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War Game (1965) & Culloden (B&W) [Import]

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Aspel, Peter Graham, Kathy Staff, Peter Watkins, Tony Cosgrove
  • Directors: Peter Watkins
  • Writers: Peter Watkins
  • Producers: Peter Watkins
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Project X
  • Release Date: July 25 2006
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B000FSME6U
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Product Description

Peter Watkins' controversial and harrowing depiction of the effects of a nuclear attack on England hit the headlines when it was banned on the grounds of being too graphic and horrifying. It single-handedly opened up the nuclear debate and went on to theatrical success on both sides of the Atlantic. In spite of winning an Oscar, two Society of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards and a Special Prize at the Venice Film Festival, THE WAR GAME remained unshown on British television for over 20 years.

Culloden Moor, 16th April 1746: the last pitch battle on British soil. The Jacobite Scottish Highlanders, under the inept command of Bonnie Prince Charlie, are faced with the Duke of Cumberland's well-drilled and ruthless English army. Based on John Prebble's meticulous historical study, Watkins' groundbreaking reconstruction parallels the escalating pacification under way in Vietnam in the 1960s. Winner of the Society of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) BBC Award of Merit and the British Screenwriters' Award of Merit.

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These two films made in the mid 60s by Peter Watkins were controversial for the times (War Games being banned from TV until the 1980s) but are still shocking when viewed today. Done from a modern reporter's point of view, with interviews with the principal characters and a running commentary on the events, it presents a chaotic and at times exciting look at history, warts and all. In fact, the British army does not come off well in Culloden (though neither does Bonnie Prince Charlie for that matter), nor does the British government in War Games. While the latter is a purely speculative look at what might have happened had a nuclear holocaust occurred in the 1960s, it is still quite credible and I doubt that the authorities would be much better prepared to handle such a disaster if it befell today's United Kingdom. Both movies obviously contain anti-war messages, and given the technique used in making them they are quite biased (as all news reporting is these days) this nonetheless does not take away from the sheer horror that is presented when order breaks down. Grab these films if you can before they disappear into the vaults of unappreciated art of the recent past.
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These two films by Peter Watkins were far ahead of their time. War Game is a point of view presentation, often with a hand held camera, that gives a feel of urgency and reality to the situation. The film is a frightningly graphic representation of the implications of a nuclear war in 1960's Britain. The implications are obvious, the immediacy and total destruction caused by nuclear war would be the same everywhere. Many frank admissions are revealed, based on actual UK government papers and give no solace or comfort to anyone watching the film. The film is a brutal presentation of modern war, where everyone is a target, and the front lines are in your own home and streets.
The second film is Culloden. It is about the final battle of the last of the Jacobite Rebellions. Presented in the same style as the War Game, the film is a first person perspective of warfare in the mid 18th century. The humanity and inhumanity come across with brief vignettes of the people caught up in these events. The waste and injustice of war are unsparingly presented with an honesty that infuriate and depress.
Both of these films suffered from censorship at the time of their release. The War Game was deemed too horrifing by the UK government, and Culloden was banned in several Commonwealth counties, presumably as it would stir up anti British and pro independence sentiment. These are both unusual and powerful films with a truth and impact as relevant today as when they were made.
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Excellent harrowing movies!
A must view for any serious followers of the idiocy and folly of governments and individuals.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9da9ea50) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cec54b0) out of 5 stars What Independent Cinema is Supposed to Be July 27 2006
By John Capute - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Why it has taken all this time for these two films to make it to the US in DVD form is a story that I hope comes out. Peter Watkins is finally being ackowledged in the US for his radical, truly independent vision, what with the release in the last two years of Punishment Park and The Gladiators. But it is here, in his first two feature films, that he is arguably at his best. The War Game is a horrifying recreation, done in documentary style, of what the effects of nuclear war would be. It may not have the impact it had when it was first released in 1964 as the US and the Soviet Union had their fingers on the button that would have assured, as the film so disturbingly shows (so disturbingly that the BBC, who commissioned the film, refused to show it and it was effectively banned in England for years after), mutual destruction. Nonetheless, the threat of nuclear warfare has not totally disappeared from the radar screen, so the film still carries relevance. Culloden, which predates The War Game, is perhaps the more contemporary and frightening film. Here, Watkins introduces for the first time in a feature length piece his "you-are-there" technique, as participants in the Scottish uprising against Britain in the mid-eighteenth century are interviewed as though news and camera men existed at this time. Both films reek with realism, as they are acted by non-professionals; and in the case of Culloden, the grime and sweat of eighteenth century life and the ferocity and brutality of combat at this time comes across as though, indeed, cameras were available at this time. Watkins is clearly aghast at what people can do to each other, and Culloden, culminating with the massacre of the Scottish clans by the better armed and more ruthless British military, clearly, as Watkins himself as said, is another way of looking at what was occuring and would continue to occur in Vietnam. Today, with another war, the film retains its power and relevancy. These are not easy films to watch: they are no doubt one sided and pedantic: yet they speak to a time when filmmakers were willing to alienate and confound in order to make what they felt was a difference: a time when the idea of popular film instigating change, naive as it may be, felt possible.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cec56fc) out of 5 stars a pair of lost masterpieces Dec 4 2006
By Jonathan Lapin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
a double bill of films made for bbc-tv, i had seen both of these some thirty years back and never got over them. the earlier of them, "culloden" is a recreation of the events leading up to and following the 1746 battle that spelled the final end of scotlands days as a seperate country from england. adapted from the classic book by john prebble (incidentally, the rabbits favorite book), the film is a brilliant reflection on the conflicts among the idiotic bonnie prince charlie and his advisors, the ruthless english army, and the average scottish soldieer caught in the crossfire. filmed on a minimal budget (they had ONE cannon!), the battle scenes are so creative that you will believe youre part of it. this was the old walter cronkite "you are there" concept taken to the heights of art. now as to "the war game" -- well, once watkins had a major surprise hit on his hands with "culloden", he got to make "war games". akin to the similar path of patrick mcgoohan a few years later, who followed up the overwhelming success of "secret agent" with the artistically brilliant but controversial "the prisoner", watkins shot his wad with "WG", and never recovered. this fantasy about an english town in the days leading up to and following a nuclear attack is far more frightening than any of the myriad of other films which have used the same conceit. its matter-of-factness and use of ordinary people in lieu of actors works in watkins's hands in a manner that would have been artsy in the hands of another director. the finished product proved so controversial that the bbc declined to air it, and the movie was ultimately released in theaters, where ironically it won an oscar as best documentary. as i said previously, i saw both films on television in the 70s -- back when pbs still carried out its mandate to air quality television, rather than wayne dyer infomercials or doo-wop retrospectives. i cant more heartily recommend a dvd to watch than this.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cec593c) out of 5 stars cinema masterpieces restored Nov. 13 2011
By Robert D. Harmon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Two Peter Watkins films here, pioneering examples, perhaps, of what we now call "mockumentaries", documentary-style films of fictional events (here, "The War Game") or past, you-are-there events (Culloden).

