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Olivia de Havilland,
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In 44 BC, after the assassination of the leader of Rome Julius Caesar, Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and one of the highest ranking Roman generals and Caesar's possible successor Mark Anthony begin a tragic love affair.
Alan Ladd is the focus of this story based on the wartime raid on the German radar station at Bruneval. The raid was a combined services operation and the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Parachute... See full summary »
Being something of a pacifist, Harry Faversham (Anthony Steele) has the misfortune to be born into a staunchly military family with all the expectations of an overbearing father (Michael Hordern) weighing down on his shoulders. Harry toes the line to please his dad, but when the old boy pops his clogs, he swiftly resigns his commission. As a consequence, he receives a white feather (the symbol of cowardice) from each of his best friends (Laurence Harvey, Ronald Lewis, and an out-of-place Ian Carmichael) on the eve of their departure to war in the Sudan. Harry awards himself a symbolic feather on behalf of his fiancée (Mary Ure) whose disappointment is clear. Harry determines to make his former friends take back their feathers, which is the signal for much derring-do to begin (hurrah!).
The tale of the four feathers is the epitome of the schoolboy adventure yarn with heroic soldiers blinded in battle, heroic soldiers captured by the fuzzie-wuzzies (not nice, I can tell you!), heroic cowards braving forehead-branding and boot polish to go deep under cover in darkest Africa, and pompous old boors endlessly recounting their role in the battle of Balaclava back in the Crimean. It should really be boredom-proof, but the sad truth is that this version comes perilously close to inducing that state at times. The film is practically a word-for-word remake of the 1939 version and even makes scandalously wholesale use of the earlier version's battle scenes which means it probably came across as a bit staid back in 1955, but looks positively creaky today.
Anthony Steel isn't a particularly convincing hero: at thirty-five he's playing a twenty-five year old who somehow looks forty-five, but the problem is more in the lack of sympathy Steel creates for his character. His Harry Faversham is the sort that sits in the corner and speaks when he's spoken too, and is therefore a little too bland to be a dashing hero, despite his acts of heroism. And exactly what sort of reaction did he expect to receive when he resigned his commission? Doesn't trotting off to the desert to regain his honour in the eyes of his friends and fiancée simply negate the strength of character required to resign in the first place? A young Laurence Harvey fares better as Faversham's upper-crust chum who suffers sun blindness when hiding from the fuzzies, and would arguably have been better suited to the leading man role. Ronald Lewis has practically nothing to do, while Ian Carmichael, on the cusp of his comedy career, comes off as a plummy-voiced twit.
The film isn't awful by any standards, but it really could have benefited from fifteen minutes being pruned from its running time, and a little more fire in young Faversham's belly.
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