The Last Valley, 1971
Historical drama pitting Michael Caine and Omar Sharif against the brutality of the 30 years war in europe
The Last Valley - Released January 28, 1971
A disillusioned military leader (Michael Caine) during the 16th century 30 Years' War leads a rogue band of soldiers amid a blighted wasteland of burned-out villages and plague-ridden refugees. By chance they follow the fleeing school teacher Vogel (Omar Sharif) through fog into an untouched valley surrounded on all sides by mountains.
At first they prepare to loot, rape, kill and destroy the place, which is what they've been doing for years all across Germany, but Vogel, who is about to be killed, convinces the Captain that with winter coming on and no safe place on the battlefields outside of this locked-in valley, they should instead make peace with the (nearly) harmless villagers and make camp.
A few dissenting soldiers amid the Captain's band have to first be put to the sword, but with that out of the way they commence to sorting out how to live peacefully, at least for awhile. This proves more problematic than they expected, so used to just destroying any opposition in their way. Now, they need the cooperation of the villagers to keep the valley safe and to keep themselves fed.
Michael Caine's portrayal of a bitter and conflicted soldier who has been pushed to do too many terrible deeds by the warring princes and kings of Europe is an interesting mix of Teutonic discipline and a man just looking for a way out once he discovers there might actually be one.
Omar Sharif's refugee school teacher has the nearly hopeless task of mediating between the villagers and the soldiers. The Captain declares that he will kill him as soon as he is no longer useful, but Omar proves to be useful in so many ways that he frequently is called upon to create a solution from out of thin air (or out of faked religious visions!) when friction occurs.
Though the film is declared to be "James Clavell's The Last Valley" (he wrote the script) the film itself is based upon the 1958 novel The Fat Valley written by J. B. Pick.
As happy as (most) the soldiers become in their winter respite, there is a constant sense of doom surrounding the story, and they begin to fear the inevitable discovery of the valley by an outside world that is still violently at war.
Partly an anti-war film (particularly anti-religious-war film), partly Lost Horizon, a little bit of Seven Samurai and partly just a chance for Omar Sharif and Michael Caine to ride horses and move about beautiful high-mountain scenery, the tale is a paean to the calming effects of love and compromise.
Original Page Feb 2015
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