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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film classic re-released
Bill Douglas always went his own way in making films, caring little for fashion or convention. So the first thing that strikes the viewer of Comrades is the strangeness of the technique - long slow shots, silences, abrupt transitions, and above all, the decision to present the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs as if it was a sort of lantern-show. But allow the film-maker...
Published on 13 Sept. 2009 by Dr. Christopher Reeves

versus
0 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit slow and long-winded
Really only for history buffs etc. I bought this for my wife, as she is descended from George Loveless, and while she loves it, even she admits that it is about as entertaining as watching paint dry.

Shame really, since at the heart it is a good story, it is just way, way too long.
Published on 5 Feb. 2010 by Dr. Bob


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film classic re-released, 13 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
Bill Douglas always went his own way in making films, caring little for fashion or convention. So the first thing that strikes the viewer of Comrades is the strangeness of the technique - long slow shots, silences, abrupt transitions, and above all, the decision to present the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs as if it was a sort of lantern-show. But allow the film-maker his licence to work magic - and yes, the magic does work! This piece of cinematography grips and carries you into the experience of these men and their families, especially their sense of being made to feel social outcasts simply for standing up for their basic rights, in a way that few other films succeed in doing.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A much needed eduction, 6 Sept. 2009
By 
Mutt (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
Working class filmmaker Bill Douglas followed his much lauded autobiographical trilogy with this British Film Council funded poor man's epic about the Tolpuddle Martyrs and their struggle to establish an early trade union that was a worthy winner of the BFI Sutherland Trophy and a fitting final film for the director.

Soans puts in a strong central performance with able support from Gaminara, Bateman, Davis, Flynn and a roguish Allen, whilst Hordern, Jones, Fox, Windsor, Redgrave and an astonishing debut performance Staunton rounds out the cast and the omnipresent Norton fills in everything else.

The director retells the tale on a grand scale breathing new life into the story with atmospheric locations that perfectly capture rural Dorset and colonial Australia whilst remembering his own place as the story teller, in the form of the lanternist and his bag of tricks, and never loosing the central message of the union movement.

Remember thine end.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Working Class History..., 28 July 2009
By 
Brady Orme (Edgbaston, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
The BFI seems to have taken it upon themselves to remind us of our Working-class history this month. Along with Brownlow and Mollo's superlative "Winstanley" (1975), "Comrades" turns our attention to another piece of semi-socilaist history; That of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, seven men who created a "Friendly Society" to protest the lowering of general wages during the early 1830s. Although the Combination Acts of 1824/5 legalised what we would consider to be a Trade Union, landowner James Frampton incurred an old 18th-Century act against illegal oaths to have the men arrested, tried and deported to Australia. The men bar one were released in 1836 and moved to London, Ontario. Their trials and tribulations remain in the forefront of the history of rights in the UK, and they deserve an appropriate film to celebrate them.

So how does Bill Douglas's film stand up to scrutiny? Douglas had already completed his Childhood trilogy ("My Childhood" (1972), "My Ain Folk" (1973) and "My Way Home" (1978)) which put him in good stead to write and direct a working-class hero themed film. And yes, in most aspects the man succeeded. An admirable cast which feature such mainstays as Keith Allen, James Fox and Freddie Jones accurately portray the wronged men, and although the cinematography sometimes degenerates into Chocolate-Box gaudiness (Was it an attempt to do a Terence Malick?) the colours are vivid and the contrast between rainy Dorset and parched New South Wales is masterfully portrayed. And yes, the inevitable Romanticism does ooze through at points in order to stir emotion, it's mostly tastefully done and at a low budget. Bravo.

What of the package? Hell, this is the BFI and they never ever do things in halves (Bless them). Spread across two discs you have the documentaries "Lanterna Magica - Bill Douglas and the Secret History of Cinema" and "Visions of Comrades", Michael Alexander's "Home and Away" that was scripted by Douglas. Added to this are interviews and a lavish booklet containing essasy regarding Douglas and the film. I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth (and who the Hell is?) you owe it to yourself to watch how the rights you take for granted materialised. Not out of thin air, let me tell you that.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of British cinema, 15 Dec. 2009
By 
Baillon "Pyewacket" (Bordeaux, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
Every lover of British cinema, or indeed of the motion pictures, should delight in this magnificent gem. The print is top quality and the accompanying leaflet gives much valuable information about this unique feature film by one of the most intriguing Scottish directors ever. Based on a harrowing episode of nineteenth century labour conflicts in Dorset, it features impeccable acting by a cast of non-professional actors (to portray the working class) while the aristocrats are played by the cream of British actors (Vanessa Redgrave and the like). The mere quality of the photography is dazzling and the editor is none other than Mick Audsley, a regular of Terry Gilliam, Stephen Frears and other equally impressive filmmakers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bill Douglas's Masterpiece, 26 Feb. 2015
By 
Tommy Dooley "Tom" (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Comrades (Blu-ray)
More famous for his trilogy of growing up in Scotland Bill Douglas was an undoubted socialist. Here he sets out to tell the tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. They were a group of farm workers and labourers in the nineteenth century who decided to do something about the unfair working conditions and wages that were being forced on them by unscrupulous and over privileged land owners. So they formed one of the first ever trade unions.

