Comrades is a 1986 British historical drama film directed by Bill Douglas and starring an ensemble cast including James Fox, Robert Stephens and Vanessa Redgrave. 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.
The film was first shown at the London Film Festival in 1986, and entered into the 37th Berlin International Film Festival in February 1987. 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, the Douglas' perfectionism, and conflicts with his first producer, Ismail Merchant. 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' last film, as he died of cancer in 1991, 57 years old.
After a short run on cinema, followed by a VHS release in 1989, the film was largely forgotten. However, 20 years later Bill Douglas' small but significant production began to be reappraised, and in 2009 the British Film Institute released a restored version of Comrades on DVD, followed in early 2012 by a three-disc dual format DVD and Blu-ray box set.
The film has been described as "a moving, magical poem of human dignity, decency and hope".