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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The start of The Hundred Days

It wasn't until I began watching Sergei Bondarchuk and Dino De Laurentiis' film WATERLOO on TV last Saturday that I realised that 20th March 1815 was the day that Napoleon returned to Paris after his exile on Elba, thus marking the beginning of the so-called 'Hundred days'.

The film included some wonderful battle scenes, not all of which were particularly accurate but which certainly gave an impression of what a horse-and-musket era battle involving thousands of combatants looked like.





32 comments:

  1. Bob,
    Waterloo- an absolute Classic Movie...and to my mind what makes it even more great now -is that there isn't any computerized special effects - all the footage IS real. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson,

      I doubt if any wargamer could watch this film and NOT be inspired to give serious thought to taking up Napoleonic wargaming. A true classic.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. A classic, no doubt! For me, Steiger WAS Napoleon.

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    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      I agree; Rod Steiger really did manage to convey the complexity of Napoleon's motivations and character.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Hi Bob,

    We can only hope that the full length version (apparently the original was some 4 hours or so long) will become available some day. Sadly the question of whom owned what part of the film means that he only winners will the lawyers!

    A true classic and I wonder how many Napoleonic wargamers started with this film as their inspiration?

    I shall rewatch it myself!

    All the best,

    DC

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    1. David Crook,

      I watched it at the cinema when it was first released ... and it felt as if it was a very long film. I gather that an HD version is now available, and that it is even better to watch than the original print was.

      I painted my first Napoleonic figures - Prussians that I still own! - after seeing this film, and I suspect that quite a few other wargamers did as well.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. My son would accept ONLY Steiger as Napoleon: if any other actor appeared in the role, he would say, 'That's not Napoleon!' When I mentioned one supper time that Steiger had just died, at first he didn't realise who I meant; when I said, 'The man who played Napoleon.' he burst into tears (he was only six)and had to be shown the film again to convince him we would still be able to see him in it. What a wonderful tribute to a fine performance!
    Sadly, he has no recollection of that, nor of seeing 'His hat! His coat!' on a visit to Les Invalides today...
    Bob, you should set yourself a target: complete your Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules in time for the anniversary on 18th June.

    For a more recent film with authentic muskets &c with no CGI troops, see the remake of The Alamo.

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    1. Arthur Harman,

      Your son was obviously a well educated and discerning six-year-old!

      Funnily enough, over the last few days I've been thinking about my Napoleonic Portable Wargame rules. No promises, but it has certainly moved up my 'to do' list. (My naval wargame rules will probably be next.)

      The John Wayne film of THE ALAMO is the only version have seen, but I'll look out for the remake on your recommendation.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Does anyone else recall the Disney story of Davy Crockett? This ends at the Alamo, with Crockett at the top of a stair to the ramparts, knocking off Mexicans with his rifle (?) 'Old Betsy's butt. No nasty death scenes, just a fade out to the credits if I recall, suitable to the 'what happened to him' historical questions.

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    3. Joppy,

      I remember the film ... but none too clearly as it was a long time ago. I think that it starred Fess Parker, who later went on to play Daniel Boone.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    4. I've seen the Disney version. I've also seen a version with Alec Baldwin made in the 1980s.
      The 2003 version just seemed hooky.
      I had a VHS copy of Waterloo. I enjoyed Christopher Plumber as The Duke of Wellington

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    5. Irishhighlander,

      I don't remember much about the Disney Davy Crockitt series, but I suspect that its historical accuracy might have been sacrificed to ensure it told a good story. As to films about the Alamo, I've only ever seen the John Wayne version.

      Christopher Plummer made a good fist of portraying Wellington, although his Canadian accent occasionally made itself apparent.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. This film does always make me itch to do Napoleonics, but the sensible side of my brain shouts it down as I have far to many other projects.
    However, my first inspiration to do Waterloo was probably the lovely colour pictures in David Chandler's "Art of Warfare on Land" - were they Peter Gilder's collection?

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    1. TamsinP,

      It was not until I bought the Del Prado pre-painted figures that I really began to build a collection of Napoleonic figures. After that, rational thought went out the window!

