A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 22 June 2015

The Pride and the Passion (1957)

I was reminded by a post on Stryker's splendid blog of my appreciation of CS Forester's two novels of Napoleonic land warfare in the Peninsular War - Death to the French and The Gun - and of the travesty of a film version of The Gun which staggered into cinemas in 1957, under the title The Pride and the Passion.

It would be possible to devote a very long criticism to this film, highlighting the complete lack of respect to both history and Forester's fine book, the awful characterisations and accents, the unrelenting flood of moronic national stereotypes and, especially, the spectacular switch of the plot to replace one of the guerrilla leaders with Sophia Loren; I shall rise above all this, and I merely offer a couple of glimpses, for those who have not seen this epic and for those who, like me, have seen it but may not be able to believe how bad it was.

Behind the impressive branding this was, as you will observe, a joint production by the Reader's Digest and Miss Bentham's class at Beaconsfield Primary School, but it cannot be faulted on expense or dedication to tasteless excess. Here is the assault on Avila, which is stirring stuff, though you may feel that the French could have been a bit more businesslike about the defence. I recall that my cousin and I, after we had seen it, were not surprised that poor old Sophia was wounded in the chest, since, if only from the point of view of proportional surface area, that seemed a very high probability. Shame, though.

Whatever else the French could have done better, I certainly hope they executed the uniform consultant - and you've seen nothing - wait till you see the cavalry. I was tempted to see how cheaply I could get a DVD of this film, but I haven't found one cheap enough yet. I shall continue to keep an eye open. In the meantime, perhaps you would join me in a quiet salute to the real CS Forester.


  1. Oh dear!

    Still, if this has inspired you I could let you have one my 40mm 12 pdrs for your 20mm Guerillas.

    1. Thank you, Ross, but I am pretty much uninspired.

      On a related topic, I am failing dismally to come up with presentable French siege artillery in 20mm scale, so am thinking vaguely (how else would I think?) of checking the measurements in my source books and seeing if I can rig up an overscale 12pdr with small wheels - that might do it - or maybe the same idea with a longer barrel. Anyway, your suggestion reminded me of this...

  2. I got an email from good old Martin, who still refuses to have a named account associated with Google, and he makes the interesting point that Hollywood was looking for another epic in the style of El Cid, which may explain the rather anachronistic appearance of the warfare. He also complains about the Spanish gunners aiming for the TOP of the walls, the inevitable exploding cannonballs, and the fact that the French baddies speak Spanish. This last bit is explained because I could only find a clip from the Spanish language version on YouTube - I certainly hope the Spanish audiences didn't have to listen to Frank Sinatra pretending to be a cartoon Mexican bandit.

    The film does give a pretty clear idea of why Vauban and Co found it necessary to rework ancient fortresses in the Age of Gunpowder, though.