Chasing the Deer (1994)




Director:     Graham Holloway. 

Starring:     Brian Blessed (Maj. Elliot),  Iain Cuthbertson (Tullibardine),  Mathew Zajac (Alistair Campbell),  Fish (Angus Cameron),  Brian Donald (Old Campbell),  Sandy Welch (Old Cameron),  Peter Gordon (McKinnon),  Carolyn Konrad (Morag),  Lynn Ferguson (Shonagh),  Lewis Rae (Euan),  Simon Kirk (Sgt. Kirk),  Andy McCullogh (Sgt. Monroe),  Callum McDougal (Crofter),  Steven Cooper (Crofter),  Michael Leighton (O'Sullivan). 

last Jacobite uprising; death of the Highland clans at Culloden Moor, 1746


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1715.  A time of conflict  --  civil strife rages in Scotland. 

After the indecisive Battle of Sherifmuir, the Jacobite supporters of the exiled King James abandon the town of Inverness to those Clans who remain loyal to the the government . 


McKinnon runs up on some refugees guarded by swordsmen.  Two Swordsmen, Angus Cameron and Campbell  hold out their swords and tell him to stop.  McKinnon says they should be in Inverness.  Cameron says Inverness is run over with Grants and Monroes.  These refugees are the only ones who remain.  McKinnon says don't bother.  The army is no more.  The King has gone back to France.  It's all over. Campbell saiys their side won at Sherifmuir.  McKinnon says they didn't lose, but they didn't win either. 

Suddenly McKinnon and Campbell are both shot.  A horde of men charge the refugees.  The soldiers try to stop them, but they are outnumbered and killed.  Angus is the only one who gets away. 

The early years of the 18th century were a time of great turmoil in Scotland.  The Jacobites, supporters of the dispossessed Stuart Kings, repeatedly fought to regain the lost throne of Britain.  By 1719, the Jacobites had launched four armed attempts from exile in France and Italy.  All ended in failure.

Suddenly, in 1745, after 26 years of peace, Charles Edward Stuart arrived in Scotland.  He was the son of the man who would have been James III of England and James VIII of Scotland.  Born in Italy of a Polish mother, he came to Scotland disguised as a priest.  Accompanied by only seven companions, Charles was determined to win his father's throne or die in the attempt.

This was the Bonnie Prince Charlie of legend. 

Alistair Campbell tries to teach his son Euan how to shoot deer.  Euan misses the deer.   

Morag Campbell meets her friend Shonagh at the market. 

Major Eliot comes into the office of Sir John Cope.  Cope tells Elliott that he was greatly saddened to hear about his boy.  Eliot lost his 15 year old son to the French.  He and his family had gone to the West Indies to start a new life after he had to leave the military service.  While he was away from the house, the French attacked, killing his boy.  Sir John tells Elliott that the son of the Pretender has landed in Scotland and the French are surely not long behind.  Sir John cannot give Elliot a regular commission but they hope to employ his expertise in fighting this new threat.  He says he can't trust the Scottish officers because they could change sides at any time.  He wants Elliot to shape up the militia at Ruthven.   After all, they are not far from Edinburgh.     

Morag and her husband Alistair Campbell talk about their son Euan.  She wants him to make something of himself but dad wants him to stay on the farm.  And he must learn to shoot straight so they don't starve to death says dad.  She's afraid if he knows how to shoot, someone will grab him to fight against the Pretender or his son. 

Major Elliot rides on his horse to his new post.  The guards at the gate snap to attention.  Kirk, the English drill master, is yelling at his troops cbeause they are not getting the hang of drilling.  Major Elliott arrives just in time to help with the drilling.  Kirk has to inform Elliot that after three weeks of recruiting this is all the men they have.   He has around twenty or so.  Elliot is a bit shocked. 

Euan and his father are out hunting again.  Shonagh tells her husband Tam that Alistair's coming and he's got Euan with him.  She is a little worried because Alistair is the landlord and Tam doesn't have the rent money.  Tam says because they are friends, he'll be able to work out something with Alistair.  He suggests maybe they could have their daughter Mary marry Euan. 

Mary is down by the river.  Euan goes over to see her.  Her father sent him to fetch her home.  They talk awhile before going back.