Whilst this was not a crime in itself, it did not stop the authorities from stitching them up and having them `transported' for seven years to Australia to face all the privations of convict status in the burgeoning colony.

The story is told through the lens of a lanternist and there are many references to the forms of entertainment of the time. The actors are also very noteworthy, Keith Allen, Philip Davies, James Fox, Vanessa Redgrave, Imelda Staunton and Barbara Windsor to name but a few. A special mention to Alex Norton who played over ten roles including the aforementioned lanternist and I never spotted it.

This is a beautifully filmed piece of cinema with fantastic attention to period detail filmed at Cerne Abbas in Dorset. There is real filth and detritus and the grime on the convicts always looks genuine. It is long at 176 minutes (my version - the BFI restoration) but is a great chronicle of a vital piece of our history and also a unique piece of cinema - absolutely essential viewing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece in historical drama, 8 Oct. 2010
By 
Steve Bridge "Bridgey" (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
This was a film in its length mirroring the long struggle for workers' rights. I had never heard of this film until I stumbled across it on Film4. It is a masterpiece in a long line of British period costume drama. The photography is evocative of a time which we can only barely imagine in its harshness. Great film of great men and women. Great history.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comrades - great story interestingly told, 19 Aug. 2009
By 
Dr. N. C. Baker "nina1636" (Glasgow UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
Comrades is the true story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. The beginnings of trade unionism in the UK. I had of course always known OF the martyrs but never known their story. They werent literally martyred but the film shows how appallingly they and folks like them were treated and how public shock got their sentences revoked. The film is pretty long but is told in an interesting way using the various developing early animation technologies of the time to link the sections of the story.

The 2 disk set has a lot of extras too, so pretty good value if you are a political person.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comrades and their harsh treatment., 21 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
This is a shocking yet inspiring true story of farm labourers in Dorset in the 1830s. They were paid wages so low that they could barely feed their families,yet when they complained the wages were reduced.Their stories are brilliantly told by Bill Douglas,and the 'extras' include an interview with him,and a good illustrated booklet.They were transported to Australia as punishment for their trade union activities and their sufferings and courage are vividly conveyed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, 28 July 2012
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This review is from: Comrades [DVD] [1986] (DVD)
This is a long movie. Be prepared to invest 2 and a half hours. This film takes place in England in the 1830's and tells the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Six men who were desperately poor agricultural labourers living and working on land owned by one wealthy family. Its a story of brutal exploitation (so what's new?)and the courageous people who created an uprising against the oppressive rich landowners. This event may be considered the birth of labour unions in England. The men were charged and sentenced to seven years "transportation" to Australia. There are surprises in the way their exile is treated and the whole presentation could be seen as an historical art film complete with Ed Woods type musical background scores. I thoroughly enjoyed this DVD, I laughed, I winced, I learned a thing or two. I'm happy I bought it.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Working Class History..., 28 July 2009
By 
Brady Orme (Edgbaston, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The BFI seems to have taken it upon themselves to remind us of our Working-class history this month. Along with Brownlow and Mollo's superlative "Winstanley" (1975), "Comrades" turns our attention to another piece of semi-socilaist history; That of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, seven men who created a "Friendly Society" to protest the lowering of general wages during the early 1830s. Although the Combination Acts of 1824/5 legalised what we would consider to be a Trade Union, landowner James Frampton incurred an old 18th-Century act against illegal oaths to have the men arrested, tried and deported to Australia. The men bar one were released in 1836 and moved to London, Ontario. Their trials and tribulations remain in the forefront of the history of rights in the UK, and they deserve an appropriate film to celebrate them.

So how does Bill Douglas's film stand up to scrutiny? Douglas had already completed his Childhood trilogy ("My Childhood" (1972), "My Ain Folk" (1973) and "My Way Home" (1978)) which put him in good stead to write and direct a working-class hero themed film. And yes, in most aspects the man succeeded. An admirable cast which feature such mainstays as Keith Allen, James Fox and Freddie Jones accurately portray the wronged men, and although the cinematography sometimes degenerates into Chocolate-Box gaudiness (Was it an attempt to do a Terence Malick?) the colours are vivid and the contrast between rainy Dorset and parched New South Wales is masterfully portrayed. And yes, the inevitable Romanticism does ooze through at points in order to stir emotion, it's mostly tastefully done and at a low budget. Bravo.

What of the package? Hell, this is the BFI and they never ever do things in halves (Bless them). Spread across two discs you have the documentaries "Lanterna Magica - Bill Douglas and the Secret History of Cinema" and "Visions of Comrades", Michael Alexander's "Home and Away" that was scripted by Douglas. Added to this are interviews and a lavish booklet containing essasy regarding Douglas and the film. I cannot recommend this highly enough. If you weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth (and who the Hell is?) you owe it to yourself to watch how the rights you take for granted materialised. Not out of thin air, let me tell you that.
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Comrades (DVD + Blu-ray) [1987]
Comrades (DVD + Blu-ray) [1987] by Bill Douglas (DVD - 2012)
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