Alfred the Great (1969)

#1 by Robert Crewdson ( deleted ) , Sun Feb 25, 2018 1:29 pm

I thought I would review this film as Tom enquired about historical films. This was another that I didn't like the first time I saw it, but all these years later, decided to buy a copy, and found that I had completely changed my mind. The first time I saw this I thought David Hemmings wasn't suitable for the role, but seen now, I think this young actor who was associated with the Swinging 60s, put in a very great performance; I can't fault him in any way.

The film tells the story of Alfred's battles with the Danish leader Guthrum, played by Michael York; it's been said that had Alfred lost, England would have been plunged back into the dark ages, and taken 300 years to recover. The film was shot in Ireland, as no suitable locations could be found in England. It was reported in one newspaper at the time that some members of the IRA were among the paid extras.

They employed craftsmen to make museum grade weapons, and carve furniture. The source of information for the film was Eleanor Duckett's 1956 biography of the King. Having originally sought accuracy, then it's all thrown out of the window by the script writers. I have some original material from the film, including the letter shown, which says that they would have to invent some things which reasonably and logically might have occurred, and couldn't be proven otherwise.
Which begs the question of why they changed known facts?

To begin with, Alfred's wife, Elswith, is stated to be the daughter of King Burrud of Mercia (played by Peter Vaughan, who looks out of place). She was in fact, the daughter of Elthelred Mucel, a Mercian nobleman. Neither Elswith or Alfred's oldest son , Edward the Elder, were ever given as hostages to Guthrum, to keep the peace. The first battle we see is The Battle of Ashdown in 871; the real site is not very far from my home. Neither King Guthrum, or his 2nd in command, Ivar the Boneless, were present at this battle.

The film really picks up in the 2nd half, and from then on, it's more accurate. Alfred and a small band seek refuge in the Marshes of Athelney, Somerset, where some outlaws are hiding, who he makes a friend of. There is a very impressive performance from Sir Ian McKellen as the leader of the outlaws, in what I think was his first screen appearance..

When the time is right, Alfred sends out messages for all his supporters to gather at Egbert's Stone, and the final battle commences, and the scene where they form a Phalanx is truly amazing. Alfred's troops are gradually diminishing, and more Viking ships arrive to support Guthrum. Word is sent out to the nearby villages and monasteries, that Alfred needs help, and just as they did at Hastings in 1066, the monks buckled their swords, and even the womenfolk took up arms. It's a really amazing site to see as all these people appear over the horizon to aid Alfred. All ends happily, with Guthrum defeated, and Alfred reunited with his wife.

The soundtrack is really beautiful, especially at the end of the film, and was composed by Raymond Leppard, who thought the film nonsense.

Unfortunately the film was a failure at the box office; M.G.M. Suffered very heavy losses, and this was one of the reasons they pulled out of Britain.

For anyone interested in the film, there is a book by Mary Murphy, that describes the making of the film. It was hoped to mark the 50th Anniversary of the making of the film in Ireland this year, I don't know if that is still going ahead.

The film was released in 1969 in both 35mm and 70mm, but only 35mm was shown in this country. My print is dated 1970, so very early. What I like about it is that it has the original leaders, with instructions on where to commence the soundtrack on both versions.

I also have this on Disc, and this was the version I showed my wife, as she likes Michael York; she wasn't so keen on it as me, saying 'I don't like violence', and I replied 'You can't have a Viking invasion without violence'. I also have the English quad poster, plus posters from Spain, Argentina, and Belgium. There is a soundtrack album, but very rare, and I think you would have to pay £90 minimum. Would love to find one in a charity shop.

The two images from the film are publicity shots as I don't have any suitable screenshots. It will give Tom an idea of whether the film would be of interest to him and his brother.







The following members like this: Clyde Miles, Mats Abelli and Tom Photiou
Robert Crewdson
Last edited Sun Feb 25, 2018 4:22 pm | Top

RE: Alfred the Great (1969)

#2 by Tom Photiou , Sun Feb 25, 2018 10:17 pm

Great review Robert, i like the box you made, it does make a difference to a collection when you have good storage boxes or cases. Certainly a film i dont know but when i see my Brother i'm sure he will either have seen or have a copy on VHS or disc.


Looking for Abba the movie Scope trailer


 
Tom Photiou
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