After World War II, a Highland Regiment's acting Commanding Officer, who rose from the ranks, is replaced by a peace-time Oxford-educated Commanding Officer, leading to a dramatic conflict between the two.
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Major Jock Sinclair has been in this Highland regiment since he joined as a boy piper. During World War II, as Second-in-Command, he was made acting Commanding Officer. Now the regiment has returned to Scotland, and a new commanding officer is to be appointed. Jock's own cleverness is pitted against his new C.O., his daughter, his girlfriend, and the other officers in the Mess.Written by
Aryk Nusbacher <email@example.com>
As a teenager, John Fraser had been a member of a pipe band at his school, and although he played the big drum in the band and not the bagpipes, he was familiar enough with the musical instrument to be able to mime the movements required for his role in this movie. See more »
Pipe Major MacLean is never shown with a set of bagpipes. In particular, he is a mere observer at band practice. A pipe major is not only the leader of the band but also its chief instructor, and it is unthinkable that he would not play an active role in all practices. See more »
Alec Guinness is superb as acting colonel Jock Sinclair. Drunken and boorish, a terrible administrator but a wartime hero. Rough and wild for once, he is cast against type, yet emerges triumphant in an acting master class.
The book is a slim volume, but is fast moving and full of character. Set in provincial Scotland, the flavour of the film is as strong as the novel (by James Kennaway who also wrote the screenplay) but the characterisation by the actors builds on and then surpasses the script. I note that neither of the actors is Scottish and this amazes me. Maybe I should seek advice from a Scot on this matter.
We never leave the barracks or the quiet army town and so learn only by rumour how Jock Sinclair, on some blasted field at the centre of El Alamein saved his regiment and turned the battle. Half the officers and men were dead, the cause lost, yet his spirit and the force of his will brought him a battlefield promotion to acting colonel. The Regiment is what he lives for.
Several years later, in peacetime, the army catches up with its paperwork and sends a proper officer to take back the reins. Basil Barrow arrives unexpectedly from a desk job and Sandhurst. His assignment is to organise and civilise the men, long gone wild under Jock's supervision. John Mills plays the rather impotent lonely Barrow as an accentless and educated man. There are "dark rumours" amongst the men that he may be English.
The clash between the two men commences immediately on their meeting and ends in scenes of mourning and redemption.
This is an actors film. There are few effects and much of the action is centred on one or the other of Guinness or Mills. Sinclair is a piper, this gives him an almost spiritual air and his feel for music (the Tunes of Glory) is the first area of contention between the two Colonels. When Jock leads his men in a wild and unruly reel with arms flailing and much shouting and yipping at a society ball the ensuing fit from the uptight and conservative Mills is wonderful. He trembles and shakes and we do likewise.
The film builds and builds to a finale full of Tunes of Glory and we come to an understanding about both men, as they come to understand each other.
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