THE LIGHTHORSEMEN—–1917, Palestine: deadlocked in their campaign against their Turkish/German adversaries, the British use a regiment of Australian cavalry in a daring assault on Beersheba. Who doesn’t enjoy a thundering, glorious, full-scale cavalry charge? In real-life, the answer would be “the recipients”, but in movie terms, they’ve always been a sure bet, the intrinsic excitement and movement grandly cinematic, capturing audiences imaginations just as they’d swayed a millennia of warrior chieftains. *
The meticulously recreated whopper that concludes this well-produced 1987 ode to equine beauty and human nerve is a worthy addition to the ranks of bugle-called battles, but the greater part of the script and delivery that leads up to it are pedestrian, flat and familiar. The dialogue rings hollow and, unlike the splendid Gallipoli, you don’t get sufficiently involved in the characters. Following that 1981 classic, this was a disappointment to war-genre fans and likely a drag for viewers not inclined to be patient with military salutes. The horses look great.
Visually impressive, with the beautiful animals and detailed period equipment, the lavish explosions and well-executed stunts all pulling their weight for that wild onslaught finish. Fine cinematography from Dean Semler, a corker job from the sound effects crew. Directed by Simon Wincer, it made scratch in the US, and not enough in Australia to cover its considerable outlay. 131 minutes.
With Jon Blake, Peter Phelps, Tony Bonner, John Walton, Bill Kerr, Gary Sweet, Nick Larkins, John Harking, John Heywood, Sigrid Thornton, Shane Briant, and Anthony Andrews. A tragedy marred the production. The handsome and charismatic lead, 28-year old Jon Blake, was touted as a new ‘Mad Max’. The day after filming wrapped, a car accident left him paralyzed and brain damaged. He passed away in 2011, at 52.
* The charge at Beersheba is often spoken of as ‘the last successful cavalry charge in history” (this overlooks some vast melees on the Russian Front in WW2, as the Soviets employed eighty divisions of light cavalry). There was a very popular 1940 Australian film of the Beersheba story, Forty Thousand Horsemen. Beersheba was critical in part for its water, the Biblical “Seven Wells”. Settlement goes back to The Copper Age. Once a piece of Palestine, Beersheba now resides in Israel, one of its fastest growing cities. As for Great Movie Cavalry Charges—memorable employment of boots & saddles include the classic 1936 The Charge Of The Light Brigade, the exuberant 1962 Taras Bulba, the logistically staggering 1968 War and Peace, the frightening Braveheart and the CGI wonder of Return Of The King. Plus scores of westerns. Great to look at, awful when you consider the brutish toll men have inflicted on loyal and innocent steeds in order to settle their real estate squabbles and deep-seated manhood issues.