Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Battle of Culloden

You look at Public Television now and it might seem kind of bland. But there was a time...

There was a time when Public TV was the only place on television that allowed nudity and really shocking violence. There was I, Claudius with its orgies. Even in the '70s it didn't get any complaints. And no one complained about the scene of a centurion carrying a child's severed head after Caligula complained about his coughing.

And I just watched something I saw on PBS 40 years ago. It traumatized me as a child. It was The Battle of Culloden, a You Are There-like docudrama about the battle of Culloden's Moor in 1745 presented as if a news camera crew had been present.

I think I tuned in in the middle of it when I was a kid, after the Brits had wiped out the Jacobite troops on the battlefield and then went around murdering any who were lying wounded. They killed everyone they could find. They murdered everyone they could find traveling down one road. Then it was into the highlands where the British wiped out any families they found. They interviewed a woman whose baby was thrown to the ground and killed by the British troops.

I just saw the thing again on Netflix. At first I wasn't sure if it was the same show. It was produced in Britain in the '60s and I had watched it in the early '70s, sitting home alone watching TV. There were a number of details I remembered, though. All the people killed on the road, one particular dead body on the battle field, and a family that was on the run in the highlands. They hadn't eaten in days. The only food they'd had was a small fish they caught that the two children shared.

The narrator seemed rather ashamed of the conduct of the British.

The Jacobites were victims of a clan system that obliged them to fight under terrible officers for an idiot prince who botched it completely.

It didn't traumatize me as badly as some later stuff I watched on that channel. Like episodes of World At War.

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