‘Culloden’ and ‘The War Game’ Don’t Rewrite History, They Rewrite How We Can Learn From the Past

Culloden and The War Game Don't Rewrite History They Rewrite How We Can Learn From the Past.jpg
Full Review Available for Free at: PopMatters.com

On the moors of Culloden 1746, through the smoke of cannon fire and the fog of war, we see two armies battling each other. Grapeshot, bayonets, and bloody axes. It’s the last full scale conflict fought on British soil, and it ends in an overwhelming defeat for the rag-tag Jacobite forces as they are decimated by the coherent machine that is the “redcoat” Government army.

We see Scottish tartan-clad Highlanders stand together in huddles of confusion and dejection, before they fall to the ground amongst others disemboweled, lacking limbs, or simply lifeless. Yet, as the viewer, we already expect them to lose as they share their broken states of mind and inferior strategies with the documentary crew interviewing and filming them for Culloden(1964).

A nuclear war breaks out in the ‘60s. The Russians might have started it for some reason. Nobody is entirely sure who is to blame; it’s irrelevant once the bombs fall and everybody starts running. In Kent, England, we see people whose eyeballs have melted, firefighters sucked into a deadly firestorm, and police who line up burnt people in the street to end their whimpering with a pistol shot to the head.

The general populace shifts from assisting with the evacuation, through to price-gouging over the necessary tools required for unnecessary “duck and cover” tactics (remember folks: sandbags keep out radiation!), and ends with militarized rioting and the imminent collapse of the government. We know all this because, as the viewer, we see this all first hand from the documentary crew interviewing and filming them for The War Game (1965).

Newly remastered in HD and brought to Blu-ray for the first time, Peter Watkins’ two controversial television productions, Culloden and The War Game, have been packaged together by the BFI and are let loose upon your preconceptions of what BBC documentaries in the mid-’60s looked like…


The full 1,900 word version of this review is published at PopMatters.com, where you can read the rest of the article for free.

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