on 26 May 2004
This is a truly astonishing film. I doubt it could even be attempted today. The number of uniformed extras is astonishing considering the cost of the uniforms involved, especially the beautiful French cavalry and infantry uniforms. The charge of the Scots Grays Cavalry is magnificently filmed, clearly inspired by a famous painting.
The battle is somewhat accurately depicted, insofar as the order of engagements, charges, and skirmishes. Toward the end, however, it becomes confusing, and has obviously been severely edited for time. Other reviewers have stated that the film was originally four hours long. This version is only a little over two hours. I would not have complained had it been a full hour longer, so long as that hour was devoted to accurately depicting the battle, and showing off some of the amazing uniforms, especially of the French cavalry. Frankly, the battle itself seems to have been somewhat shortchanged in this shorter version.
on 29 July 2008
In the tradition of the cinematic epics like Kubrick's "Spartacus" and Mann's "Fall of the Roman Empire," Bondarchuk's "Waterloo" succeeds in depicting Napoleon's desperate and final bid for power and glory. Steiger, no stranger to roles that have consistently challenged his acting ability, is quite good as the deposed French emperor who narrowly lost his final battle. Orson Welles' appearance as Louis XVIII, is far too brief but most welcome, and Plummer as Lord Wellington is a casting director's dream. Dino de Laurentiis has produced some questionable if not laughable films in the past "King Kong" (1976) and "Flash Gordon" (1980); however, "Waterloo" must be seen as one of his better efforts.
Many critics here at Amazon will applaud the many and well-orchestrated battle scenes--a case-in-point are the great aerial shots of the British "squares" organized against Marshall Ney (Dan O' Herlihy) and the French cavalry--and one can easily understand the film's strong visual appeal, but this opus succeeds in other ways too.
The non-battle scenes, for instance, like the ball before the battle which introduces us to Napoleon's nemesis, Wellington, and the scenes of Napoleon dictating letters to his secretaries, are thoughtful touches that broaden the scope of this highly entertaining film and successfully depict an aristocratically genteel milieu shattered by the cataclysm that is nineteenth-century warfare. On the surface, an era characterized by the gentility of the landed gentry and sportsmanlike conduct on the battlefield, later destroyed by the real brutalities and devastation of war.
Unlike too many directors who take liberties with depicting historical events (Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" quickly come to mind), Bondarchuck successfully and accurately depicts Napoleon in his decline--plagued with self-doubt, his irascible outbursts towards subordinates compounded by his ill-health (now confirmed by modern bio-historians as a combination of dysuria, piles, dermatitis, and stomach cancer) and his symptoms of grandiose delusion .
This is a Region 2 PAL encoded disc, so you will require a multi-region DVD player to view it. This film originally ran at 3 hours on its initial theatrical release in 1970, now cut down to 2 hours and eight minutes. It is a pity that we do not have the film in its entirety with Region 1 encoding as the director originally intended. Although this item is listed here as currently "unavailable," try purchasing it thru the AmazonUK site.
on 13 November 2011
After being banished to Elba, Napoleon Bonaparte (Rod Steiger) returns in triumph to Paris to reclaim his Emperor's throne while King Louis XVIII (a mountainous Orson Welles) flees the city. But his glory is short lived as he meets the armies of Wellington (Christopher Plummer) at the battle of Waterloo. This handsome epic, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk (1967's WAR AND PEACE), is a mixed bag. With the exception of a well done ball sequence, the dramatic portions tend to be stagnant. But the battle scenes, which occupy the second half of the film, are pretty awesome. More so because it's not CGI the way it would be today. Filmed in the Soviet Union, the Russians not only helped fund the film but provided some 16,000 soldiers to act as background in the battle scenes. When you see some of the incredible aerial shots or the charging armies, you know it's real people on the screen, not computer generated images. Steiger, while an odd choice for Napoleon, is effective in his restrained scenes while his eye popping acting is distracting in others. The Nino Rota score is a dud but Armando Nannuzzi gives the film a nice sheen whether the rich looking interiors or the vast exteriors. With Jack Hawkins, Virginia McKenna, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Wilding and Philippe Forquet.
The Sony DVD via Great Britain is a nicely rendered anamorphic wide screen (2.35) transfer.
on 12 October 2003
This film has probably the greatest battle scene ever shown, the detail and comparison to the original battlefield is excellent. The film however, in this form, suffers from poor cuts and editing. When will a release of the original 4 hour epic take place? this has over 2 hours dedicated to the battle. Still a great film withgreat performances, and a must for either the historical or war fan.
on 7 August 2004
I am not a war or history movie buff. However I saw half of this movie by chance over 10 years ago and since then Napoleon's drive has remained in my memories.
I decided to re-watch this movie before purchasing it recently as memory has a way of making things greater than they were. I am glad to say that from the opening scene to the end this movie is amazing, everything I remember and more.
