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I have to admit I didn't think this film was half as bad as I have been led to believe through negative reviews here on IMdB and elsewhere. So, if it isn't all bad ... I agree it isn't historically accurate but neither was Elizabeth and 100s of other 'historical' films. It is a bit leaden in places, true. Francoise Dorleac gets a bit tiresome although even she has her moments. The script may be a bit dodgy in places but looking at what we get in recent years ... I don't have a problem with Sharif in the title role at all - I thought he was fine. The 'Chinese' being Mason and Morley was distracting but even at their worst these two were always entertaining. Eli Wallach and Michael Hordern make interesting appearances. Even done on the cheap the film doesn't look bad and I enjoyed it better than, say, Demetrius and the Gladiators. And then there was cute Stephen Boyd if all else failed, always a pleasure to watch. Genghis Khan a turkey? Let's just say 'I've seen worse'.
Historical accuracy is not very likely in an epic like this, but that's
not the point, especially after so many years have passed since it was
made. Considering 'Genghis Khan' now, it stands out as a dandy museum
piece, not only in the 'they don't make 'em like this any more'
category, but because it's such a full-blown try at making a splash in
the epic film sweepstakes of the 1960s.
Yeah, it's a tinker-toy epic, but great fun, despite aiming at serious drama. Only 'Marco the Magnificent' outdoes it for 'Mutinational Production Prize' of its era.
Interestingly, it's a 'gap-filler' epic. That is, in the years when every ancient or legendary subject/culture seemed to be tackled by producers, hoping to strike 'Ben-Hur' gold, filmmakers shopped around history, looking for unique subjects to make an impression. Sooner or later the great Khan's number was going to come up. 'The Conqueror' with John Wayne seems more like a western (duh!), while 'Genghis' actually has a central Asian feel to it. Like its mate, 'The Long Ships', this is a Yugoslavian-filmed venture, a mini attempt to emulate Sam Bronston's epic production efforts over in Spain.
After Bronston's great empire unfortunately folded, other attempts to take up the epic gauntlet were made. This is one of the most sincere. A great cast, pretty respectable art direction, a sense of epic sweep, and a predictable but often witty script, they're all here. I'm sure the distinguished cast did it for the money, but at least they probably had a good time doing it. At its best it's a decent try at being epic. At its worst, it's a curiosity, but a pretty amusing one.
Highlights: - Dusan Radic's fantastic score. He achieves a Rosza-like standard, I think.
- Michael Hordern yelling 'TEMM-U-JEEN!!!' endlessly.
- Omar Sharif's yoke. Enthusiasts can see who wears his longer: Omar or John Wayne.
- James Mason's Mandarin parody. Politically correct it ain't.
- Bob Morley steals the show (as usual), as the effete emperor. The only character in cinema history who is killed just by WATCHING fireworks. Best line, as he hands a featherweight fan to a servant: 'Take it, it grows heavy'.
- Orson Welles WASN'T in this one, but should have been.
- Francoise Dorleac is of course very Euro, but not bad to look at.
- Any picture with Geoffrey Unsworth behind the camera is going to have some stuff going for it. Seeing it in full Panavision on the big screen would certainly give this picture more respectability.
I await its' much-deserved DVD appearance.
I remembered enjoying this film when I saw it as a pre-teen on
television in the '60's. I have remained an avid fan of adventure films
and epics. So, when it was aired yesterday on TCM, I tuned in with
anticipation. It had not aged well. Perhaps all of the anomalies are
more difficult for a mature movie fan to accept.
The best parts of this film are the locations, the sets, the costumes and the props. Even so, the sets are never quite convincingly grand enough. They retain the flavor of sets. The photography never captures the locations in a way that conveys the vastness of Central Asia. And the impact of the costumes and props is diminished by the fact that they are at the service of a predominantly Caucasian cast attempting to portray the tribes of Mongolia.