      Peter Gilder's Napoleonic wargame was featured in several magazine articles and books ... and was very, very impressive.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. The book has/had colour plates for the battles of Dara, Waterloo and Gettysburg using 25mm figures. I think it may have been Peter's collections used but can't remember.

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    3. TamsinP,

      I've seen photographs of Peter Gilder's Waterloo and Gettysburg collections (the latter were featured in the film, CALLAN). They were very impressive when seen on the terrain he built to use them on.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. This certainly was the inspiration that got me started in wargaming. Rod Steiger was an excellent Napoleon, in fact all the casting was good. And pre CGI. Amazing.

    The other thing that was that Airfix started releasing its Napoleonic range at the same time.

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    1. Sun of York,

      This film shows how much better large numbers of real people look when compared to CGI-generated ones.

      I'd forgotten that Airfix released their Napoleonic figures to coincide with the release of the film. The was rather clever marketing on their part.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. The movie was also reviewed in the first issue of Military Modelling as I recently rediscovered.
      http://onesidedminiaturewargamingdiscourse.blogspot.com.au/2018/03/waterloo-movie-from-1970-review-from.html

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    3. Sun of York,

      Well I never! What a wonderful bit of wargaming trivia!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer will always be Napoleon and Wellington in my book (and Jack Hawkins as Picton too).

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    1. Der Alte Fritz,

      I agree; the film's makers were able to cast many excellent actors in both major and minor roles.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  8. happened across Waterloo by accident whilst channel hopping last Saturday. Girls upstairs on their phones/laptop. Wife at work. Perfect. Just a shame I missed the first hour!

    I was taken to watch it with my brother by my late father on an extremely rare trip to the cinema (without Mum!), and it informed my solo games with my massed ranks of unpainted Airfix figures for a few years. The games always seemed to climax with a column of French infantry being shredded by rank after rank of British infantry (I got the impression they were 6 ranks deep from the film). When I discovered the 1812 Overture, the British Hussars would then sweep all before them and the guns would ring out as the music reached its climax.

    Over the years I gradually saw more and more flaws in the film, but it's up there with The 300 Spartans for wargaming inspiration for me!

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    1. Nundanket,

      Like you I only discovered that the film was being shown on TV last Saturday by channel hopping ... but I managed to find it just before it started.

      As I wrote earlier, the sheer numbers of people shown in the battle scenes was stunning. For example, the helicopter shot of the French cavalry charge against the British squares must have involved thousands.

      The film is flawed, but it is still inspirational ... just like one of my all-time favourite films, ZULU. The latter may not be historically accurate BUT I cannot think of a film that has the same ability to raise my spirits on a bad day.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  9. I saw this film in the theater when I was 15, when after several years of solo Napoleonic wargame play and dreaming, I had finally assembled a regular crew of players. We were already hooked on Napoleonic wargaming, but the film really cemented it!

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    1. Gonsalvo,

      I wonder how many wargamers from that era were similarly 'hooked' by Napoleonics as a result of this film and the availability of suitable figures. I suspect that it was quite a few.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  10. I was one of that generation ! Metal figure were far to expensive for my limited pocket money and the conversions that could be done with the ACW and AWI range kept me going for year. Also, remember the 54mm figure Airfix made at that time. It was the start of a life long interest in Napoleonics for me. Looking forward to your Napoleonic rules....
    Paul

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    1. Paul Leeson (Paul),

      I bought my first metal figures (Hinton Hunt Crimean War figures) in 1968 after watching THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Two years later I bought some Minifig Prussian Napoleonic figures after watching WATERLOO. I still have some of the Hinton Hunts (badly painted in gloss enamels!) and the Minifigs form part of my Napoleonic collection.

      I've taken part in two lawn battles (Waterloo and Leipzig) using 54mm figures, and they looked very impressive.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  11. I brought my wife to see the movie when it first came out. I spent so mush time disparaging the a historical stuff that she promised never to go to a historical movie with me again! She has kept that promise through 58 years of marriage. Dick Bryant

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    1. Dick Bryant,

      I think that you got of very lightly indeed! My wife still regularly 'remembers' the criticisms I've made of films and TV programmes we saw together years ago!

      All the best,

      Bob

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    1. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      It was a true cinematic spectacular!

      All the best,

      Bob

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