Sharpe’s Rifles (1993) First of a Series of 14 British TV Movies on the Napoleonic Wars

If America only knew how good this was, it would be the highest rated Made-For-TV movie series of all time (hard to believe there are more people out there that would rather watch “The Columbo Mysteries” than Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe Chronicles- that just goes to show the power of major network name-brand advertising. (Comment from a US IMBD reviewer)

The British TV movie Sharpe´s Rifles is the first of 14 installments focussing on the fictional character Lt.Sharpe. Bernard Cornwell’s novels are the source for this series. There are certain parallels to the Hornblower series (see Hornblower post) with the difference that Sharpe shows the Napoleonic wars on land. Unlike the Hornblower sequences these are full-length movies, each 110 minutes long.

I started to watch it on the last weekend and am really quite taken by it. This enthusiasm is certainly also due to Sean Bean´s starring as Sharpe. He is an excellent choice for this rough but likable maverick and daredevil.

In the first movie we get to know Sharpe and the motley crew of Chosen Men (snipers riflemen) that is very unwillingly under his command. Sharpe who is a sergeant is promoted to lieutenant because he saves General Wellesley´s life. Promoting someone from the ranks who is, like Sharpe, not a gentleman, proves to be somewhat problematic. The other officers don´t accept him because he is not one of them, the soldiers do not accept him because he is one of them. He really has a hard time proving himself and on top of that they are at war.

Sharpe´s Rifles takes place in 1809 in Portugal. Spain and Britain are supposedly allies against France but it seems as if Spain is not 100% decided on which side they want to fight.

Sharpe and his men, together with a company of officers and soldiers, are sent on a secret mission to find a banker that has disappeared and are attacked by a group of French soldiers. Apart from Sharpe and his men everybody gets killed.

In this movie Sharpe also meets Teresa or “El comandante Teresa” for the first time. Having survived rape and the butchering of her family by the French she holds  a bit of a grudge against the French and men in general. Even so, love at first sight strikes them both. The whole love story part did actually remind me a lot of the one in The Last of the Mohicans. Teresa is a strong woman, the leader of her men and a very capable fighter herself.

After they have met, the main story line follows Sharpe, his men and Teresa on their way to a little Spanish town where they must raise the Spanish flag. Ok, this is not a gripping idea but it is excusalbele as this was the first movie in a long series and its main goal is to introduce us to the characters.

From the reviews I read I can deduce that there are much better installments still to come. As a first part this was very, very promising and I am looking forward to watch more of it.

No worries, I am not going to review them all. I´ll probabaly do some sort of final assessment once if have seen the others. For the time being I just wanted to share my discovery.

Below you find the beginning of part I. I think this should help you decide if you want to go for it.

A Story of Naval Combat in the Vein of Master & Commander or Why You Should Watch the TV Series Hornblower (1998-2003)

The British TV series Hornblower or Horatio Hornblower is based on the books by C.S. Forester starring Ioan Gruffudd (King Arthur) as Horatio Hornblower.

It is the movie that is closest to the fabulous Master & Commander that I have seen so far. Sure, there are older movies on the Napoleonic Wars and naval combat but this is my favourite.

I think there are a total of 8 installments. They mostly have two titles, a British and an American one.

The Duel

The Fire Ship

The Duchess and the Devil

The Wrong War

Mutiny

Retribution

Loyalty

Duty

Here are 10 reasons why you should give Hornblower at least a try:

1. If you are looking for movies that resemble Master & Commander

2. If you enjoy naval combat and some gripping rapier fights

3. If you care for a likable character who has to overcome obstacles and wins in the end

4. If you are a fascinated by this period in time and interested in the Napoleonic Wars

5. If you enjoy POW stories (one whole episode shows Hornblower as a captive)

6. If you like a gripping story

7. If two-hour movies are too short for you and you like well made mini series

8. If you are a fan of Ioan Gruffud

9. If you don’t care for too much romance but like a bit on the side  to add another dimension

10. If you like a wide range of fascinating characters, some of which are cunning and evil, others kind and heroic