30th March 2020

Finding myself with much too much time upon my hands I am always inclined to recall and revisit music, literature, television shows and moving pictures that have for any number of reasons had a deep and lasting effect upon my conscience, consideration and activities. Momentarily we have all been obliged to enter a time of reflection, step back from the ever-intruding pressure of the moment to ponder our true value, purpose and destiny.

In the far too distant past I was persuaded, nay cajoled by the arms and lips of a sweet and sumptuous courtesan to take myself and her to the premiere, held in the Odeon Cinema, Leicester Square of James Clavell’s nineteen seventy one production of The Lost Valley, based upon J.B. Picks novel ‘the Fat Valley’ published initially in nineteen fifty nine by Arco Publications, London. Milady’s interest was largely inspired by an unrequited adoration of one of the starring actors, Omar Sharif, whilst mine, putting aside the obvious promise of many a future gratuitous tumble, a fascination around the mid seventeenth century religious turmoil designated as the thirty years war.  Neither she nor I were disappointed by the happenstance in any imaginable manner.

The plot is sublimely layered, allowing both Sharif and his still young co-star Michael Caine any number of opportunities for both poignant and more theatrical performance.

Sharif plays an intellectual, Vogel, who fleeing the joint terrors of war and pestilence engulfing most of central Europe comes across the Lost Valley of the title by chance while escaping the Captain, played with great acumen by Caine, and his ragtag band of marauding mercenaries. The soldiers follow Vogel into the valley, and we are thenceforth situated as voyeurs while mercenaries, farmers, captain and intellectual manufacture a way to safeguard all, for one winter at least, against an outside world driven mad by anger, suspicion, pestilence and political and religious division.

A largely forgot and unheralded gem, the Last Valley represents a remarkable cinematic directing and producing coup by James Cavell and includes a score by John Barry that warrants attention at minimum for its haunting final theme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6igaaOKvgRk&feature=emb_logo

The movie is presently only available on YouTube but well worth the view. Admittedly doth not present the happiest of endings, but quite probably the most realistic the fictional circumstance makes imaginable.

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