As for "The War Game," although it's very much a work from the Cold War era (1965) it's still effective in spite of, or perhaps because of, it being black-and-white, gritty, short in running time, and focused on a small part of a pre- and post-attack Britain. I've seen "Testament," "Threads," and "The Day After" and this seems more effective -- and more graphic -- and while the other three nuclear-attack films show a story, "The War Game" is more immediate. You are watching society coming apart in almost real time, and it's scary.

I differ from other reviewers in that I find that "Culloden" seems to have aged well, if you accept 1964 state-of-the art news media in 1745 as a premise. Given the few actors, and some clever camera angles, the story manages to suggest fragmentary and smoke-shrouded parts of the battle as believable (in a battle that involved 15,000 men in real life). No spectacle, just confusion and the sort of narrow field-of-vision that those caught in such a battle would see, with the participants talking to the camera as the battle unfolds, horribly wrong. The Greek-chorus commentary on the pre-battle failures on the Scottish side does not take away from the story, rather, the viewer is watching an unfolding and inevitable tragedy. Nor does the film neglect the post-battle search-and-destroy by the victorious British forces, in many ways as harrowing as the battle. And you learn something of the participants, famous or not, Scottish, British and Irish (they were there, too, as you see).

Highest recommendation for those with an interest in British/Scottish or cinematic history.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cec5ae0) out of 5 stars The first and the best Sept. 17 2006
By Pablo Martin Podhorzer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Watch this and after ask yourself how two films made in 1964 and 1965 are many times more powerful than most of the drivel you saw during this decade. The western world was during forty years scared to death with the idea of nuclear war but accepted it as a possibility. After "The War Game" and "Culloden", you will doubt also the reasons for the current war "on terror".
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cec5eac) out of 5 stars War Game / Culloden 40+ years on May 12 2007
By A. J. Papprill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I first saw these "documentaries" 40+ years ago and was impressed by their power and the logic of their messages. Seeing the programmes now is to lament the demise of powerful, committed and issue dominated documentary film making appearing on our TV screens. The War Game & Culloden haven't lost their ability to shock and stimulate debate.

Culloden, with its Vietnam war sub-text, carries, now, a message about decisions to declare war in Iraq while the War Game reminds us that policies of MAD & WMD are based on faulty logic.

This DVD is worth many viewings.