Archive for Rod Steiger

Seven stars for Waterloo (1970) ? SEVEN?

Posted in Movie Reviews, Opinion with tags , , , , on October 17, 2016 by ThommyMac

Waterloo2

Tagline: One incredible afternoon Napoleon met Wellington . . . at Waterloo.

Waterloo 1971  Director: Sergey Bondarchuk

Starring Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer, plus many others, and thousands of Soviet soldiers.

**shakes head in mixture of disbelief and sadness** Fan boys and shills inflating IMDB’s ratings system would be my guess. Then again, members of the TCM forum react to this film much like People magazine’s average coverage of JFK Jr. , so you got me. Now, if this were a very expensive comedy, Rod’s portrayal of Napoleon would be BRILLIANT. Rod Steiger, per usual, playing to the rafters should not be a surprise to anyone. His Napoleon? Think Bugs Bunny, hand on stomach while sporting Nappy’s infamous chapeau and you’re close to the delivery. To be fair, Bugs’ director probably explained the character a little better. Plus rumour has it that Bugs was infamously easy to work with. Chris Plummer, whose in more bombs than most folks realize, is not going to have some Yank out do him. Not quite as bad as say fellow Canadian big Billy S. but he does slap some glazing on. Him and Rod’s declarations on the battle field had me feeling like I broke the Kosher dietary law regarding ham. Using that clever bit of foreshadowing, the battle scenes are the main reasons to watch this.  Those scenes were incredible and would be well nigh impossible to create in this era of CGI cut n paste.

For friends who are not that big into 19th century European history, one of the most infamous bad calls using one’s cavalry occurred at Waterloo. Nappy thought he had Wellington on the ropes, mistaking him pulling back to tighten his line for THE retreat he was hoping for, so he sends out the Emperor’s reserves. I know this is a movie review but bear with me for a second. General de Brigade (Brigadier General if you ain’t already figured that out) Pierre Farine du Creux, of the 14th Cavalry Division was told to prepare his brigade, and six squadrons of the 5th and 10th Cuirassier Regiments, to charge the ridge in the center of Wellington’s position. His superior Charles, Count Lefebvre-Desnoettes gets wind of this and begins a urinating contest too complicated to get into right now. You’d probably have to be a fellow combat arms vet to get it, anyhow.  The bottom line is Boneyard’s cavalry were squandered in a move more like the Chicago stockyards than a battle.  That is all included in a combination of helicopter and dolly shots that have to be seen to be believed. I would give up many things to have seen this at the theatre with a new 70mm print.  The incredible amount of extras with a skill set are due to Dino De Laurentis’ always creative financing.

To get more dough and cut down costs Dino went to good ol’ Mosfilms. If you weren’t a teenager during the Cold War, that is most likely only gonna elicit a shrug. Mosfilms was the Soviet Union’s state owned and operated film industry. Your folks probably better remember it as the evil empire’s propaganda machine. Having a Russian mom, I grew up hiding that fact. Institutionalized racism against Russians in the guise of “Anti-Communism” was the order of the day for 40-some years. I could name some US propaganda flicks of my own but that’s beyond the scope here. Let’s just agree Dino going to Mosfilm with hat in hand was unique and VERY uhhhh ballsy at the time. That unlikely marriage led to the following end credit:

SteigerNappyCreditRedArmy

Having watched this 3 more times to correct the review, it is definitely worth watching. The aforementioned battle scenes are inimitable and using the Red Army for extras gives it a depth and realism that would be close to impossible to film today.

“Waterloo” stirred up some deep nostalgia for me. The first time I watched it I was 12 and it was with my dearly departed Dad. A little black and white with aluminum foil attached to the rabbit ears. This was a noble, if doomed, attempt to overcome Jones & Laughlin’s steel mill. That mill was between us and WTAE Pittsburgh until my 1st year in the Army. Again, I can only dream of what it looked like in Panavision with a screen with the proper ratio. It also reminded me of the hours and hours of playing Stratego with one of my favourite persons on the planet, Mike Janesko. Goodness, we could spend an entire rainy day playing it.

Then again, the 2011 farce “No Strings Attached” got 6 stars so I really oughta chill on Waterloo getting 7. Like any old man, I just don’t deal with inflation too well.

But if 5 is middling, 7 ain’t too bad at all. On examination, 7 stars is fine.

-Thom MacIntyre

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