal in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, had died at Passchendaele in 1917 - a few weeks after going home on leave, and returning to the front.... via Etaples. That very month.

This is where it gets intriguing. When we started to trace my great uncle, (whose brother was still alive in the 1980s and told me all about him), we discovered that he had no grave. Nothing unusual about that. But that meant he should have been on the Tyne Cott memorial. He wasn't. His family had been told he had been commemorated on a memorial but never had the money to travel to Europe - and so we didn't know until the 1980s, that he'd been left off the memorial. We complained, and his name was duly added. Thanks, in no small part, to this show.

But I have often wondered if the War Graves Commission 'forgetting' to add his name to the memorial, wasn't something to do with the fact he is known to have been at Etaples, the relevant week? They sent those men to Passchendaele, knowing they'd be slaughtered and there'd be no trace of the mutiny. So thanks to Alan Bleasdale, and all involved, at least one man in Etaples that week, is now remembered when it seems officialdom was determined to wipe him out of all knowledge.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best thing that's ever been on TV, 15 Sept. 2010
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Mr. C. Shevlin "chris50545" (London UK) - See all my reviews
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I first saw this when I was about eight and it had a massive effect on me. Surprisingly, it's just as good as I remember it. It feels real, and the performances are excellent, as is the script, the music and everything else.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Monocled Mutineer., 9 July 2009
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Wonderful TV production. McGann is magnificent in the starring role. The film depicts aspects of life before and during World War 1 that are usually neglected . Warm, funny and bitterly tragic at the same time.
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The Monocled Mutineer [VHS] [1986]
The Monocled Mutineer [VHS] [1986] by Paul McGann (VHS Tape - 2003)
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