McDonnel tells another Scot, Cameron, that the Pretender is here.  Cameron says he's ready to fight and there's no more just cause than to fight for Scotland's rightful king.  McDonnell says he will get word to him. 

Euan tells his mother he's getting better at shooting.  He'll kill a deer yet and maybe even a Jacobite or two.  Mother tells him she won't hear any more of that kind of talk. 

A man asks Tullibardine how can he even suggest the newest adventure can succeed.  How many Frenchmen has he brought with him?  None as of yet.  Nor has he brought arms.  The man says that without French help he and his men will not join the adventure.  Charles Edward gets up to say that he doesn't want to come to power by the force of foreigners, but by his fellow Scots. 

Euan is kissing Mary in the barn amid the hay bales.  She tells him he is going too fast and is trying to ruin her.  He says he's not and don't worry because his parents have gone to bed.  The parents are getting ready for bed.  Morag tells her husband that they say the Pretender is coming back.  He, however, dismisses the very idea saying they are always hearing tales like this.  She is worried that he will fight with the Jacobites as his father did.  No, says husband.  He's not going to fight.  His father died in a forest, but he is not going to. 

Charles Edward is trying to convince another chief to bring his Camaraugh (?) clan along with him.  Without this chief's support the other clans will not rise.  The chieftain tells His Majesty that he cannot win with just the support of the North.  The Prince says that he is sure others will come to his support.  One of the chieftains shouts out that he will support the Prince.  So now the more influential  clan leader says he will also support the Prince. 

Mary speaks with Euan.  She says she is worried about what they did. 

Edinburgh.  Capital of Scotland.  Sir John Cope comes into the room to meet with Mr. Ward..  He introduces Cope to a friend of his, Mr. Garvie.  Cope assures Mr. Garvie that the army is ready and willing to protect Edinburgh as before. Ward says that warlords and their bandits in the Highlands will raise their own army.  And the English army is away in France.  Ward says that the Scots are savages and very quick to draw the dagger.  And they don't even speak English.  Garvie says that there is also the Episcopalian dimension and Cope has to agree they can be trouble. 

Cope introduces Major Elliot to the men.  Elliot says the militia is more than a match for any opponent, including the French.  Cope uses this to reconfirm his optimistic assessment of the military situation. 

Tam and Alistair Campbell have a drink with a couple of men of the militia in the tavern.  They talk about the militia and Major Elliot.  The talk is that the Major was cashiered out of the army for killing one of his own men.  The talk turns to Bonnie Prince Charles, who, it is said, can't even speak English.  One of the militia men wants to know if King George can speak English.  At the next table, a drunken Sgt. Kirk gets angry and says of course King George can speak English.  He says Charles is advised by toothless old men who would crap in their pants at the sight of a Red Coat.  They are nothing but a bunch of Papists and Episcopalians. 

Cameron comes over to Alistair and tells him he better keep his friend quiet.  He says when the Prince comes, they have to be ready to support him.  Alistair tells Cameron not to get too excited.  Cameron reminds Alistair about his father who fought for the just cause.  Tam, in a jovial mood, shouts and laughs there goes King Cameron of the Jacobites. 

Mr. O'Sullivan and Lord Murray look out the window.  O'Sullivan says the Bonnie Prince is here and he will need Murray's help.  Murray wants to know when the French will be here.  It will be up to Murray to raise his men and lead the Prince's army. 

Mary and Euan are out for a walk.  As they come back to Mary's family's tavern, they see Cameron and some of his men rush in.  Cameron has Tam up across the table and is shaking him saying that the Prince is here.  He pulls Tam off the table and pushes him against the wall to tell him that he is going to join the Prince's forces.  Tam grabs a knife and McDonnell kills Tam.  Cameron thanks McDonnell but tells him let this be the last man he kills like that because they want to recruit the men, not turn the whole glen against them. 

Mary and Euan enter.  Euan shoots one of Cameron's men with his rifle.  McDonnell grabs the boy.  Cameron decides to take the boy with them, saying his father may be joining them yet.  They leave.  Soon afterward, Alistair and Morag come into the Drum Tavern and Alistair asks Mary who did this?  She only talks about Euan saying that he killed the man and saved her.  Alistair says that he is going after them and get Euan back.  Now, he says, he'is a part of this whole bloody war. 

