Warner has turned out a magnificent production in this story [by Michael Jacoby] based on Tennyson’s immortal poem and historical facts. Foreword explains that history was consulted for background, but characters and development are fictionized.
Before the climactic sweeping drive of the cavalry there is the dramatic defense of the Chukoti garrison and the ruthless massacre of soldiers, wives and children after they have surrendered. The major who witnessed the slaughter is depicted as switching an order of the British high command. This results in the 600 cavalrymen riding into ‘the valley of death’ in the face of cannon fire and a force four or five times their number.
The tremendous sweep of this surging charge constitutes the feature’s highlight. It has been skillfully done by means of close-ups, a traveling camera shot depicting the changing pace of the horses as column after column races towards the enemy, and via some truly extraordinary process shots.
The dual love affair, two brothers seeking the hand of the colonel’s daughter, is nicely intertwined with the more adventurous moments of the story.
Errol Flynn lives up to the promise of previous film efforts as the youthful major who sacrifices all to avenge the slaughter of his comrades. Donald Crisp is strong in the character portrayal of the colonel.
1936: Best Assistant Director (Jack Sullivan).
Nominations: Best Score, Sound