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The Last Valley

By Sean Axmaker

James Clavell's heartfelt film of paradise found and lost in the midst of the bloody Thirty Years War, a senseless religious conflict long since degenerated into a rabble of looters preying on peasants, is a triumph of passion over style. Michael Caine stars as the Captain, a happily tolerant leader whose army of mercenaries, a mix of Protestants and Catholics, murders, pillages, and rapes side by side for whatever faction is paying more this month. Omar Sharif is Vogel, a lone refugee whose flight from the marauding band leads them all to a beautiful village in the mountains. The Captain and Vogel make an unlikely pair, the shrewd mercenary with the dream of peace, and the philosopher peasant hanging on to his own life in the face of certain death, and their alliance to preserve this Eden and her people stands in contrast to the soldiers who soon become splintered by greed, lust, and religious zealotry. Clavell isn't exactly subtle, but his sense of irony is biting: one Christian soldier is ready to lead an mob in righteous battle after a perceived blasphemer, and in the next scene attacks and rapes an innocent Christian maiden he's sworn to protect. The film falters in clumsy battle scenes and awkward dramatic staging, but Caine's complex characterization of the guarded Captain and Sharif's haunted performance keep the story alive, and the beautiful photography sets the film like a jewel into its setting.

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: James Clavell

Stars: Michael Caine, Omar Sharif, Nigel Davenport

Released: January 28, 1971

Availability: DVD VHS


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