The Last Valley (film)

The Last Valley is a 1971 film directed by James Clavell, a historical drama set during the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648). A mercenary soldier (Michael Caine) and a teacher (Omar Sharif), each fleeing the religious war in southern Germany, accidentally find the valley, untouched by the war, and there live in peace. Based upon the novel The Last Valley (1959), by J. B. Pick,[2] the cinematic version of The Last Valley, directed by James Clavell, was the final feature film photographed with the Todd-AO 70 mm widescreen process until it was revived to make the film Baraka in 1991.

The Last Valley
US release Poster (B)
Directed byJames Clavell
Produced byJames Clavell
Written byJames Clavell
Based onThe Last Valley
by J. B. Pick
StarringMichael Caine
Omar Sharif
Florinda Bolkan
Nigel Davenport
Per Oscarsson
Arthur O'Connell
Madeleine Hinde
Yorgo Voyagis
Miguel Alejandro
Christian Roberts
Music byJohn Barry
CinematographyJohn Wilcox Norman Warwick Cinematography Second Unit
Edited byJohn Bloom
Season Productions
ABC Pictures Corporation
Distributed byCinerama Releasing Corporation
Release date
  • 28 January 1971 (1971-01-28)
Running time
128 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$1,280,000[1]


"The Captain" (Michael Caine) leads a band of mercenaries who fight for the highest bidder regardless of religion. His soldiers pillage the countryside, and rape and loot when not fighting. Vogel (Omar Sharif) is a former teacher trying to survive the slaughter of civilians occurring throughout south-central Germany. Vogel runs from the Captain's forces, but eventually stumbles upon an idyllic mountain valley, untouched by war.

The Captain and his small band are not far behind. Trapped in the valley, Vogel convinces the Captain to preserve the village so it can shelter the band, as the outside world faces plague, food shortages and the devastation of war. "Live," Vogel tells the Captain, "while the army dies." The Captain decides that his men will indeed rest here for the winter. He forces the locals to submit, especially their headman, Gruber (Nigel Davenport). The local Catholic priest (Per Oscarsson) is livid that the mercenaries include a number of Protestants (and nihilistic atheists for that matter), but there is nothing he can do to sway the Captain. The mercenaries are of one mind after the Captain kills several dissenting members of his band to uphold their pledge to set aside religious divisions.

At first, the locals accept their fate. Vogel is appointed judge by Gruber to settle disputes between villagers and soldiers. As long as food, shelter, and a small number of women are provided, the mercenaries leave the locals alone. Hansen (Michael Gothard) attempts to rape a girl and, fleeing from the group with two other members of the band, leads a rival and larger mercenary band to the valley before the winter sets in and closes the valley to all outsiders. He and his band are destroyed and the valley goes into hibernation. But, as winter fades, it becomes obvious that the soldiers will have to leave. The Captain learns of a major military campaign in the Upper Rhineland and decides to leave the valley in order to participate. Vogel wants to accompany him, fearing Gruber will have him killed once the Captain leaves. However, the Captain orders Vogel to stay as the condition of not sacking the village, leaving a few men as guards.

After the Captain departs, his woman from the village, Erika (Florinda Bolkan), is caught engaging in devil-worshipping witchcraft. The priest orders her tortured and burned at the stake. Enraged, and realising the evil that has destroyed so much in this war (religious fanaticism) and the role he played in it, Geddes, one of the Captain's men, sacrifices his life to kill the fanatic priest by pushing him into the fire. Meanwhile, the Captain and his men engage in a major siege operation. Most of his men are killed. The Captain survives long enough to return to the valley, only to find himself faced by the villagers. Vogel intervenes so that no fight happens. The Captain reports the event and dies of his battle wounds, declaring to Vogel, "You were right. I was wrong." A young woman from the village wants to leave with Vogel, but he tells her to stay, and runs off alone in the mist, satisfied at having saved the valley.



The novel was published in 1960.[3] The New York Times called it "oddly compelling".[4] The Chicago Tribune called it "a strange and memorable book."[5]

In July 1967 it was announced that James Clavell, then enjoying success with the release of the film To Sir With Love and the book Tai-Pan, would adapt the book into a screenplay and direct a film adaptation for the Mirisch Corporation.[6]

In November 1968 it was announced Clavell would make the film for ABC Pictures.[7] The head of ABC was Martin Baum who was Clavell's agent and who had helped put together To Sir, with Love.[8]

Clavell was going to make the film after The Great Siege, a story of the Siege of Malta, which he was going to do after Where's Jack? (1967). He ended up not making Great Siege.[9] After he made The Last Siege he said he would write another book "to see if I've still got it."[10] (This would become Shogun.)

