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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 26 September 2012
Hadn't seen this in years, until recently, and am very impressed by it. Despite most of it being shot in the studio it achieves a real authenticity with the establishing shot of Stirling Castle and little more than a couple of location scenes. The dialogue is of the highest order, with some rich and fruity lines for Guinness in particular, in a part that is to die for. There is some marvellous tension and moral conflict at the heart of this drama that reminds me a little of that other masterpiece of ensemble acting about military loyalty, The Hill, with Sean Connery. Perhaps what Tunes of Glory does lack is that harder edged attack of the later films and acting style of the 60's. I'm a huge Alec Guinness fan but I'm not entirely convinced by his performance here, even though it's certainly one of his best. I'd love to see what a slightly later generation of Scottish actors could have done with the role, and I could imagine someone like the great Ian Bannen digging even deeper into the character of Jock Sinclair. John Mills also gets one of his most interesting screen roles, and although it's a very fine performance he too doesn't quite convince as the psychologically damaged victim of a harsh prisoner of war camp. He really showed what he could do in this area in the later Ryan's Daughter, but here it's as if he let Guinness slightly overshadow him. I'd have liked to see what Richard Attenborough could have done as Barrow in Tunes of Glory, and I think, as he would prove many times on screen, that he could have painted a character more haunted by his experience. Kay Walsh was wonderful in everything she ever did, and reason alone for watching this movie. She was always a lovely blend of opposites: sexy, yet with a touching fragility, innocence and experience all rolled into one. Next to Kay, Susannah York is a bit 'one-note' but then she has much the lesser part. The film builds wonderfully to its climax, and the scene where Barrow shoots himself is indicative of the quality of this movie. Nothing in the scene is rushed, it all happens almost in real time, the under-playing is faithful to the mood and event, nothing is over-dramatized. This film is now over fifty years old so my slight reservations probably owe more to the fact that it was shot just on the cusp of a new era in British cinema, but already in Tunes of Glory you can begin to see the sort of doubt and self-examination that would characterise the new psychological realism and heightened emotion of the 1960's. When all is said and done it's a great movie of wonderful depth, complexity and intelligence, with marvellous acting, that repays repeated viewings, and I urge you to revisit it as I did.
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on 5 November 2006
This is a brilliant film; one of the best of all time as it has everything: love, anger, betrayal, friendship, sacrifice and so the list goes on. I just wish they would produce a Region 2 version so I wouldn't have to wait for the infrequent times it's shown on television.
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2008
"Tunes of Glory" tells the story of what happens when the proverbial irresistible force meets the immovable object. Alec Guinness in the persona of Major Jock Sinclair represents the former, and John Mills represents the latter in role of Lt. Colonel Basil Barrow, who is sent to replace Sinclair as permanent Colonel of a Scottish battalion. Sinclair is a popular former Pipe Major who has risen up through the ranks because of his heroism in the desert campaign of El Alamein in World War II. Barrow, whom Jock belittles, calling him "Barrow Boy", is the antithesis: a graduate of Eton and Oxford, he is descended from a long line of colonels who have themselves commanded the same battalion. Barrow has therefore inherited the "Idea" of the regiment, while Sinclair has grown up at its heart and has grafted himself onto what he considers its spirit.

I cannot recall two other actors who are so well matched in equality of strength. One gets the feeling that if any other actor had been cast in only one of the respective leading roles, either Guinness or Mills would have dominated that unfortunate actor. But these two giants are equipollent in ability. Furthermore, they have a history of acting together. Guinness was outstanding as Herbert Pocket (his first role) in Dickens' "Great Expectations" where he played alongside of John Mills, who portrayed Pip. In "Kind Hearts and Coronets" Guinness also worked with Dennis Price who, in "Tunes", plays Major Charles Scott, whose motives are as enigmatic as he is aristocratic. Jock never tires of addressing him mockingly as "Old Boy!" And although Charlie seems to tolerate Jock's japes good-naturedly to a point, when the tension between Jock Sinclair and Basil Barrow explodes, Charlie's motives become ambiguously opaque.

