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A British army officer who resigns his commission on the eve of his unit's embarkation to a mission against Egyptian rebels seeks to redeem his cowardice by secretly aiding his former comrades disguised as an Arab. When his unit is overwhelmed and captured by the rebels, the hero finds an opportunity to return the 'feathers' of cowardice sent to him by his former comrades by freeing them. Written by
Opening credits: In 1885 the rebellious army of cruel dervishes enslaved and killed many thousands of defenceless natives in the Sudan, then laid siege to Khartoum. The scanty garrison's heroic commander, General Gordon appealed for help from England - but no help reached him. See more »
A British army officer is forced to redeem himself after being branded a coward by his Army buddies and the woman he loves. Improbably, he decides to go off to the war in the Sudan to rescue his fallen comrades. That is the gist of this story--but it makes a powerful, absorbing British film in excellent early Technicolor.
June Duprez is the scornful woman, pretty as a picture in the only feminine role. Uncharismatic British actor John Clements is only adequate as the man who receives the "four feathers" and must redeem himself--but Ralph Richardson has the most memorable scenes as the sun-struck soldier who loses his helmet under the blazing sun and is blinded. Many gripping scenes as the hero undertakes a long journey to the Sudan.
Handsome Alexander Korda production rightfully deserves its ranking as a screen classic of 1939, but I have to say it's not without its faults as far as the structure of the story goes.
First of all, too much time is spent on hundreds of extras in battle scenes that become repetitious after awhile and interrupt the flow of the story and what is happening with our hero. Furthermore, the actor chosen for the "stiff upper lip" role of Haversham is John Clements, and much of his performance is too stiff to come alive. A more appealing and charismatic actor from that era would have sufficed and made the story stronger. Thirdly, there's a hint of incredibility in the tale of a man who would go to such extremes to regain his honor and go on a mission in which he would be reunited with the very men who scorned him. A bit much in the realm of credibility, but it does make a good story.
Summing up: Good adventure tale in which C. Aubrey Smith has one of his most memorable character roles as a stuffy "Colonel Blimp" type of career soldier recounting his favorite war tales.
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