FILMS… The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)


Whistling an Iconic Tune Whilst They March…


A British Colonel is instructed to build a bridge over the River Kwai. Later one of his men after escaping the camp will be asked to return to blow up the bridge.


Bridge On The River Kwai, The (original Version) – Trailer, YouTube Movies


The other films reviewed on this theme being Escape to Victory /  Victory (1981), Inglourious Bestards (2009) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970).  This is the last of the 2 Reel Quirky Cats War Movie Posts was voted for by you. War Movies proved to be a popular topic as you can see from the wide variety of films chosen.

And it was a war in itself as this and The Great Escape (1963) fought to win until the final moments. The final votes were tallied it was this film.. and a fitting final choice, a war film which won 7 Academy Awards, Bridge Over The River Kwai (1957) finally won the vote.

The Bridge Over The River Kwai is remembered as much for being a much watch war film as for its memorable signature tune in the Colonel Bogey March. This tune which I tried albeit unsuccessfully and untunefully (apart from in my head, where I also have the singing abilities of Julie Andrews) to whistle as a kid, an adult and in between.


About the poll…

So here’s how you voted…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




About the plot…

Set in 1943. the film tells how Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is instructed by a Japanese PoW camp commander to organise his fellow Prisoners of War to build a bridge for use by the Burma-Siam railway. He is initially against this quoting the Geneva Convention, then sees this as a great exercise in building up the mens’ morale. He is favoured by the PoW’s as he keeps to his principles despite being tortured by their captors.

He is later shocked by the poor design of the completed bridge, and with an improved design, sets out to build a better one, confusing the men of his motives. Three men escape from the camp including Commander Shears (William Holden). Shears finds medical help and love in a nearby village. However, unbeknownst to Nicholson and his peers, the Allies hope to destroy the bridge led by Major Warden (Jack Hawkins).  And Warden asks that peer of Nicholson’s, an American who escaped from the camp, Commander Shears (William Holden) to join him in this mission…


About the trailer…

The trailer for this film is a masterpiece, and a showcase telling you everything you wanted to know about this film in around 3 minutes. Apart from the ending and to some degree the plot. And it must have looked and sounded amazing as the commentary from the man with the masterful voice is even more masterful than usual. Perhaps due to that accent. Anyway back to the preview.

The film trailer draws you in with the whistling and marching of a troop of Prisoners of War soldiers to that tune simultaneously which was timed to the split second. Gradually, a band takes over this soundtrack. Then the gist of the plot shown in the enticing golden font on a rolling screen.

This plot explained by a Japanese PoW camp commander where we are told that these British soldiers are to build a bridge over the River Kwai. And that good behaviour will be rewarded.. and ending on an ominous note, bad behaviour punished. This leading to a single ominous, eerie and dramatic musical note (which got my attention as well as the soldiers) and footage of a few extras (I assume) getting shot (just to reinforce things).

And the book of the film is plugged, with sadly not the author for this pre-internet age especially with this winning a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Meaning I assume lots of microfiches or something was examined frantically, if you liked the film so much, you wanted to read the book…

We then meet the actors involved in this production with that golden font and that voice over, which nicely reminds you who’s who.. there’s William Holden and Alec Guinness. But sadly, giving little indication of the characters and the roles they play in this film. And we get a few nifty shots of these men in action with a couple of clips from the movie. Jack Hawkins is also announced but shares his wee cinematic moment with newcomer and assumed totty, Geoffrey Horne. Who tbh I didn’t recognise…  but on research was sadly last seen in a movie after many years out of the limelight.

Anyway, a man with that voice reinforces that these soldiers had a wide spectrum of emotions.. be it humour, – cue amusing clip – romance – cue totty and possible love interest – and brutality. This encouraging you to know it’s more than just a war movie. Which is a nice touch for people like me who like to know there is more than battle scenes and that there is some human story behind it too.

Then the preview ends by telling us the producer, Sam Spiegel and the director, David Lean telling you of some of their work. This was also a great plus for this preview, as you (if you anything like me) possibly spend the credits trying to remember just what other films these important people behind the scenes worked on.

It ends with the film title in huge font and thus reminding you – before you get lost in the next trailer – what the film was. These final moments clinched this, in the war of the trailers on how trailers should be styled and shot.. as just how many trailer titles do you forget just what it’s all about after the barrage of trailers end.



CLICK HERE to read Thoughts All Sorts review.



david-lean-3David Lean Blogathon 2018, No 36

This is the first of two trailer reviews added to Maddy Loves Her Classic Films David Lean Blogathon.  The other is on Dr Zhivago (1965). Films with this cast include William Holden in Damien Omen II, Network, SOB and The Towering Inferno .



14 thoughts on “FILMS… The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

  1. Awesome review…as always. Love your bit on the whistling…I’d totally forgotten about that tune but have been making up for it in my mind ever since I’ve watched this trailer…

  2. The film is one of my favorites. The whistling hooks you and once it’s in your head you can’t get it out. I’ve never read the book. I should one of these days. Thank you for showing what a stirring film it truly is. The music has the same sort of “hook” as the theme from “The Dambusters”.

  3. Such a powerful film. That tune is one that sticks in your head and has become so iconic. I find it difficult to watch this one because it is so real, and it doesn’t shy away from showing us a bit of the brutality suffered by prisoners of war. Strong performances and good character development in this one. Certainly one of Lean’s best films.

  4. Awesome article Gill! It was very interesting of you to discuss the trailer in such a detailed way! That’s not something I often read. I need to see The Bridge on the River Kwai again soon as it’s been so long.
    Fun fact: there’s a shot of William Holden in the film that is just one of my favourite ever and I used it as an inspiration for a little short film I did for school (and as a portfolio for university) a few years ago.

    • Thanks so much. I would love to see it in full again one day soon. These films were on every Christmas when I was wee and I don’t think I appreciated it as much. I’d love to see it again now I’m older.

Love your thoughts... but only if they are spoiler free!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.