Blonde Francoise Dorleac, who portrays Genghis Khan's wife is the most glaring racial anomaly. But the entire cast is similarly anomalous. At least Stephen Boyd and Omar Shariff aren't blond. But Englishmen, James Mason and Robert Morley look hopelessly out of place. (I personally wondered how people of Oriental heritage reacted to Mason's stereotypical pronunciation of the letter "L" as an "R!") I don't really find a lot of fault with the portrayals offered by Mason and Morley, although I do agree with the suggestion of several reviewers that they seem like they wandered in from a production of the Mikado.
Lastly, I cringed at the soundtrack - typically Occidental-sounding pseudo-epic orchestrations with grandiose flourishes. The heroic-sounding 4/4 marches were typical of the Sword and Sandal epics of the day. Only a stray chord here and there suggested an Oriental setting.
In that era, it was inconceivable to cast Orientals in the principal roles of a film of this one's pretensions. Under the circumstances Hollywood would have done better to simply avoid attempts to depict tales of Asian peoples.
In the end, bizarre casting and completely Occidental-sounding music render this film difficult to swallow for a film-goer looking for anything beyond a shallow adventure story. With the number of Oriental actors in Hollywood films today, a GOOD portrayal of the life of Genghis Khan is ripe for filming!
Not quite as bad as John Wayne's famed turkey THE CONQUEROR, but getting
there. Problem was with this flick, the makers dumped historical accuracy in
favor of developing a Ben-Hur-Messala type confrontation between Genghis
Khan (Sharif, at the height of his popularity) and his nemesis, a scowling
bewhiskered Jamuga (none other than "Messala" himself - Stephen
Plenty of Mongol action and cruelty and the concluding battle between Sharif and Boyd is pretty in-your-face stuff. Production values were OK and suitably epic-ish in feel. The wheels start to fall off though with Robert Morley as the Chinese Emperor, some throwback to his role in 55 DAYS IN PEKING and worse, mega-british James Mason as Kam Ling, as likely a chinese adviser to Morley as Adam Sandler playing Abraham Lincoln. In a minor role as Subatai, Kenneth Cope is struggling to hold down any credibility whatsoever, having been first-string comic relief to David Frost on the THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS TV show.
Not for the epic Hall of Fame I'm afraid!
This has about as much to do with the real Genghis Khan as the Hughes film"The Conquerer".If you want to know about the real historical figure,read Lamb's 1920s book.That aside,we have to appreciate the production values of the film.Sets,props,etc.,are all ok.None of these people,however,can scarcely be imagined as Central Asians.Greek Savalas and Alabaman Strode come closest.Wallach,as the Shah,makes an acceptable sly villain,and not an unbelievable Levantine.Everybody else is not only much too European,but much too Nordic,as well.(Sharif is only a minor exception to this generalisation.)And Morley,Mason,and Hordern all act as though they wandered in from a road company of "The Mikado".Watch this film for amusement,and perhaps free-wheeling historical fiction(aka Robert E. Howard),but don't take it too seriously.
I haven't seen this in years, but I remember it has some exciting battles, some good acting by Omar Sharif, Michael Hordern and Stephen Boyd, some great acting by James Mason and Robert Morley. I guessing that none of the actors were Mongolian or Chinese. Historically inaccurate, but kind of fun, sort of like some of Erroll Flynn's movies, like "The Charge of the Light Brigade". In recorded history, Genghis Khan was a murderous, merciless tyrant, not the idealist he's seen as in this picture, just wanting to unite all the tribes and live their lives out riding around on their horses not being bothered by the meddling Chinese. Even with all that said, it has some spectacular action and some interesting scenes that do have some historical veracity.
