Customer Review

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collision Course, 26 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Tunes of Glory [DVD] [1960] (DVD)
"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 the 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 anyone else 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 play all the tunes of glory that accompany the cinematic narrative. They fully epitomize the "Idea" of the Regiment.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Mar 2010 14:15:36 GMT
an excellent review, I'd forgotten this film, but it's one I dearly loved when i first saw it


In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2010 21:51:25 GMT
F. S. L'hoir says:
Thank you for your kind words. I saw "Tunes of Glory" a dozen times when it was released for cinema. I also recall enjoying it more at the time than the book. At any rate, on big screen or small, the film is a treasure to be enjoyed repeatedly.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2011 00:12:14 BDT
Bedinog says:
Hello there. Very good review indeed, but I wonder if you could give any more information. Amazon list two Region 2 issues by different labels. There has been criticism of some picture and sound quality. I wonder if you could say a few words about which version (ie label) you have, and what the quality was like. The only issue we seem able to get any detail on at all is the USA region 1 Criterion label

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Apr 2011 06:42:11 BDT
F. S. L'hoir says:
I'm so sorry. I viewed it on the Criterion Collections's NTSC version (The sound and colour were excellent.), so I cannot comment of the PAL.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Nov 2012 01:02:45 GMT
Bedinog says:
Sorry it's been a long time since I've been back to this-hardly seems 18months. Thank you very much-I still haven't acquired any dvd of this one yet.

Posted on 29 Jan 2013 22:29:18 GMT
Pacofisher says:
I was udergoing Officer Training at RAF Cranwell in 1971 and remember the Directing Staff using this film as a training aid during the leadership training phase of the course. Each of the major players in the film were analysed by the group as:
Autocratic Tough (Motivate by threat and fear)
Autocratic Benevolent (Paternalistic, gets loyalty)
Bureaucratic (Rigid policies, rules, S.O.P.)
Diplomatic (Explain, "sell," inspire)
Consultative (Participative but I make the decisions)
Democratic (Participative and group makes decisions)
Free Rein
It is pleasing to read your review, which brings back a lot of memories of a very good and instructional film.
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Review Details



F. S. L'hoir

Location: Irvine, CA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 923