Tag Archives: Wars and Conflicts

Movies for the Classroom: Culloden (1964)

Recently, as I was packing for the Save Our Schools March this weekend, I ran into some clips of a film I haven’t seen in many years.

Looking at it now, the film still shocks and absorbs me, especially since it was decades ahead of its time.

In 1964, the BBC released a film on British television stations by director Peter Watkins. Culloden was a film about the 1746 Battle of Culloden Moor between the British Army and the rebel forces of the Young Pretender Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was the culmination of the Second Jacobite Rebellion, an attempt by Scots and other Britons to depose the German-born king of Great Britain and re-install the Stuart royal family of Scotland.

Yet what makes Culloden so prescient is not the subject material—it is the film itself.

Watkins shot Culloden as a drama-documentary, interviewing the characters (officers, soldiers, and local people) as if they were on a 20th century TV special. His narration, unlike many earlier depictions of the battle, is remarkably newslike and spares no detail no matter how gory or disturbing.

Finally, the grim, horrific nature of war, and of war atrocities, is brought into terrible focus—even through the grainy black-and-white lens of 1960s television. It was created as a window on the then-emerging Vietnam conflict (take a guess which side is which) and the acting seems hokey at times.

But look closely: even among today’s viewers, Culloden can still shock and create furious debate about war, violence, class division, patriotism, and a whole host of social conflicts, just as it did in 1964.

Attached are three excerpts from the film. The entire film is not available streaming, but Amazon has a double-feature DVD of both Culloden and Watkins’ 1965 masterpiece The War Game, a film about nuclear war so intense the BBC wouldn’t show it in full for 20 years.

 

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This Day in History 4/19: The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

On April 19, 1775, a group of Massachusetts militiamen converged on the village common of Lexington.  Approaching was a British column heading to Concord to seize the arms and munitions stored there.  As they approached, the British ordered the colonists to disperse.

No one knows for sure who fired, but the next shot would stand out as the “shot heard ’round the world.” It began the American War of Independence, and its effects are still felt throughout the world.

Attached is the School House Rock video for the shots fired at Lexington.  It also gives a succinct synopsis of the war itself.

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Videos for the Classroom: Dating Do’s and Dont’s (1949)

It’s time to shine those penny loafers and Bryllcreme those hairdos.  The Neighborhood is heading for the Fifties!

Nothing explains the intentions, the tensions and the goofiness of the era like the instructional films produced by Coronet.  Starting after World War II, Coronet Films, as many other distributors, created a series of films on morals, hygiene and national values to be shown in classrooms on 8-mm projectors–mostly to kill a Friday afternoon.  Through school-age actors, the films stressed the need for conformity, grooming, and patriotism, often at the expense of anything remotely considered unique or creative.

Today, these films have a mysterious antique silly quality.  Yet one can imagine the gravitas of a school marm in her bat-glasses showing a film on how heavy petting, rock music and consorting with Black people can lead to Communism.  Today’s film is the 1949 classic Dating Do’s and Dont’s, as a young boy ponders which perfectly coiffed Caucasian female of upper-middle class status he will take to the “keen wing-ding” of the night, the big carnival.  The film deftly guides our hero through the “right” choice of girl, how to set up the date, and the activities to follow…

…of course, not ALL the activities.  And our hero would never do that!  That’s only for pot-smoking, rock ‘n’ roll listening, Commie-loving, integration-pushing hipsters who beat on bongos and wear black all the time.

Sit back and enjoy the goofiness.  Of course, have students question the moral underpinnings of these films–though that may label them Communists!   God forbid!

Enjoy

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