Wednesday, June 18, 2014

War Movie Wednesday - Waterloo


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.

Waterloo (1970)


Parting Thoughts

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.


As Always...

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!


Bonus Links:

Waterloo Trailer

Waterloo Soundtrack Suite

Waterloo Documentary


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18 comments:

  1. Ah Waterloo. I have vague memories of seeing it as a somewhat younger than I am now adolescent.

    I've often toyed with the idea of hiring out the local cinema and having them screen Waterloo for a few friends and myself.

    Salute
    von Peter himself

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    1. Time to watch it again old chap!

      I'd love to see that 4 hour version, the Prussians need more screen time! :-)

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  2. Do you know, I'm not sure that I've seen this and certainly not all the way through - something that needs to be rectified.

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  3. Great movie that I've only managed to watch a handful of times. Thanks for posting the link. The last time I watched it on a borrowed DVD, I recall replaying the scene when the Highlanders mustered out of the town. I wanted to see the details of the uniforms. ;) Best, Dean

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    1. Other than this link, I still only have my VCR copy. I'm holding out for the DVD release of the four hour version... Ha!

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  4. This was great film for me. No CGI, just thousands of soldiers storming a field with cannons and cavalry. Definitely a good show.

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    1. Definitely. Although there's a few ACW big battle movies out there, unfortunately there's even fewer Napoleonic ones. Don't know if I'd like this movie done with today's tech or not.

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  5. Never have heard of it . Thanks for sharing will have to check it out - Tail End Charlie

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    1. You're welcome! Definitely worth your time even if not someone's favorite historical era. Gets better the more times I watch it. Maybe that's because I'm more used to it. :-)

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  6. Great movie. An Dino de Laurentiis...the movie can´t lie in this. I see we have the same thoughts about it.
    Great Memo about this wonderful and colourful movie.

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    1. Thank you! I've been wanting to do a feature post on the movie Waterloo for about two years now. It is definitely the inspiration for starting my "War Moive Wednesday" posts, and then things lined up perfectly for June 18th! :-)

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  7. It's a great movie indeed! Watched it far more times than I dare confess. Excellent for adding a bit of motivation into painting.

    Too bad you don't see too many films like this. Really having the 15000 soldiers on the field does add a sense of realism to the battle scenes. Must be the power of readily available conscripts that can be put to work on pretty much anything you want :)

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    1. Yep, they literately moved the earth to make this movie. Don't know how many times I've watched this, but it's great to watch for the battle scenes or just to have on in the background because of all the great quotes!

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  8. This is one of my favorites! Got bagged at the time by the media as I recall but loved those scenes of massed troops moving about!!

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    1. To be fair, it does drag a bit here and there, but once it gets going it really does shine.

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  9. Those were the days!

    Really loved the trivia bits... i can only imagine Rod Steiger getting angry at the film running out!

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    1. Yeah, as much as I would of enjoyed seeing what else he put into that emotional speech, seeing him go off afterwards would be priceless. :-)

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