Want to see an example of how to make a useless historical movie, then watch this. Bad casting, poor direction, weak acting and ignorance of history all combined here. Omar Sharif plays the great mongol with "arabic accent".Physically he is a weakling, totally unsuitable to represent a man whose life was full of severe hardships. He never manages to give an impression of greatness. Director seems to have forgotten that the film was about Mongolians. None of the characters except extras are of oriental origin, and except for Robert Morley (Chinese emperor)and James Mason (emperor's courtier and envoy), no other character has a makeup good enough to resemble that race. Incidentally only these two acters manage to impress with their acting. The story of the movie is typically that of a cowboy movie just in a different setting. It is not focussed and has got just a bit of this, that and every thing. Stunts and war scenes are ordinary. The writer neither studied the history nor had a decent knowledge of customs of asian races. The "Conqueror" starring John Wayne is a much better movie on Chengez Khan.
I simply enjoyed the tale of Genghis Khan for its absorbing
entertainment. I say "entertainment" because that's what movies are
for. If I want a history lesson I'll turn to the encyclopedia for that.
Omar Sharif in the lead role is excellent, and with some tender romance and family life added in for interest it gives value to what he stands for.
Stephen Boyd here is at times the scruffy villain, but to me he can do no wrong and is just adding variety to his roles as an actor.
James Mason, one of my fascinating favourites, with a multitude of roles in his career, is rather amusing in his portrayal of Kam Ling, attempting to be ever so diplomatic at all times, almost like a chess player surmising his opponent's next move. Intrigue at its best.
Robert Morley as the Emperor is a fine example of dissolute excess, and shows us what imperialism can become - tedious and boring in the midst of riches so that his life is almost trivial in purpose. Morley always is a good supporting actor, in my opinion.
Of course there are many battles to be fought and won in the course of this film, all history in the making, however accurate or inaccurate it may be. By the way, for those critics who disparage the lack of true facts regarding the order of events, I'm reminded of Jan Sibelius' comment on "critics" in general. He said more or less in these words, that "no one ever built a monument to a critic" so let's not take them too seriously.
Enjoy the movie and pass the popcorn!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I actually registered for this service and am writing this review in Defence of Omar Shariff. I saw that the only review on IMDb was rather harsh and unbalanced. Shariff's portrayal of the CHARACTER of the Mongolian Chieftain was a truthful yet poetic performance that John Wayne definitely lacked the depth of character to deliver. There was a comment in that one review about Shariff's "Arabic" accent. In order to enlighten readers, Shariff's Arabic is not that good as education in Egypt in the old days was strictly British and Arabic was strictly forbidden. There is also no such thing as an Arabic accent. Arabs have 22 different dialects in 22 different countries with hundreds of accents per country. Moreover, there is no generic Arabic accent as there is no true generic American or British accent. Yes, James Mason was enchanting in his role as Chinese Ambassador/courtier, but cancelling out Shariff for his accent and his physical appearance would be a critical blunder worthy of a Junior high student with learning disability. I actually see a certain wisdom in casting the modestly framed Shariff as a warlord. This choice would emphasise the idea that the Mongol nation was built by this man using will power and cunning, not mere brute force. THAT is historically accurate. The movie does have many shortcomings, such as simplistic photography that is nowhere near as engaging as it could have been. The score was far too cartoonish for my taste. The Script was choppy when it needed to be flowing and vice versa. The final battle/duel sequence was a serious let down and far too short for such a titanic struggle. As for historical accuracy, I really don't care about that kind of this when I'm watching a movie. History doesn't exist anymore, there's only mythology.
When I was thirteen and a half, I saw this film at least three times in a row. I've seen it as a grown-up on video and it still gave away some of its magic. Except in 'odd man out', James Mason has never been better as an actor. Morley shines. Both of them are so much more Chinese with dignity than any Chinese could be. But this movie really belongs to Francois Dorleac, Omar Sharif, Stephen Boyd and a litte Telly Savalas. T and a that made a boy dream in a surrounding where you usually did not see them in those times. Pure fantasy - who cares about history, it's all baloney anyway - this is as true as any history. It's fantasy and adventure and I'm looking forward to see it on DVD in widescreen - but when?
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