They just don't make them like they used to.
On June 18th, this week's feature almost has to be Waterloo. Certain words and names are recognized around the world and Waterloo is definitely one of them. If not the most famous battle in history, Waterloo is close to the top. Even without ABBA's help, there's just something about Waterloo that captures the imagination of so many people. The last grasp at glory, the fall of giant, the end of an era, a near run thing that could of tipped history either way.
Of course to wargamers Waterloo is old hat, and probably the most worn hat next to Gettysburg. Most gamers that are into Napoleonics have run across this movie at one time. To others, it's a true epic waiting to be discovered. Back when war movies had to use actual real people (The Soviet Army) or cardboard cutouts instead of CGI. Unfortunately Waterloo even with its spectacular battle scenes, didn't do so hot at the Box Office, otherwise we might have seen a few more of these "big battle" epics (Like Stanley Kubrick's planned "Napoleon") . I guess we're left to treasure the ones we have.
Making of an Epic
Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk who had previously done another big battle epic "War and Peace," Waterloo was one of the most expensive movies ever made at it's time. Starring Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, and a cameo by Orson Welles, the movie also employed over 15,000 soldiers from the Soviet Army, a full brigade of 2,000 cavalry, 50 circus stunt riders to perform horse falls, and a bunch of engineers and laborers to work on the battlefield itself. It was said that the director was in command of the seventh largest army in the world while filming.
In order to turn the rolling farmland outside Uzhhorod, Ukraine into an authentic battlefield , the Russians bulldozed away two hills, laid five miles of roads, transplanted 5,000 trees, sowed fields of rye, barley and wildflowers and reconstructed four historic buildings. To create the mud, more than six miles of underground irrigation piping was specially laid. Too bad they couldn't do anything about the mountains in the background. The original film apparently only shown in the Soviet Union, was around four hours long and also covered the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras in more length and detail.
Bits 'O Trivia
The Soviet soldiers panicked repeatedly and scattered during the filming of some of the cavalry charges. Attempts to reassure them by marking the closest approach of the horses with white tape similarly failed, and the scenes were cut.
When filming Napoleon's abdication speech producer Dino De Laurentiis ordered the cameraman not to load a new reel of film in order to save costs. The film ran out before Rod Steiger had finished delivering this highly emotional speech. The actor was not pleased.
When the British offer surrender to the Old Guard, Vicomte de Cambronne supposedly said, "The Old Guard dies but never surrenders." Cambronne himself said afterwards that his reply was, "Merde," (shit) as was shown in the film. For years afterwards, the word "merde" was referred to by the French as "le mot de Cambronne" (Cambronne's word).
Richard Burton was sought to play Napoleon. Producer Dino De Laurentiis blamed the film's box office failure on the lack of stars.
Anytime I want to get into the mood for painting Napoleonics, I just need to pop this movie in. It has a great soundtrack, and all those spectacular battle scenes and uniforms are a real treat. Although Steiger took some time to grow on me, the portals of Napoleon and Wellington are really what make this movie great. The raw emotion one moment, charming wit the other. The juxtaposed scenes, especially pre-battle, where the two adversaries seem to talking to one another are very well done.. Also I love the use of "whispering thoughts" just like in another favorite movie of mine, Dune.
Last but certainly not least are all the memorable quotes this movie has to offer. From Star Wars to Monty Python, memorable quotes are a clear sign of a classic regardless of the genre. Quotes that can be used as "bits" at the gaming table are even a bigger bonus for us Wargamers, and Waterloo is packed full of them. So packed, that I will address them on their own future post, but you can get a taste of them HERE.
War Movie Wednesday is an opportunity for me to feature a few of my favorite war/war related movies on the blog. Maybe not technically the "best" war movies or even "great" movies, but favorites of mine for one reason or another. Definitely films that I enjoy watching again and again, and that inspire me in one way or another. Whether that is to laugh, cry, feel pride or disgust, think deep thoughts, run around the room yelling "Ratatatatatatat!", or sit down and paint a mini or two.
Ultimately what I hope to offer here is something interesting and entertaining enough to watch during hobby time at least. Something that can be found for free on YouTube and played on your computer or similar gadget sitting by your hobby area. Unfortunately these posts are also limited in choice and quality by what I can find on YouTube, which also includes putting up with subtitles from time to time.
As always, I hope you enjoy the movie!
Waterloo Soundtrack Suite