The peculiar tale that is ‘Culloden’

“Sir John MacDonald. Jacobite captain of cavalry. Aged, frequently intoxicated, described as a man of the most limited capacities.”

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“A cast iron ball of 3-pounds weight, fired from open sights. This is round shot. This is what it does…”

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“A cylindrical canvas bag, eight inches in length, packed with musket balls and pieces of jagged iron. This is grapeshot. This is what it does…”

Culloden is a 1964 docudrama written and directed by Peter Watkins for BBC TV.

It portrays the 1746 Battle of Culloden that resulted in the British Army’s destruction of the Scottish Jacobite rising of 1745 and, in the words of the narrator, “tore apart forever the clan system of the Scottish Highlands.”

Described in its opening credits as “an account of one of the most mishandled and brutal battles ever fought in Britain,” Culloden was hailed as a breakthrough for its cinematography as well as its use of non-professional actors and its presentation of a historical event in the style of modern TV war reporting.

The film was based on John Prebble’s study of the battle.

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