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THE WALLACE As close as fiction can get to the facts!
The late and greatly missed Nigel Tranter (b.1909-d.2000) was not only one of Scotland's leadinghistorians, but was also the premier writer of Scottish historical biographical fiction. If you were to organise his books chronologically they would form an almost complete biographic history of Scotland from the earliest times to the Highland Clearances. I started to collect his books as they were published in early 1970s and acquired each new title until the last in 2007.
This fictionalised biography of William Wallace of Elderslie was written in 1975 and is still considered by most academics of Scottish history to be the work of fiction to come closest the historic facts. The author relies heavily upon meticulous research and, as with all his works is full of historical detail and minutiae giving his stories a feeling of truth and reality that very few authors of fiction ever achieve. This is the only work of fiction to my knowledge that is not based upon 'The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie', a poem by the 15th Century bard Blind Harry thought to have been written around 1470, and long considered an almost total fiction.
My only small critique of this particular book is that as a work of fiction it sometimes is overly close to historical correctness. History does have long periods of boring nothingness between the more interesting events and in a couple of places Mr. Tranter's usual flowing prose slows down....but certainly not enough to spoil the enjoyment of this excellent novel.
Thank you Mr.Tranter for your contribution to literature, your prolific output which would keep any reader content for years, and your determination to bring readable Scottish history to the people.
You are sorely missed.
Braveheart: Regular Edition (1 Disc)
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What can be written about this film which has not already been said many times....it IS great fun to watch, but you must suspend your belief in any form of historical accuracy what-so-ever. The script appears to rely heavily upon 'The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie', a poem by the 15th Century bard Blind Harry thought to have been written around 1470, and long considered an almost total fiction. The storyline, dialogue, costumes, arms and make-up are all total fantasy, but 'That's Hollywood', and the film was a commercial success despite the flak storm from historians before and after cinematic release. The fact that a proportion of the movie was filmed in Scotland and Ireland and brought a small much needed boost to some local economies perhaps in a small way mitigates the world wide damage to the Scottish historic image.
Never-the-less it is well worth watching purely as a costume, action epic with some stirring battle scenes but please do not believe that this has anything but the vaguest connection to historical fact.
If you do wish to learn something of Wallace and the Scottish War of Independance read Nigel Tranter's novel THE WALLACE, published in 1975, still readily available in softcover edition and probably the most historically accurate and readable account.
Pathfinder: Extended Edition (2007)
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Over the years the subject of the early Norse or Viking explorations of North America have appeared in historical fiction, notably Henry Treece's 'Viking Sunset', Cecelia Holland's 'Serpent Dreamer' and the Neil Langholm (Kenneth Bulmer) 'The Vikings' Series, but I believe this may be the first attempt to make use of these legends in a screenplay.The base story line is sound; an abandoned Norse youth left in America and taken in by a native tribe, who, as a grown man fights to save his adopted people from a further Viking incursion. Unfortunately, there ends any history based connection and the film is really nothing more than another 'hack and slash' fantasy movie, which in fairness could have stood on that platform without the need to attempt an historical setting. Whilst the aboriginal Americans are depicted sypathetically, the Vikings are given the full fantasy treatment, from costume to weapons and massive warhorses.As a fantasy romp this film is quite fun (hence the mid-way rating), although most of the action is filmed in the dark or deep forest settings and consists mostly of a few flashes of steel and splashes of blood.I do hope that the Norse explorations of America are given a more serious outing in film as this effort is a sorry waste of a really sound storyline.
