It turns out Charles I and Oliver Cromwell would've been great friends if it weren't for the Catholic Church, at least according to 1970's Cromwell. It's hard to imagine a more softball rendering of the English Civil Wars with both Cromwell and the King portrayed only doing the most sensible things with each given time to explain with what great reluctance they initiate the more controversial actions for which they're well known. But with Richard Harris as Cromwell and Alec Guinness as the King along with a solid supporting cast there's plenty to enjoy about this film in terms of performances. The story is put together rather smoothly, too, albeit dishonestly with a rather striking anti-Catholic sentiment.
Cromwell spends some time explaining to his friends how great and right it is to obey the King when suddenly he finds some noblemen are demanding his servant's arrest for what they've decided is poaching when the man had merely been hunting on common lands. Cromwell rides up and takes responsibility and angrily derides the King who would proclaim such laws. This is rather similar to how the 1938 Robin Hood begins, actually. It's the last time you'll see Cromwell in the film being angry with the King about anything other than Catholicism.
We're introduced to Charles taking a meal with his family where he uncomfortably reminds his Catholic wife, Queen Henrietta Maria (Dorothy Tutin), that he doesn't want their son praying with her because England is a Protestant country. Later on he angrily shows her the death warrant he's just signed for the Earl of Stafford and says, "Look what you made me do!"
Tutin as the Queen spends the film moodily strutting about with narrowed eyes while Alec Guinness conducts himself with melancholy dignity, forced by his wife to welcome a Catholic bishop into his home and by extension forced to attempt alliances with Catholic countries to enlist their armies in fighting against the good Protestant people of England.
No mention is made of Charles' taxes to fight foreign wars, his dissolving of Parliament mentioned off hand. When Cromwell dissolves it later, it's because everyone but him is clearly a villain--the film completely omits any mention of Cromwell's campaign in Ireland and a lot of other things, making it look like when Cromwell's not delivering impassioned speeches about the rights of the people or courageously leading the New Model Army (which seems to spring from nowhere) against arrogant, Papist Royalists, he's at home on the farm in peaceful study.
It seems difficult to make a film about this subject in England without ruffling feathers, this one seems to be trying desperately to avoid offending anyone (except Catholics) and in the process renders the whole conflict as tame and inexplicable. But it has nice performances and shooting locations. The Wikipedia entry has a nice list of the things the film omitted or got wrong.
Twitter Sonnet #812
A pitch cascade delivered stitch to steel.
Inside the box there were electric dogs.
Unseen the lawyer passed his suit as real.
A wardrobe cooks cravats on neck tie logs.
A Caspar costume vaulted time and place.
Respect descends upon unasked for wheat.
Interrogations dims behind the ace.
The hunted stag or doe could not be beat.
A washboard's wardrobe played like soap.
An amorous new antler entered lists.
A tangled transmission restrained our hope.
The bullet points won't yield to desp'rate fists.
Surfeit of honey came too cheap to miss.
No hummingbird has ever found his bliss.