The Last Valley

Movie Information

Genre: Adventure Drama
Director: James Clavell
Starring: Michael Caine, Omar Sharif, Florinda Bolkan, Nigel Davenport, Per Oscarsson
Rated: PG

If he’s remembered at all today, James Clavell is primarily thought of as a novelist (most especially Shogun), with a few people perhaps remembering his screenwriting on films as diverse as The Fly (1958) and The Great Escape (1963) — but he also made a few movies. The most famous (perhaps because of the theme song by Lulu) of these is To Sir, with Love (1967), which holds up very nicely nearly 40 years later.

His historical drama about the Thirty Years War, The Last Valley (1971), is almost unknown — less because of any lack of quality than because it’s one of those unfortunate films released by an upstart or offshoot company in an era when such companies were threatening the major distributors. They didn’t last long and many of the films they handled have merely floated from distributor to distributor in the intervening years. Such seems to have been the fate of The Last Valley — a movie very much of its time and containing subject matter (the Thirty Years War?) not likely to attract much mainstream interest. At the time, however, this odd film about the encroachment of mercenary soldiers on an idyllic village with its anti-war sentiments probably seemed like a sound proposition.

And despite an apparently small budget, Michael Caine’s now-you-hear-it-now-you-don’t German accent, Omar Sharif’s peculiar gray makeup, and the fact that Clavell could write action, but directed it only awkwardly — The Last Valley is an interesting, thoughtful, unusual film — one that in an allegorical sense has once again become relevant.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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4 thoughts on “The Last Valley

  1. keith

    This movie is a gem. It’s very sad that it was over looked. The music score alone is incredible. I liked the acting of the lead characters. Most people who stumble upon this movie now absolutely love it.

  2. Arturo Rodriguez

    I bought the movie for a good friend that could not find it and decided to watch it to see if it was as good as he claimed. War epics are always depressing specially this darkest period but the portrail of the era is well displayed and the valley is filmed with astonishing color and beauty. To my surprise, the reel was captivating from start to finish. The acting is great but what’s with Omar Sharif’s white make up and puritan portrail?
    The score is great but was reduced to the same couple chords every time.The entire soundtrack, if available, should be a good addition to any collection.
    Disturbing and well defined characters makes this movie a must have. Its one of those films that remain in your mind for weeks after you see it.

  3. Andrew Baker

    I saw this film in the early 1970s as a student and remember it as having had an impact on me at the time. Finally I got to see it again and it certainly is a film of its time but perhaps even more relevant today. The bleakness of the view of the effects of religious bigotry and corruption provide a powerful message that resonates today. A great lost film that deserves a wider contemporary audience.

  4. Joseph Andrews

    Oh, what a neat bit o art! Is it the epic it sometimes predends to be? No. Is it compelling drama? Nah. But does it try hard and succeed with a philosophical script… where Caine informs the dogmatic priest that God is dead? Oh yeah! Does it dip its toes into other fine political philosophy snacks on toleration, Machiavels, conniving Bergers, the horrors of war, love and honor, rural idiocy and the scholarly few, and (poorly, as was characteristic of its time) the ugly ways of male domination over women. Photography is fine and the acting pretty good in spite of the intellectual ambitions of the script. Worth watching because of all that, and where else are you going to get your Thirty Years War film itch scratched?

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