British 2009 DVD cover
Directed byBill Douglas
Written byBill Douglas
Produced bySimon Relph
StarringKeith Allen
CinematographyGale Tattersall
Edited byMick Audsley
Distributed byCurzon Film Distributors
Release date
1986 (London Film Festival)
February 1987 (Berlin Film Festival)
  • 23 August 1987 (1987-08-23) (UK)
Running time
183 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

Comrades is a 1986 British historical drama film directed by Bill Douglas and starring an ensemble cast including Robin Soans, Phil Davis, Keith Allen, Robert Stephens, Vanessa Redgrave and James Fox. Through the pictures of a travelling lanternist, it depicts the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, who were arrested and transported to Australia in 1834 for trying to improve their conditions by forming an early form of trade union.[2]

The film was first shown at the London Film Festival in 1986, and entered into the 37th Berlin International Film Festival in February 1987.[3] In August 1987 it was released in British cinemas.

The film had a very long and troubled production. Although Bill Douglas had the screenplay ready in 1980, it took six years to complete it, due to problems of filming in England and Australia, Douglas's perfectionism, and conflicts with his first producer, Ismail Merchant.[2] Parts of the film were shot in the ghost town of Tyneham in south Dorset which was taken over by the military during WWII for use as a training area and is still part of a large military range.

It was to be Bill Douglas's last film, as he died of cancer in 1991, aged 57 years old.

After a short run in cinemas, followed by a VHS release in 1989,[4] the film was largely forgotten. However, 20 years later Bill Douglas' small but significant production was reappraised, and in 2009 the British Film Institute released a restored version of Comrades on DVD,[5] followed in early 2012 by a three-disc dual format DVD and Blu-ray box set.[6]

The film has been described as "a moving, magical poem of human dignity, decency and hope".[7]


In credits order:


  1. ^ "Back to the Future: The Fall and Rise of the British Film Industry in the 1980s - An Information Briefing" (PDF). British Film Institute. 2005. p. 21.
  2. ^ a b BFI Screenonline: Comrades (1986) Retrieved 2012-11-07
  3. ^ "Berlinale: 1987 Programme". Retrieved 27 February 2011.
  4. ^ BBFC: Comrades DVD 1989 Retrieved 2012-11-07
  5. ^ Amazon UK: Comrades [DVD] (1986) Retrieved 2012-11-07
  6. ^ Amazon UK: Comrades [DVD + Blu-ray] (1986) Retrieved 2012-11-07
  7. ^ Daily Telegraph, 27 July 2009: Comrades, DVD review Retrieved 2012-11-07