During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion against foreigners in China, U.S. Army Major Matt Lewis, aided by British Consul Sir Arthur Robertson, devises a strategy to keep the rebels at bay until an international military relief force arrives.
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Diplomats, soldiers and other representatives of a dozen nations fend off the siege of the International Compound in Peking during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. The disparate interests unite for survival despite competing factions, overwhelming odds, delayed relief and tacit support of the Boxers by the Empress of China and her generals. Written by
Martin H. Booda <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The cameraman on the film was originally going to be Aldo Tonti, but when he saw the sets already built at the Bronston studios, he claimed it would be impossible for him to photograph them in the way Nicholas Ray wanted. Jack Hildyard replaced him as director of photography only a short time before shooting began. See more »
The British legation has a substantial military band as seen at the beginning of the movie with the raising of the Union Flag and at the end. The duties of a military band assigned to an embassy was perform at embassy functions. Consequently the British Legation would not have used a Chinese orchestra to perform British/European music at the British Ball, especially music well within the capacity of any British service band. See more »
Watching this film in a PC era like today you may find allegations of racism being made against it , but you have to remember that 55 DAYS AT PEKING was made in 1963 . The war in the Pacific had ended less than 20 years earlier and the horrors of the Burma railway and the Bataan death march were still fresh in the memory . Likewise the UN had fought a dirty and bloody war against North Korea and Communist China ten years earlier and 1963 was a year when America started committing ground troops to South Vietnam , so this was an era where many people were worried about " the yellow peril " . One thing you can't really accuse the film of being is geo-nationalist , a coalition featuring diverse nations like Germany , Russia , Italy and France fighting alongside Britain and America ! You can tell this was made a long time ago and if it was made today the Americans would have saved the day single handed while portraying everyone else as total cowards . At least the makers of 55 DAYS AT PEKING had the decency of showing a factual historical event without having to totally rewrite history . I do hope present day Hollywood producers will take note .
My only problem with this film is that the main story is held up with a romantic subplot featuring Charlton Heston who's not exactly romantic material , but this is soon forgiven when the battle scenes arrive and what battle scenes they are . Watching these scenes today I was struck as to how they were achieved by a combination of stuntmen and stuffed dummies . That's what I hate about modern day blockbusters that rely on cartoonish CGI figures running around . It's a lot more fun seeing a couple of man sized dolls falling a couple of hundred feet with dubbed screams on the soundtrack , Hollywood doesn't seem to do this type of action sequence anymore which is a great pity
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