Cameron and his men come to Alistair to tell him to come help Bonnie Prince Charles.  Alistair says this has nothing to do with him or his men.  Cameron insists that it does because they have his son.  Justice will be done.  He will pay for his crime.  But, adds Cameron, Alistair can join the cause and maybe the Prince would bestow mercy on Euan.  Alistair says he'll come for Euan's sake. 

The group taking Euan to the encampment are ambushed by Kirk and his men.  Kirk decides Euan should join His Britannic Majesty's army.  A soldier speaks up saying the boy is too young to be a solider.  Kirk gives him a dirty look, so he adds that they do need drummer boys. 

Mora, Shonagh and Mary say all the men are gone now and they can do nothing about it. Poor Mary, probably sick with morning sickness, has to run to the bathroom. 

A young smart-ass named Angus in the British army teases Euan about writing to his mommy.   Euan says she has to know that he is safe. 

Alistair is in the camp of Bonnie Prince Charles.  One of the militia men he was speaking to at the tavern is there too.  Alistair says they got you too, eh?   Yes.  Charlie arrives and the men go wild. 

Sgt. Monroe gives Euan's letter to his mother.  She is very pleased to know that he is with the Brits.  Mom tells Monroe to tell her son that his father has been taken by the Jacobites.  She goes home and tells the other two women that Euan is safe for now.  Morag is going to go to the Jacobite camp to tell her husband. 

In the forest Kirk's men are attacked.  Monroe ends up with his throat slit.  Back at camp Angus is taken into custody for sneaking out of camp to go see the ladies.  He will receive fifty lashes.  They give the job of lashing Angus to Euan.  But Euan is now friends with Angus and he doesn't hit him with all his strength.  So Major Elliot has him taken away and Kirk now will deliver the lashes.  Later the Major speaks with Euan.  He tells him not to be afraid.  He likes men who speak their mind.  Euan says the punishment was too harsh.  Elliot says that the army is about to go into battle against a ferocious foe.  They have to be disciplined.  They have to want to fight.  Major Elliot tells Euan that he had a son once about Euan's age.  He decides to use Euan as a messenger boy.  He will go with the Major when he goes to see Sir John Cope. 

The news is that Edinburgh is captured by the rebels.  Mr. Ward asks Cope what happened to his army?  They vanished to Aberdeen and the Jacobites just walk into the nations' capital.  Ward says that the rebs have already gotten much farther then they did in 1719.  Cope tells them not to worry.  The rebels can take an objective, but they can't hold it.  And they will meet the rebels on the battlefield and utterly destroy them. 

The British do meet the Scots in battle and the Scots win.  Elliot and his men have to run for their lives.  Alistasir Campbell gives water to a dying British soldier. Cameron comes around to scold him for helping the enemy.  The man dies.   Alistair was the one who killed him by delivering the mortal blow.  Cameron says that if Alistair wants his son back he will have to fight with a little more conviction next time.  Alistair tells Cameron that he loves the killing and he would love it just as much if he was on King George's side.  Cameron denies the charge.  He says there is no joy and little honor in it  -- he fights for the cause of Scotland and is committed to it. 

Eliot tells the guys, including Euan, that they may have lost Cope's command, but they have enough men to still put the rabble to flight.  And tomorrow with a bit of luck they will be back at Ruthven.  He promises to keep Euan safe so he can return to his father.  The next day the Scots are still in command of Ruthven.  At night Charles Edward thanks the men for their great victory.  He says they will win the crowns of both kingdoms.   He says tomorrow they will march to London. 

Charles Edward asks if the men are ready for a march to London.  O'Sullivan says they definitely are.  But Murray disagrees with O'Sullivan.  He says the men are not in shape to march into England.  More men are leaving than coming to the colors.  But Charles Edward says that God is on their side.  They will be victorious and of that there can be no doubt.  They will march on London. 

King George's son is really angry at the Scots for coming to the aide of Bonnie Prince Charles.  He says he takes this as a personal insult and will deal with it as such.  This time will be different.  He says this time they have William Duke of Cumberland to contend with.  They have insulted the Royal House of Hanover for the last time. 

