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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Waterloo (1970)

After being banished to Elba, Napoleon Bonaparte (Rod Steiger) returns in triumph to Paris to reclaim his Emperor's throne while King Louis XVIII (a mountainous Orson Welles) flees the city. But his glory is short lived as he meets the armies of Wellington (Christopher Plummer) at the battle of Waterloo. This handsome epic, directed by Sergei Bondarchuk (1967's WAR AND PEACE), is a mixed bag. With the exception of a well done ball sequence, the dramatic portions tend to be stagnant. But the battle scenes, which occupy the second half of the film, are pretty awesome. More so because it's not CGI the way it would be today. Filmed in the Soviet Union, the Russians not only helped fund the film but provided some 16,000 soldiers to act as background in the battle scenes. When you see some of the incredible aerial shots or the charging armies, you know it's real people on the screen, not computer generated images. Steiger, while an odd choice for Napoleon, is effective in his restrained scenes while his eye popping acting is distracting in others. The Nino Rota score is a dud but Armando Nannuzzi gives the film a nice sheen whether the rich looking interiors or the vast exteriors. With Jack Hawkins, Virginia McKenna, Dan O'Herlihy, Michael Wilding and Philippe Forquet.

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