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Cromwell
IMDB Rating: 6.9/10 from 3,286 votes
Release: 17 September 1970 (Netherlands) /

Cromwell

Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Director: Ken Hughes,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: Disgusted with the policies of King Charles I, Oliver Cromwell plans to take his family to the New World. But on the eve of their departure, Cromwell is drawn into the tangled web of religion and politics that will result in the English Civil War. Written by Marg Baskin <marg@asd.raytheon.ca>

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Critic Reviews


Being a lay student of these times I was naturally interested in this movie, and to a great extent I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable, but what happened to the Battle of Marston Moor? Was history wrong and the battle never fought? Cromwell was depicted as the over all commander of the New Model Army (i.e the "Roundheads") at the battle of Naseby. He wasn't, Sir Thomas Fairfax was. Cromwell was the commander of the cavalry.

The Civil War was not a conflict over religion, although it played it's part. It was about "the divine right of kings", against the governance of, by and for the people, i.e. Rex v Parliament. Divided loyalties and opinions were split right across the board.

The capital charges of treason brought against the king was, to my mind, not altogether trumped up, and had some validity. However it was of course a "show trial", and to bring it about the laws had to be changed rapidly. There was no edict at the time that allowed anyone to put a monarch on trial. Issac Dorislaus (a Dutch lawyer) came to the rescue of Parliament. He wrote an order that would enable it to set up the court. This order was based on an old Roman law which stated that a military body (in this case the Parliamentary forces) could legally overthrow a tyrant. Naturally Charles I did not agree, either to this law, or that he was a tyrant. He was still the King, still the Head of State, and as such, above the law. He could do as he wished, and was answerable only to God. For him it was an unfortunate way of looking at things.

The casting of this movie was extremely well thought out, but with one exception. Cromwell himself. I'm not criticising Richard Harris in any way. He played the role superbly, but Cromwell was a short stocky man, not tall and athletically built. Neither, I'm sure, did he have a Irish accent. Also he had some extremely noticeable warts on his face which Richard Harris did not. Had the make-up artists gone on vacation? To his credit Richard overcame this miscasting, and acquitted the characterisation of the brusque, complex, and religiously enigmatic Oliver Cromwell with great fervour and passion, and I doubt if anyone else could have done it any better.

On the subject of accents, I wonder whether or not the Scottish accent adopted by Alec Guinness was apt. As Charles I left Scotland at the age of 4, and lived in England until his death, surely he would have cultivated an English one? True he had a Scottish tutor, but I'm still left to wonder. Perhaps someone could set me right.

(Just as a byline, I find it curious that Richard Harris, being an Irishman, accepted the part. In the greater part of Ireland the very name of Oliver Cromwell is loathed and reviled, and for good reason, so it says much for Harris's devotion to the acting profession that he actually did.) Being a musician, I was highly amused at seeing (and hearing) bugles played on horseback during a 17th century battle, reminiscent of the US 7th cavalry. Such instruments weren't developed to such an advanced stage until late into the following century (the 18th).

As another reviewer has noted, Cromwell was certainly not one of the "Five Members" who were to be removed from the House and arrested. These were: John Pym, John Hampden, Denzil Holles, Sir Arthur Haselrig and William Strode. A sixth man, Lord Mandeville (the future Earl of Manchester) was also to be taken.

There are quite a few more historical mistakes and omissions on which other reviewers have remarked, and I don't intend to repeat them. But in defence of the producers it must be said that "The English Civil War" was a momentous stage in British, perhaps even world history, and to illustrate it all in a couple of hours is impossible. Much as Shakespeare, when writing "Henry V", managed on a small stage to capture the flavour of Agincourt and events leading up to it, so this production coped well with a similar task on film. Therefore if certain liberties were taken, and artistic licence used, I think they can, in this case, be excused. Should it have encouraged one student to scuttle towards the history books (or now websites), to learn more about the whole period, then I would say it was a job well done.

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