DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Amber Wilkinson's film review of Culloden

The print of Culloden is, considering its age, surprisingly sharp and clear. The sound quality is also good. There is, inevitably, some scratching and grain, but it is easy to forgive. Yet again, the British Film Institute has gone the extra mile in terms of acquiring interesting extras to compliment its releases, offering plenty of background information and insight.

The Forgotten Faces is a full print of Watkins's amateur film, lasting 18 minutes, about the uprising in Budapest in 1961. Shot like a newsreel, it is a precocious and engaging piece of work and makes it easy to see why the BBC snapped him up when they had the chance. It is clear from both this documentary and Culloden that Watkins felt he had gained the best from his amateur actors and, after watching both, it is hard not to agree.

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The commentary track by Dr John Cook - a biographer of Watkins's work, along with Patrick Murphy, who provides an interesting background extra to the BFI's release of the director's other major work, The War Game - is engaging and informative. Cook not only talks about the shooting of Culloden, but also provides a comprehensive biography of its creator, explaining where he came from, where he is now and offering a view as to what drives him to make films in the manner that he does. While occasionally becoming bogged down in talking about the Commune of Paris - a more recent Watkins offering, which Cook was invited to the set off - this commentary is both revealing and educational, without being dry or academic.

The colour footage, shot by a member of the cast during filming, is the sort of perfect extra you only come across very rarely. It gives another dimension to Watkins's work, clearly showing how accomplished he was as a director, in terms of his management of actors and scenery.

The subtitling is comprehensive and includes the commentary track, making this one of the best BFI releases to date. As the retelling of an infamous massacre, it is worthy of a place in your collection. Coupled with its innovative style and direction, it is an absolute must.

If you buy only one DVD from BFI this year, make it this one.

Reviewed on: 29 Jun 2003
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Culloden packshot
Tale of the historic battle - emphasising the plight of the Highlanders.
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Product Code: BFIVD544

Region: 2

Ratio: 4:3

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: The Forgotten Faces; Colour footage shot on location at the making of Culloden; Commentary by Dr John Cook; Director

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