Revolution (1985 film)

Revolution is a 1985 British historical drama film directed by Hugh Hudson, written by Robert Dillon, and starring Al Pacino, Donald Sutherland, and Nastassja Kinski. The film stars Pacino as a New York fur trapper who involuntarily gets enrolled in the Revolutionary forces during the American Revolutionary War.

Revolution imp.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHugh Hudson
Written byRobert Dillon
Produced byIrwin Winkler
CinematographyBernard Lutic
Edited byStuart Baird
Music byJohn Corigliano
Distributed byColumbia-Cannon-Warner Distributors
Release date
  • 25 December 1985 (1985-12-25) (US)
Running time
124 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$28 million[2]
(£19 million)[3]
Box office$358,574[2]

Revolution received a great deal of negative reviews upon release, and was a box office bomb; its release was delayed in Pacino's native New York City.[4] Due to the disappointment, Pacino took a four-year hiatus from films until 1989's Sea of Love.


Fur trapper Tom Dobb reluctantly participates in the American Revolutionary War after his young son Ned joins the Army as a drummer boy, against his father's wishes. Later, his son is captured by the British, and taken by the strict Sergeant Major Peasy to replace some dead British drummer boys. Dobb attempts to find him, and along the way, becomes convinced that he must help fight for the freedom of the Thirteen Colonies, alongside the disgraced and idealistic aristocrat Daisy McConnahay.



The film was the idea of producer Irwin Winkler who felt the American Revolution would make an ideal subject for a film. After having just made The Right Stuff Winkler did not want to tell a story about real people so decided to focus on a fictional father and son. Winkler had a development deal at Warner Bros and they agreed to finance a script by Robert Dillon. Warners did not like the script enough to agree to finance it, so Winkler bought it back, attached Hugh Hudson as director and took the project to other studios to see if they were interested. He showed the script to Sandy Lieberson of Goldcrest, who was enthusiastic.[5]

Goldcrest agreed to finance provided a US studio could be brought in to co produce. Warner Bros agreed.[6]


The film was produced by the British company Goldcrest, and was filmed largely in the old dock area of the English port town of King's Lynn, Norfolk. The main battles scenes were filmed at Burrator Reservoir on Dartmoor in Devon and on the coastal cliff top near Challaborough Bay, South Devon where a wooden fort was built. Military extras were recruited from ex-servicemen mainly from the Plymouth area. Many other scenes were filmed in the battle training area near Thetford, Norfolk, with extras being recruited from around the King's Lynn area. Melton Constable Hall in Norfolk was also used for some scenes.


Box officeEdit

Revolution cost $28 million to make, and proved to be a box-office disaster, only grossing $346,761 in the United States.

Goldcrest Films invested £15,603,000 in the film and received £5,987,000, causing them to lose £9,616,000.[7]


The film was also a critical letdown, with many criticizing the performances (especially the accents), writing, and choice to shoot a story of American history in England. Variety's staff commented, "Watching Revolution is a little like visiting a museum – it looks good without really being alive. The film doesn’t tell a story so much as it uses characters to illustrate what the American Revolution has come to mean."[8]

A reviewer for the UK-based Time Out called it "an almost inconceivable disaster which tries for a worm's eye view of the American Revolution [...] maybe the original script had a shape and a grasp of events. If so, it has gone. There has clearly been drastic cutting, and nothing is left but a cortege of fragments and mismatched cuts. It's also the first 70 mm movie that looks as if it was shot hand-held on 16 mm and blown up for the big screen. Director? I didn't catch the credit. Was there one?"[9] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a mess, but one that's so giddily misguided that it's sometimes a good deal of fun for all of the wrong reasons. Characters who have met briefly early in the film later stage hugely emotional, tearful reconciliations."[10] Pauline Kael commented that "everything in this picture, which goes from the beginning of the American War of Independence in 1776 to the end of combat in 1783, seems dissociated. The director, Hugh Hudson, plunges us into gritty, muddy restagings of famous campaigns, but we don't find out what's going on in these campaigns, or what their importance is in the course of the war. [...] Hudson and the scriptwriter, Robert Dillon, present the war as a primal Oedipal revolt of the Colonies against the parent country, and the relationships of the characters are designed in Oedipal pairs; Hudson also stages torture orgies to indicate how sadistic the redcoats are, and scenes are devised to set up echoes of the Rocky series and Rambo. This is a certifiably loony picture; it's so bad it puts you in a state of shock."[11]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 10% based on 20 reviews with the consensus: "Unlikely to inspire any fervor with its miscast ensemble and ponderous script, Revolution is a star-spangled bummer."[12]


Revolution was nominated for four Golden Raspberry Awards:

The film won the Stinkers Bad Movie Award for Worst Picture.[13][14]

Director's cutEdit

Revolution was rush-released in December 1985 for the Christmas market and for Academy Award consideration. Dissatisfied with the version of the film released to theatres, Hugh Hudson released a new cut, Revolution: Revisited, on DVD in 2009. This has an added narration by Pacino (recorded for this release) and numerous scenes have been trimmed or deleted outright (running at 115 minutes, the Director's Cut is approximately 10 minutes shorter than the theatrical version). Also included is a conversation with Pacino and Hudson discussing the film being rushed for a U.S. Christmas release, being trashed by the critics, and other issues relating to making and releasing the film.[15][16]

The film was also re-released in the UK in 2012 by the British Film Institute in a Blu-ray Disc/DVD combo pack. This edition came with both cuts of the film, as well as a booklet with essays written by Nick Redman, Michael Brooke and critic Philip French, who argues that the film was a victim of bad publicity and cultural misunderstandings, and regards the 'Revisited' cut as a 'masterpiece'.[17]

See alsoEdit

  • Heaven's Gate (1980) – Another historical epic made in the same period which was a critical and commercial failure upon release in the United States, but has since gained more acclaim.


  1. ^ "REVOLUTION (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 30 December 1985. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Revolution (1985)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  3. ^ Olins, Rufus. "Mr Fixit of the British Screen." Sunday Times [London], England 24 September 1995: 9[S]. The Sunday Times Digital Archive.] Web. 29 March 2014.
  4. ^ "". Archived from the original on 12 April 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  5. ^ Eberts and Ilott p 346-348
  6. ^ Eberts and Ilott p 348-350
  7. ^ Eberts, Jake; Illott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. Faber and Faber. p. 657.
  8. ^ "Review: 'Revolution'". Variety. 31 December 1985. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  9. ^ "Revolution". Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  10. ^ Canby, Vincent (25 December 1985). "The Screen: 1770s Epic, 'Revolution'". The New York Times.
  11. ^ "Pauline Kael".
  12. ^ "Revolution".
  13. ^ "1985 8th Hastings Bad Cinema Society Stinkers Awards". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  14. ^ The Stinkers 1985 Ballot
  15. ^ [1] Archived 16 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Solomons, Jason (22 March 2009). "Director Hugh Hudson on the shooting of Revolution with Al Pacino". The Guardian. London.
  17. ^ "DVD & Blu-ray - Shop". Retrieved 27 January 2018.


  • Eberts, Jake; Ilott, Terry (1990). My indecision is final. faber and faber.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Stinker Award for Worst Picture
1985 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards
Succeeded by
Howard the Duck