Charles Edward is gratified by the show of support as he walks through the streets of Edinburgh.  He tells his staff to notice how they all flock to him.  Lord Murray still says they need the support of the French to attack England.  Meanwhile, the British head out of their fort in column after column of men in red coats.  Murray tells Charles Edward that the Duke of Cumberland has a new army and they will have to face it if they attack England.  He fears a repeat of 1715 when their men were captured and slaughtered.  Charles Edward tells him it's not the same thing. 

Charles Edward goes out of the room and Murray tells the others that they must turn back.  The Prince comes back and has to admit that they have not got the support of the men of Derbyshire nor any one else.  They will return to Scotland's Highlands, regroup there and come back stronger. 

As the Scots return to the their land the women toss garbage at them as they go through the towns.  Morag still continues her journey to find her husband.  Angus and Euan talk together about the coming battle.  The Scots are demoralized by their forced return.  They don't think they'll ever get a chance again at marching into London.     

Euan brings Major Elliot a message.  The rebels have turned back to the Highlands.  The Major's orders are to join His Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland.  Elliot thinks the coming battle will go better for them than the others, such as Falkirk. 

In the snow the Scots trudge back to the Highlands.  There are a lot of women with them making the same journey.  On her journey Morag stops to talk to a Scottish rebel.  The Red Coats appear.  The Scot makes a run for it but is shot in the back.  They grab Morag.  Cameron tells Alistair Campbell to leave, but Alistair tells him to stop playing games with him.  Cameron says that he might as well go because their cause hasn't a chance any more.  Their army is melting away.  Alistair asks:  "What chance do I have of making it through the Hanoverian lines?"  Cameron tells Alistair that they are set to attack the British when they are drunk after celebrating the Duke of Cumberland's birthday.  If Campbell fights well, his boy is free and so is he. 

The Duke of Cumberland says to his staff that he intends to deliver a mortal blow to the enemy.  He asks Albemarle if his men are ready.  Yes, especially since the Duke came out personally to participate in the battle.  The men are issued some rum so they can celebrate a little. 

Lord Murray tells O'Sullivan that they couldn't get within five miles of the enemy encampment before they were up and ready for them.  It's a disaster.  Charles Edward comes in and says now they have no choice but to fight.  Murray says that the cold and hungry men are exhausted after their long march.  "To commit these men to the field would be murder!"  Charles Edward says:  "We shall fight and win!"  They will defeat the British on this Culloden moor.

The Scots start the cannonade, but the British cannonade is much stronger and Scots warriors start being killed in large numbers.  The Scots with swords and pikes face muskets and cannon.  It, of course, goes very badly for the Scots as they are mowed down.  Alistair sees his son Euan and shouts to him.  Euan now sees his father.  A Scot shoots Euan and he goes down.  Alistair rushes over to his son and holds him.  Major Elliot sees this and thinks the Scot has killed Euan.  He rushes over and slashes Alistair and he goes down.  Helpless, Alistair sees the Major taking his son off the battlefield. 

The Scots are retreating.  As the British come forward they bayonet any Scotsman moving on the ground.  The staff congratulates the Duke of Cumberland, but he insists there is no victory yet.  He wants to teach these Scots a lesson and will follow them all the way back to their homes to kill them.   He says:  "This is only the beginning."  Kirk comes across Alistair Campbell on the ground and bayonets him to death. 

Mary's baby is born. 


Good movie.  It shows the great divisions between the Scots and the English.  It also show how disunited the clans were.  When Bonnie Prince Charles comes to start a successful uprising that will lead to his father becoming both the King of Scotland and the King of England, he actually get only a modicum of support.  They do have some successes against the English troops (bolstered by some Scots), but in the end it was all inevitable.  At the Battle of Culloden it was swords for the Scots against muskets for the English.  In essence the Scots were already done for by the time of the battle.  They were exhausted, cold and hungry.  They were just a rag-tag army by this time. 

The actor I enjoyed best was Brian Blessed as Major Elliot.  Of course, his part was a very good one too.   The colors seem a bit washed out at time in the film, but it's not that big of a deal.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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