Ivanhoe (Netherlands Release)
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In common with most young boys of my generation, I grew up reading the novels of Walter Scott, RL Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas, but Scott's Ivanhoe and The Talisman were by far and away my favourite books which I re-visited time again throughout junior and senior school years.I like this film version of Ivanhoe, it may not be as gritty or period realistic as the 1997 BBC mini-series but it is still good and actually closer to the Walter Scott novel that any other version.The acting from the strong, mainly British cast manages to carry the plot forward through a screenplay that is occaisionally overly worded and once or twice a bit slow, but this minor flaw is compensated for by the slick action scenes and well delivered dialogue, much of which is taken straight from Scott and the truely moving performance (as ever) by James Mason.In my opinion this production of Ivanhoe falls pretty well mid-way between the 1952 MGM Robert Taylor movie and the 1997 Stephen Waddington and Christopher Lee versions, and actually has less continuity errors than either !
Region 1 DVD
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In common with most young boys of my generation, I grew up reading the novels of Walter Scott, RL Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas, but Scott's Ivanhoe and The Talisman were by far and away my favourite books which I re-visited time again throughout junior and senior school years.
The 1952 MGM film of Ivanhoe was filmed in Britain during the Hollywood 'exile' of the communist witch hunts. The film itself suffers from the usual Hollywood abridgements from the original novel and deviates from the storyline to make the film enjoyable to a wider audience. it suceeeded, being the highest grossing film ever made in Britain at that time.Robert Taylor replaced Stewart Grainger as the first choice for the lead character as the producers felt that Taylor would have a greater appeal to the US audience, and the strong mostly British supporting cast is topped off by the incomparable George Sanders, and two of the three most beautiful ladies in Hollywood, Joan Fontaine and Elizabeth Taylor (the third being Olivia De Haviland of course). Taylor plays his part well but all of the best lines go to Felix Aylmer and George Sanders.
An enjoyable, colourful and charming Hollywood swashbuckling romp, which I never tire of watching.
I have two versions of this DVD, the US Region 1 which is marginly better than the Region Free Far East Import.
Lord of the Isles
Lord of the Isles has always been one of my favourite books by this author, and I was fortunate to have my volume signed by the author when I purchased it in 1983. It is a fictionalised biography of Somerled, King of Man and Lord of the Isles, who drove the Viking overlords from Man and the Hebrides and unified the Norse and Celtic peoples under a single ruler in the mid 12th century. This is a much neglected period of Scottish history in fiction but one which contains wealth of stirring and passionate tales which only Nigel Tranter has brought to the printed page.
Tranter's vivid prose as always flows seamlessly through the story and brings to life the characters and historical settings. As a celebrated historian, Tranter's books were always meticulously researched, accurate and full of historical detail and minutiae giving his stories a feeling of truth and reality that very few authors of fiction ever achieve.
THE RAVEN TRILOGY - BLOOD EYE, SONS OF THUNDER, ODIN'S WOLVES
The historical novel has been my favourite fiction genre since childhood when I cut my teeth on the likes of Walter Scott, RL Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas, and the dark ages and early medieval periods hold a special fascination for me.
The re-emergence of interest in the genre over the past ten years or so (long may it continue) has brought to the fore many new and exciting authors and Giles Kristian has the promise to become one of the best.
This trilogy chronicles the adventures of a young man taken in and adopted by a Norse raiding party and follows their travels from England to Frankia and Miklagard seeking wealth and glory.
The story battles furiously onward at a breathtaking pace but is never-the-less presented in a style which is easy to read and absorbing. The combat action, skirmishes and battles are many and described in all their grim detail without unwanted sensationalism or become a succession of repetitive gore fests. The dialogue has the feeling that it is delivered by a character of the period without being dressed up with misplaced archaic words and phases, nor is it ripe with glaring modern grammatical errors as are many books of the genre. The characters are memorable with good depth and their dialogue crackles with that unique sense of fun and humour that from my experience is universal to all soldiers.
From the angle of historical accuracy, I would say that the author's knowledge of the period and subject is sound with every evidence of good research.
Full marks Mr. Kristian......well done for holding the series to a trilogy, well written and paced, too often authors are persuaded by their editor to continue a series long after the storylines have become stale and unbelievable. Do return to the dark ages/feudal/medieval period in time...you obviously have a genuine feeling for this era.
Raven 3: Odin's Wolves