Peter Watkins Culloden 1964 film still
Peter Watkins
Culloden 1964

The first of two films Watkins made for the BBC, and his professional debut, Culloden is a landmark of historical filmmaking that established the director’s pioneering approach to fusing documentary technique and dramatic reconstruction. Drawing on John Prebble’s eponymous book about the bloody 1746 Battle of Culloden and the brutal suppression of the Highland Scots that ensued, Culloden adopts the newsreel format to eschew the conventions of the period film, highlighting the reality of the conflict to a contemporary audience at the height of the Vietnam War.

Culloden was filmed in August 1964, near Inverness, with an all-amateur cast from London and the Scottish Lowlands playing the royalist forces, and people from Inverness in the clan army. With photographer Dick Bush, recordists John Gatland and Hou Hanks, make-up artist Ann Brodie, battle co-ordinator Derek Ware, film editor Michael Bradsell, and with the help of friends and actors from ‘Playcraft’ in Canterbury, we made and edited our film as though it was happening in front of news cameras, and deliberately reminiscent of scenes from Vietnam which were appearing on TV at that time.

Peter Watkins