Geoffrey Vickers (Errol Flynn) is a British officer serving in India during the 1850s. He plans to marry his fiancee as soon as possible, but after returning from a mission he learns she has fallen in love with his younger brother and bows out. But after a war with Russia starts he finds more difficult than ever to keep his unexperienced brother away of combat and retain his loyalty to the British army.Comments:
For some reason, a big deal of my recent viewings are either 1940s Sherlock Holmes films or even older Errol Flynn swashbuckling films. I rarely watch films that old, but distant memories from my childhood and the realisation that I was missing some really great stuff from that period (hint: watch "Captain Blood" or King Vidor's "The Nortwest Passage", they are not only terrific and fun films, but also unsurpassed after 70 years) have led me to this. I'm quite satisfied with the situation and I don't expect it to change anytime soon.
I think this film has been sort of overlooked, when compared with other of Flynn's greatest hits. It reunites the golden team from "Captain Blood", director Michael Curtiz (yes, the one from "Casablanca") and actors Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland. And, as the opening credits admit, it has really nothing to do with the real Charge of the Light Brigade, a controversial episode of the Crimean War (Brits vs. Ruskies, 1850s) where, well, the Light Brigade charged against Russian entrenched artillery positions. By mistake, naturally, and resulting in lots of dead Brits and the subsequent embarrasment.
Cons? Well, don't look for the usual roguish Errol Flynn persona here. His character is way more serious than that, and although Flynn handles dramatic acting well his usual spark is missing. And also, way too much time is wasted on his dilemma regarding Olivia De Havilland. Should he fight for her? Should he forget her? Olivia De Havilland's character isn't helping matters here, as she always seems to be in love with the brother she's not sharing the scene with. I wanted to enter the screen, grab her shoulders and tell her to decide which brother she really wanted. I even expected her doubts to be solved the "Pearl Harbor" way, but thankfully we didn't end up there.
Ah, but forget about all that crap. This is an old school adventure film, and the always reliable Michael Curtiz is at the helm, so don't panic. The film never fails to entertain, and Curtiz splices great bits of action here and there. The big scene is the climatic charge, of course, but meanwhile we have an abridged journey to Iran for horses (the film would be appealing for horse lovers... if it wasn't for the record ammount of trip-wires used during the grand finale), a siege by Indi rebels and much more. And yes, the big charge itself is awesome, easily one of the most exhilarating moments of cinema I've ever witnessed, helped considerably by Curtiz's unsophisticated approach and the practical stunts. No CGI or handheld cameras here, just hundreds of extras, lots of gunpowder and Russians looking like scared versions of Josef Stalin. They don't make them like this anymore, and the American Humane Association will have your head if you try to.