I highly recommend it to anyone with a dream.
on 10 September 2003
Needless to say this film tells the story and events of, and leading up to the battle of Waterloo in 1815. Much unlike most other films of this sort of genre, "Waterloo" shows the events of 1815 from both the French and British perspective, but suprisingly mostly from the french perspective. To make things even better for this film, the plot is very accurate to the actual events and creates an exciting and well developed build up to the main battle sequence.
Christopher Plummer makes an outstanding performance as Wellington, but without any doubt the finest performance comes from Rod Steiger as Napoleon. Steiger gives one of the finest performances that I have ever seen from any actor and creates a character that the audience can clearly relate to and suprisingly, grow to like. It simply cannot be said how brilliantly Steiger acted in this film.
For anybody who is interested in history or battles on a massive scale, this is the film for you. The only problem that I found with this film was the bad dubbing with some of the extras in the VHS version of the film. This however may have been cleaned up in the DVD but i dont really know.
on 16 February 2001
Is it worth spending so much more on the DVD of this epic, when the VHS is so cheap. Yes, and worth every penny. The sharp detail and rich colour of the uniforms is brought to vivid life on DVD. The superb panoramic and wide angle shots of the complex battle sequences are preserved in full, whereas the poor man's Pan & Scan cuts out almost 2/3 of the detail. The sound is intriguing when played on an old style stereo system, the voices flying from side to side with each change of camera angle. I'm going to buy a Digital Decoder, 5 speakers and a giant Video projector, and watch the battle scenes again and again.
on 18 February 2002
This film is an absolute classic.It was made before the days of digital computer graphics.The Battle of Waterloo and the events up to it are dramatically told with the help of,literally,thousands of Russian soldiers (the film was made in 1970) who were uniformed as all the various combatants of that dramatic day in 1815.The result is some of the most amazing battle scenes you will ever see.
Whilst some of the historical facts have been
and passion of the action has rarely been copied again.
A great film,an epic in the old style of the cinema,and if you have the benefit of widescreen television its a feast for any Napoleonic fan.Simply a "must have" film for anyone interested in that period of history,or simply someone who loves the drama of the epic large scale films,that even these days,are rarely made.
This quite unique 1970 Soviet-Italian production with American and British cast is possibly the BEST screen reconstruction of a great historical battle. I saw this film no less than four times and I loved every minute of it - each time.
Soviet director Serguei Bondarchuk, who was already famous for his incredible 431 minutes long monumental "War and peace" (1966-67) signed here another masterpiece. This film really shows the terror and the beauty of large Napoleonic Wars battles probably as well as it was humanly possible to show them in 1970. Bondarchuk received 16 000 Soviet soldiers and an authentic 2000 riders strong brigade of cavalry to participate in this film - and he didn't waste even one of them...
Both main actors did a great job. Christopher Plummer is grandiose as Wellington, even if his character is a little bit too cheerful and smiling - the real man was much colder, more distant, quite condescending and definitely scarier and more ruthless. Rod Steiger is also excellent as Napoleon (it is possibly his greatest role ever), although here again, his character is somehow changed compared to real Emperor, with unnecessary elements of buffoonery added by Bondarchuk (who, after all, was Russian and therefore quite prejudiced against this great man).
Amongst supporting actors Jack Hawkins is of course excellent as General Picton, Michael Wilding is very good as General Ponsonby, Terence Alexander portrays a very convincing Earl of Uxbridge and there is also a nice cameo by Orson Welles who plays king Louis XVIII.
But amongst the supporting cast this is Dan O'Herlihy who delivers the most poignant performance as Marshal Michel Ney, Prince of Moscova, "Le Brave des Braves" (the Bravest of the Braves), a man who has no illusions about the issue of the fight he is fighting and therefore just wants to die with honor - which was denied to him as he survived Waterloo just to be executed in December 1815... As a last honor he was authorised to command himself the firing squad, which he did in following words: "Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France, and not one against her ... Soldiers, fire!"
There are of course some differences between the real battle and the one we see on the screen, but in the great lines this film shows the battle of Waterloo as it was, a monumental, terrifying clash of great armies led by great captains - and it shows it very well.
A very useful and true thing shown in this film is that Napoleon was in 1815 already quite sick and his body was betraying him - he was going to die five years later aged barely 52 - which actually played a role in his performance in this last campaign...
The one thing that this film doesn't show is that by ending Napoleonic epic adventure this battle caused also the whole continental Europe to be grasped with utmost cruelty by the iron fist of Holy Alliance and its successors - a choking hold which destroyed all aspiration for liberty until the alliance was ultimately shattered by the Crimean War, which was won, amongst others, by Bonaparte's heir, Emperor Napoleon III...
That little reserve notwithstanding, this is an AMAZING, GRANDIOSE film and an absolutely obligatory viewing for all history freaks and amateurs of good cinema. A film to buy, watch and keep. ENJOY!
on 10 October 2006
This film is amazing, the amount of effort, research, extras and the music score make one of the best War films ever. The budget for the production must have been huge as there are hundreds of people all dressed accuratly in Napoleonic Uniforms. Another great thing about this fim is the cast eg: Christopher Plummer, orson Wells and Rod Steiger!
Overall it is well worth the price you have to pay for it!