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During the Mahdist insurrection in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, veteran colonial private Baker teams up with freshly arrived gentleman Murchison, trying to evacuate from southern Barash the emir's daughter Asua and her English governess, Miss Woodville. It's a perilous journey on the Nile and its banks. They must face crocodiles, Arab slavers and a backward Negro tribe they prey on, where king Gondoko's missionary-raised brother Kimrasi saves and joins them. Once in capital Khartum, they find the revolt has reached it and the men join the fight. Written by
A grand old slice of stiff-upper-lipped adventure, set during the glory days of the British Empire. The first thing noticeable about EAST OF SUDAN is the cheapness of its production this is one of those films that relies heavily on stock footage and footage borrowed from other films, most notably the 1939 version of THE FOUR FEATHERS. The 'new' scenes, building a framework of narrative around these borrowed set-pieces, are clearly shot on a studio backlot at Shepperton and never have more than a few actors on screen at the same time.
As for the story don't go looking for one, and you won't be disappointed. Burly soldier Baker (Anthony Quayle, today forgotten but then riding high on a number of successes) escapes from a city besieged by the Mahdi's forces and finds himself travelling the Nile with a disparate group of survivors. There's the lovely Sylvia Sims, playing one of those dated parts - a feisty, independent woman who nonetheless ends up a damsel in distress during key sequences and keeps having to be rescued and carried away by the men. Derek Fowlds, better known for his television work in YES, PRIME MINISTER and HEARTBEAT in later years, is fairly bland as a nondescript soldier but a youthful Jenny Agutter, swathed within an ill-fitting black wig, shows glimpses of her star presence as an orphaned child.
All of the clichés of this era are present and correct stock footage crocodiles, rhinos, elephants, and copious back projection. None of it is remotely convincing, and nor are the climactic siege sequences set in Khartoum, where footage from THE FOUR FEATHERS pretty much takes over the film. Such moments are, however, highly amusing. EAST OF SUDAN's one saving grace is the presence of director Nathan Juran, formerly of JACK THE GIANT KILLER. Juran is one of my favourite directors his movies were inevitably colourful romps (even the black and white ones!) and this is no exception. There's something resolutely old-fashioned and thrilling about the tough characters and survival scenarios, and if you take the dated scenes involving angry natives with a pinch of salt you might just find yourself enjoying it.
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