The Long Day's Dying

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The Long Day's Dying
The Long Day's Dying FilmPoster.jpeg
Film poster
Directed by Peter Collinson
Produced by Michael Deeley
Harry Fine
Screenplay by Charles Wood
Michael Deeley (uncredited)
Peter Yates (uncredited)
Based on Novel by Alan White
Starring David Hemmings
Tony Beckley
Tom Bell
Alan Dobie
Music by Malcolm Lockyer
Cinematography Ernest Day
Brian Probyn
Edited by John Trumper
Junction Films Limited
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • 28 May 1968 (1968-05-28)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £150,000-£200,000[1]

The Long Day's Dying is a 1968 British Techniscope war film directed by Peter Collinson and starring David Hemmings.[2] It was listed to compete at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival,[3] but the festival was cancelled due to the events of May 1968 in France.


Three British paratroopers are cut off from their unit and are lost behind enemy lines. Sheltering in a deserted farmhouse, they are awaiting the return of their Sergeant who has ventured out in an attempt to locate their unit. The three soldiers are Tom, a world-weary cynical veteran, John, a middle-class educated thinker who despises war and Cliff, an eager soldier who loves his work. All three are highly trained professional killers who, regardless of their own personal thoughts, do not hesitate to perform their duties.

Two German soldiers approach the farmhouse and the paratroopers despatch them both. The second of the enemy attackers is stalked by the paratroopers who virtually toy with their victim before John kills him, finishing the man off up close, although the experience renders him sick. As the three men eat a meal, they are surprised and captured by a third German named Helmut, a paratrooper like themselves. The British soon turn the tables and capture Helmut but the latter, who speaks English, manages to manipulate his captors into keeping him alive. The group leave the house in search of their Sergeant whom they eventually find dead in the woods, his throat cut. The men continue on, trying to find their way back to Allied lines. They come across a farmhouse, where a trio of Germans are sheltering. The paratroopers cautiously approach and shoot them, only to find that the Germans are already dead.

After spending the night in the house, the group continues their walk back to the British lines, only to run into a German patrol. In the ensuing battle, all of the Germans are killed but Cliff is fatally wounded. John and Tom reach the frontline, taking their prisoner Helmut with them but nearby British troops mistake them all to be German and open fire, mortally wounding Tom. Both injured themselves, John and Helmut take cover in a muddy ditch. There, John decides to kill Helmut with a small skewer he has always carried with him. Delirious with exhaustion and trauma, John staggers into the open, yelling that he is a pacifist before the British troops open fire again, shooting him dead.


Critical reception[edit]

Renata Adler, reviewing the film's release in The New York Times in 1968, disliked it. "There are some excellent scenes....But the screenplay is unendurable. Smug, dimestore Existential....stale, self-important and tough...No characterization...One for the English antiwar cheapshot satire brigade".[4]

Mark Connelly wrote (in 2003) of The Long Day's Dying. 'Critics hated the film, finding in it much the same faults as they identified in The Charge of the Light Brigade'. (Charles Wood wrote the screenplay for both films) 'They were confused by the fact that it was an anti-war film that celebrated some of the values of war and army life. Wood was showing, as he did in The Charge, that war has a complex hold over the minds and imaginations of humans. That although it is ultimately an awful, destructive, wasteful process, it has inspired men and motivated them intellectually and emotionally'.[5]


According to Michael Deeley, he and Peter Yates worked on the first draft of the script but were denied credit. He claims he gave Collinson the job partly to see if he was up to the task of directing The Italian Job (1969).[1]


  1. ^ a b Michael Deeley, Blade Runners, Deer Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: My Life in Cult Movies, Pegasus Books, 2009 p 50
  2. ^ Adler, Renata. "New York Times: The Long Day's Dying". NY Times. Retrieved 24 August 2008. 
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: The Long Day's Dying". Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  4. ^ Retrieved 2014-10-21
  5. ^ Connelly, Mark. The Charge of the Light Brigade: British Film Guide No 5 I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2003. p-17

External links[edit]