Legendary director John Ford's final film involving seven dedicated missionary women in China circa 1935 trying to protect themselves from the advances of a Mongolian barbaric warlord and his cut-throat gang of warriors.
In a mission in China in 1935, Agatha Andrews is a rigid missionary beset by Mongolian bandits led by Warlord chief Tunga Khan. With her are her assistant Jane Argent, staff members Emma Clark, Miss Russell and Miss Binns, head of the British mission, Charles Pather, a teacher at the mission and his pregnant wife Florrie. When Dr. D.R. Cartwright arrives, she agrees to sacrifice herself to the Tunga Khan in exchange for his letting the ladies go free. Written by
A jewel of a film with superb acting in the 2 principal roles! Should be shown much more often. Failings in the set and in the minor characters are more than made up for by the vital intelligence of the presentation. The film is about religion and sex, and nothing else and it is that simplicity that makes it fascinating. Bancroft has the role of saint and Leighton is the sinner. Is the poor exposure of this excellent film anything to do with lobbying from the churches, I wonder
after all it must be somewhat embarrassing for them to have an
atheist doubling as a saint and a devout catholic doubling as a religious maniac. The saint sacrifices herself for the majority, just as Jesus was sacrificed. The sinner showed the intolerance characteristic of all religious bodies. By the way, smoking and drinking had already been established for Hollywood characters long before 1966, male and female. It was pushed by lobbying and bribery from the tobacco and alcohol industries and Bogart was a prominent and pitiful victim. So I do not see the smoking and drinking of the Bancroft character as primarily male characteristics. As for the rather muted rudeness she displayed at times, this I see as a very natural reaction to the infernal hypocrisy of the Leighton character - a 'devout catholic' who does not even believe in God "I am looking for something that does not exist" she says. What superb realism.
The end of the film is the only part I did not think satisfying or realistic in view of the character of the doctor. She is obviously a fighter and a very courageous woman. Her final action was cowardly and not in her character at all. All that was necessary was a few more days of cajoling the chief into sufficient liberty to get a horse to match her riding breeches - there were plenty of horses around then kill the bastard, with perhaps a few more thrown in, and make for the main gate pronto.
In conclusion, the film shows a riveting clash of values in a theater piece that hardly needs any set. And the atheist comes out a clear winner. Good for you John Ford!
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