The excellent ensemble cast includes Kay Walsh as Jock's actress and "bit on the side"; Gordon Jackson as Captain Jimmy Cairns, the only man who really tries to understand the difficulties of both antagonists; and the incomparable Duncan Macrae as the sympathetic Pipe Major MacLean.

Ronald Neame's direction is superb, and the disc includes a fascinating interview with him about the making of the film and his warm relationship with the actors. The cinematography captures the essence (or what convinced me was the essence, since I have no personal knowledge thereof) of the officers' quarters: gothic elegance downstairs--the great fireplace and tall leaded windows; the paneled dining hall with its regimental silver; and Spartan rudiments upstairs in the sleeping quarters. The dour grey skies and the powdering of snow outside seem to exacerbate the tensions and jealousies inside that not even the fire crackling in the immense grate can dispel.

A star of the film is certainly the piping and the precision marching of the splendidly kilted highland pipers, who pipe all the tunes of glory that accompany the cinematic narrative, and fully epitomize the "Idea" of the Regiment.
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on 25 January 2011
I saw this movie years ago and wanted to buy it from AmazonUK (the Criterion issue is beyond my budget) I can live with the black line, but not with bad sound.Did everyone notice the bad sound and is it bearable?
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on 18 April 2012
This has to be one of my all time favourite military films.
Having spent some of my time time in the Officers Mess it brings back lots of happy memories although I can't recall a Senior Officer as difficult as Jock (Alec Guiness).

The story is very moving as it details the clash between two men of different personality and experience.

The junior officers are torn between loyalty to their old CO and the respect they should show the new man (John Mills).

There are no battle scenes but it shows life at a rugged Scottish Post after World War 2.

A great movie at a great price.
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on 21 May 2014
The film centres on a Highland Barracks when disciplinarian CO John Mills arrives to take over from the hard drinking Jock Alec Guiness. The confrontational scenes between the two is electrifying and the traumatic outcome is quite moving. The scenes in the officers mess and on the display ground are most memorable. There is much to enjoy along the way and the film should have won Alec Guiness an Oscar, he is marvellous.
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on 3 January 2013
A classic film that shows what can happen when a person in charge of a company of soldiers is lax and behaves like one of the boys is ousted from his post by a man of higher rank he considers is an intruder.
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on 1 June 2016
Released in 1960, and starring Alec Guinness, John Mills and Susannah York, this is a film about the relationship between an Acting Major (AG) and his replacement (JM) in a Scottish Regiment. It follows their conflicting lives and ambitions.

This film was regarded as the finest in Alec Guinness`s illustrious career. A compelling story, critically praised as one of the best British dramas of all time.
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on 21 April 2012
This is one of my desert island films, watched over and over. John Mills outstanding and Alec Guiness also.A touching and sad film but a few smiles in there also. Kay Walsh, always a pleasure to watch. Do seek it out.
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on 22 October 2010
Unlike the Desert Rats (WW II), Guns at Batasi (colonial Africa) and Zulu (the Zulu war), this is set in post-war Scotland. The garrison town is Stirling. The story is about power, resentment and a final reckoning on two counts. The power concerns the appointment of a new colonel to the Highland regiment (John Mills). The resentment is from the acting colonel, who is 'passed over' for that cherished post (Alec Guinness). The final reckoning? Watch the film! The encounters between them and their respective reactions in separate places, are at times, electrifying. The sub-text; the encounters between the sergeant major (a rigid and blustering Englishman) and the pipe major (the wonderful Duncan Macrae, with his lilting Highland accent) simply highlight two views of this world and the people in it. This is also Susannah York's first film. If you like films about the British army, Scottish regiments with their bagpipes plus a British ensemble of very fine actors, enjoy this film. Dennis Price is particularly... Dennis Price in this tale. Excellent!

Ian Hunter.
Author of The Early Years
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