Omar Sharif was the first star to sign. By June 1969 Michael Caine had also signed on. At one stage the film was going to be called Somewhere in the Mountains There is a Last Valley. It was the biggest budgeted pictures made to date by ABC Pictures.[11]

Clavell cast much of the supporting cast from British rep companies.[12]


Filming started 25 August 1969 in Austria.[13]

The film was mostly shot in Tyrol, Austria (Trins and Gschnitz and the Gschnitztal Valley). Actor Martin Miller collapsed and died on the set before shooting of the first scene commenced.[14]


Box OfficeEdit

The film was one of the most popular movies in 1971 at the British box office.[15]

However it was an expensive failure at the box office. It earned rentals of $380,000 in North America and $900,000 in other countries, recording an overall loss of $7,185,000.[1]


The Monthly Film Bulletin called it "unexpectedly terse, elegant and intelligent."[16]

With its setting in the Thirty Years' War, it covered a period never previously depicted on film (apart from 1933's Queen Christina). In this light, George MacDonald Fraser wrote in 1988, "The plot left me bewildered - in fact the whole bloody business is probably an excellent microcosm of the Thirty Years' War, with no clear picture of what is happening and half the cast ending up dead to no purpose. To that extent, it must be rated a successful film. ... As a drama, The Last Valley is not remarkable; as a reminder of what happened in Central Europe, 1618-48, and shaped the future of Germany, it reads an interesting lesson." Fraser says of the stars, "Michael Caine ... gives one of his best performances as the hard-bitten mercenary captain, nicely complemented by Omar Sharif as the personification of reason."[17]


The Last Valley was released on DVD by MGM Home Video May 25, 2004. It was again released on Blu-Ray by Kino Lorber on June 23, 2020.


  1. ^ a b c "ABC's 5 Years of Film Production Profits & Losses", Variety, 31 May 1973 p 3
  2. ^ Pick, J. B. (1960). The Last Valley. Boston; Toronto: Little, Brown and Company. OCLC 1449975.
  3. ^ History Must Stop: THE LAST VALLEY. By J.B. Pick. 176 pp. Bottom Little, Brown & Co. $3.50. By FREDERIC MORTON. New York Times 24 Jan 1960: BR4.
  4. ^ Books of The Times By ORVILLE PRESCOTT. New York Times 22 Jan 1960: 25.
  5. ^ Memorable Little Tale of Thirty Years' War Redman, Ben Ray. Chicago Daily Tribune 28 Feb 1960: b4.
  6. ^ Et Tu Pasolini? By A.H. WEILER. New York Times ]30 July 1967: 81.
  7. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: 'The Last Valley' for Clavell Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 8 Nov 1968: f18.
  8. ^ A Blue-Ribbon Packager of Movie Deals Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 20 Apr 1969: w1.
  9. ^ The Great Siege' Purchased Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 13 July 1968: 18.
  10. ^ JAMES CLAVELL: Filmdom's Do-It-Yourselfer Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 4 Apr 1969: h13.
  11. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Michael Caine Signs for Role Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 17 June 1969: c15.
  12. ^ 12-HOUR TV MOVIE: 'Shogun' to Be Filmed in Japan Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times 2 May 1979: f1.
  13. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET: Plays to Be Filmed in 70s Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 7 Aug 1969: c17.
  14. ^ "Unknown title". The Times. California. 4 March 1971. p. 15.
  15. ^ Harper, Sue (2011). British Film Culture in the 1970s: The Boundaries of Pleasure: The Boundaries of Pleasure. Edinburgh University Press. p. 269. ISBN 9780748654260.
  16. ^ LAST VALLEY, The Monthly Film Bulletin; London Vol. 38, Iss. 444, (Jan 1, 1971): 77.
  17. ^ Fraser, George MacDonald (1988). The Hollywood History of the World. London: Michael Joseph Limited. pp. 107–108. ISBN 0-7181-2997-0.


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