Comrades (5 stars)


(18) 175min
(BFI DVD/Blu-ray retail)

It’s criminal that the late, great Edinburgh-born filmmaker Bill Douglas’ epic account of the Tolpuddle Martyrs should remain largely unseen two decades after it was released. Perhaps a three-hour long, slow-moving drama that mixed two apparently inconsistent styles of British filmmaking, social realism and romantic fantasy, and was a thinly veiled critique of Thatcherism – being a portrayal of six Dorset labourers transported to Australia in the 1830s for forming a trade union – was never going to go down well in the superficial, apathetic late-1980s. But it is a real mystery how the final film by the acclaimed maker of the trilogy My Childhood/My Ain Folk/My Way Home (considered by many to amount to the best Scottish film ever made) has been overlooked since – especially one with a top-draw ensemble cast including Vanessa Redgrave, James Fox, Freddie Jones, Imelda Staunton and, ahem, Barbara Windsor. Thankfully, this high-definition restoration is now available. Watch it. Extras: new Douglas documentary, Douglas and cast interviews, Douglas-scripted short, location report, booklet.

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