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The Virgin Soldiers
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(Mar 25, 2019)
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Set in Singapore in the early 1950s, this impressive adaptation of Leslie Thomas' best-selling, scandalous novel centres on a group of naïve, young British Army recruits billeted to Malaya who have no experience of either love or war.
Both affectionate and affecting in its look at young men in wartime, the film has a wonderful cast which includes Lynn Redgrave (Georgy Girl, The National Health), Hywel Bennett (The Family Way, Twisted Nerve) and Nigel Davenport (The Third Secret, The Mind of Mr. Soames), along with early appearances from Christopher Timothy, Wayne Sleep, James Cosmo and a young David Bowie. Genuine and heartfelt, The Virgin Soldiers is an insightful and hugely underrated British comic drama.
INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
- High Definition remaster
- Original mono audio
- The Virgin Actors (2019, 29 mins): Roy Holder and Christopher Timothy recall their experiences on location
- Some Confidence (2019, 8 mins): writer Ian La Frenais discusses his contributions to the screenplay
- 16mm Location Footage (1967, 14 mins): rare and previously unseen material shot during location scouting
- Operation Malaya (1953, 67 mins): David MacDonald s acclaimed feature-length docudrama on the Malayan Emergency
- Original theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
- Isolated music & effects track
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by author Scott Harrison, Leslie Thomas on The Virgin Soldiers, archival profiles of Lynn Redgrave and Tsai Chin, an overview of contemporary critical responses, Anthony Nield on Operation Malaya, and film credits
- UK premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited Edition of 3,000 copies
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Hywell Bennett is ideal as the wide-boy Prvt Brigg and he brilliantly portrays youthful angst with that eroding realisation that he must at least do 'something' whilst being where he doesn't want to be. Released in 1970, a busy time for cinema, addressing themes around such issues, especially in the U.S with Vietnam, we Brits really only having made WW2 films and not much since.
Indeed, it follows a rather watered down sort of earthy, almost puerile, pithy dialogue that appeared in, say MASH. Time has dissolved some of the edginess to the sexual liaisons and now the homosexual intonations barely get more than a nod of recognition, but they must have given the film a real feel of bravado and liberty when it was released.
There are some incredulous, laugh-out loud situational moments, almost always to do with evading duty in some way or another. To me, though, it is the sight of bookish Christopher Timothy (later TV's James Herriot), Geoffrey Hughes (Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances) and as the medic, giving out sexual health advice, Waiting For God's Grahame Crowden, that adds sparkle and a pleasurable connectivity.
I would say, though, that apart from Bennett's, the acting was a little flat and unengaging and though the story wasn't riveting, there was enough in the film to keep me occupied and entertained for the whole 90mins.
A bigger matter must be that this is not a film that is shown on TV, nor currently a DVD that you can buy and for most will only be something, like me, that one has a particular reason to seek out.
The story is set in the 1948 - 52 period in Malaysia where the British army was fighting an unofficial war with the Communist Guerrillas in the jungle, it concentrates on the main character BRIG who has been been consripted into the army and dragged accross the sea to SINGAPORE. Theres a small amount of action surrounding BRIGG's attempt to pop his cherry and boredom in barracks.
The film it's self shows what singapore used to look like which also means it looks dated but but this makes it nice to watch as it almost has the appearence of a documentary with the quality of the film. The acting does not have the dissapointing appearence of most old films.
Included in the line up are Lynn Redgrave and Nigel Davenport; but Wayne Sleep portrays an excellent gay soldier and steals the show.
The on-location film used Gillman Barracks in Singapore as the Army Depot, so any ex-servicemen who were based there, or children who attended Bourne School which was part of the Garrison and used the parade square to board their buses, will recognise the settings.
An enjoyable film which kept my attention from start to finish.