(director/writer: Bill Douglas; cinematographer: Gale Tattersall;
Audsley; music: Hans Werner Henze/David Graham; cast: Robin Soans (George Loveless), William Gaminara (James Loveless), Jeremy Flynn (Brine), Keith Allen (James Hammett), Stephen Bateman (Old Tom Stanfield), Philip Davis (Young Stanfield), James Fox (Norfolk), Michael Hordern (Pitt), Freddie Jones (Vicar.), Alex Norton (The Lanternist), Vanessa Redgrave (Mrs. Carlyle), Murray Melvin (Clerk),
John Hargreaves (Convict), Imelda Staunton (Betsy
Loveless), Robert Stephens (Frampton); Runtime: 175;
MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Simon Relph; BFI
(Pal format); 1986-UK)
"A remarkable epic film by Bill Douglas."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A remarkable epic film by Bill Douglas ("My Way Home"/"My Ain Folk"/"My Childhood"), with a good eye for details on rural life, with a strong sense of what it's like to fight for justice when not part of the power structure, with a keen sense of history about the beginnings of the modern labor movement and a compassionate take on human suffering and the hypocrisy exhibited by the elect officials over inequality. Douglas films a didactic but moving story that's well-worth telling and gets first-class performances. It's based on a true account, a lanternist's account, of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Tolpuddle is a small town in the British Southwest.
In 1834 six Dorset peasant
craftsmen form a trade union to try and get better
than their substandard wages. They are James Brine (Jeremy Flynn), James
and James Loveless (Robin Soans and William Gaminara), and Thomas and John
Bateman and Philip
of the workers in the Tolpuddle
community are under the rule of Frampton (Robert
Stephens), a ruthless land owner, and his overseer
Clerk (Murray Melvin). George Loveless (Robin Soans) is a Methodist minister, whose
flock is a group of working
families in Tolpuddle. The minister takes pity
on his flock and encouraged by political activist Pitt
they form the Society of Friends, an early labor
union, and the union tries to negotiate with
Frampton for better pay. Instead their salaries
are cut and Loveless and his men go on strike, which
could do serious damage to Frampton financially. But
the politically well-connected Frampton has help
from the government and a private militia is sent in
to break the strike and punish the rebellious
laborers. The union members are tried as criminals and
exiled to Australia for a seven-year sentence.
The film has an alternate
aim, to show how movies evolved from a time before
movies were made and the Lanternist (Alex Norton) wandering the 19th-century
countryside giving slide shows for a mere penny is one
way films began to evolve.
The film was shot in England and Australia
REVIEWED ON 5/182012 GRADE: A-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