Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Nerdversity Reviews: Sharpe's Siege (TV)

In 1993, Celtic Films created Sharpe, a TV movie adaptation series, based on Bernard Cornwell's novels of the same name. They had Sean Bean as the titular hero.

Sharpe's Siege was written by Eoghan Harris and Colin Wood, based on the novel of the same name. It was directed by Tom Clegg. The plot is In 1813, the war turns in favour of the British. Lord Wellington (Hugh Fraser) is poised to invade southern France after triumphing in Spain. The Comte de Maquerre (Christian Brendel), a French nobleman, offers to raise a rebellion in Bordeaux against Napoleon. Major General Ross (James Laurenson), is unconvinced, as his spies have reported no discontent in the region, but agrees that a brigade can be sent as a probe if the Comte can provide a secure base; he offers a family castle, though he admits that it is garrisoned.
Wellington is forced to put a young, inexperienced Colonel Horace Bampfylde (Christopher Villiers) (the son of a general Wellington needs to placate) in charge of the expedition, instead of Major Sharpe (Sean Bean). Sharpe is reluctant to go, as he has just married Jane Gibbons (Abigail Cruttenden) and she has come down with a deadly fever. Without quinine, her prognosis is bleak, but he is a soldier and he has his orders.
Bampfylde botches the initial assault on the fortress and is driven back with heavy casualties. Disgusted, Sharpe and his men gain entry to the castle at night by a ruse, pretending to be a French patrol, and capture the place. The Comte is reunited with his sister (Amira Casar) and gravely ill mother. For his trouble, Sharpe is sent by Bampfylde on a useless reconnaissance in order to grab the credit for himself.
While Sharpe is away, the Comte brings the "Mayor of Bordeaux" to Bampfylde who confirms that Bordeaux is ripe for rebellion, however the Comte is in league with Napoleon and the mayor is in fact Napoleon's agent and Sharpe's old enemy Major Ducos (Feodor Atkine). Ducos also tells Bampfylde that Sharpe was ambushed and killed by a French column. Now convinced that his mission is a success and there's no further reason to stay, Bampfylde is convinced by the Comte to demolish the front gates, blow up the captured ammunition, abandon the wounded, and return to Wellington immediately with the wonderful news.
Sharpe's patrol meanwhile ambushes and annihilates a French column of reinforcements, and captures a resupply cart and a doctor bringing quinine for the Comte's mother. Resisting the temptation to save it for his wife, Sharpe allows it to be given to the ailing woman.
Rifleman Robinson (Danny Cunningham) is found with a local French girl. Sharpe is required to hang him by Wellington's standing orders, but when the girl says she had been willing, Sharpe reduces the sentence to a beating from Sergeant Harper (Daragh O'Malley). Meanwhile, they question the locals and find them fiercely loyal to Napoleon and conclude that the Comte's rebellion is a sham.
Hearing the explosion from the castle's magazine, Sharpe and his men hurry back. When he gets a description of the mayor, he realises he has been trapped by Major Ducos. Not only will Wellington be tricked into advancing into an ambush, but Ducos will have his own personal revenge on Sharpe.
French General Calvet (Olivier Pierre) arrives with a sizable, but inexperienced, force. Under a flag of truce, the Comte reveals himself to be Napoleon's agent, and offers to let the British go free provided they leave Sharpe behind; Robinson replies for them all, "Fight them to the finish, sir." Sharpe turns them down. In a shooting contest, sharpshooters mortally wound the Comte in the back at long range as he returns from the parley.
Sharpe and his men only have 18 rounds a man. Earlier, out of gratitude for Sharpe providing her mother with quinine, the Comte's sister had told them to burn a cellar full of oyster shells to produce lime.
The French attack, but are met by accurate volley shooting. With the British ammunition running low, Sharpe's men dump powdered lime from the walls, blinding their foes as they enter the castle. The British form ranks and proceed to massacre the blinded Frenchmen.
The French retreat just as the British run out of ammunition. Then, a messenger arrives from Marshal Soult, Calvet's superior, wondering why he wasn't guarding the flank when Wellington attacked... fifty miles away. The wily British commander had been suspicious and so only ever intended the uprising to be a distraction while he attacked elsewhere. General Calvet hurries away, leaving Sharpe victorious.
When Sharpe gets back, Bampfylde is placed under arrest for cowardice and other charges. Sharpe is astounded to find his wife well; she tells him that Wellington had gone to some lengths to obtain quinine for her.
The movie was broadcast on ITV in 1996 and ran for 100 minutes. It would be released later that same year on VHS, with a DVD release in 2005.