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After an Egyptian army, commanded by British officers, is destroyed in a battle in the Sudan in the 1880's, the British government is in a quandary. It does not want to commit a British military force to a foreign war but they have a commitment to protect the Egyptians in Khartoum. They decide to ask General Charles "Chinese" Gordon, something of a folk hero in the Sudan as he had cleared the area of the slave trade, to arrange for the evacuation. Gordon agrees but also decides to defend the city against the forces of the Mahdi - the expected one - and tries to force the British to commit troops. Written by
Charlton Heston had hoped that Sir Carol Reed might be persuaded to direct the film, and, when Sir Carol declined, instead pressed for Ken Hughes or Guy Hamilton to be signed for the job. He was not pleased with the way Basil Dearden, who eventually did direct, handled the film. See more »
Although Gordon and The Mahdi communicated by courier throughout the siege, they never actually met face-to-face. See more »
Heston essays one of his best roles as Charles "Chinese" Gordon, the patriot who thrives on challenge... Gordon becomes a national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defense of Khartoum...
Gordon is a Christian with the Bible constantly under his arm... A national hero who abolished slavery in China... An honest man revered by the British, as well as by the foreigners... A martyr-warrior who ever truly loves the Sudan and cannot, under 'his' God, leave it to the misery and the sickness of which he once cured it...
Gladstone ((Ralph Richardson) decides not to send troops to the trouble area... Instead he will send General Gordon... Gladstone realizes if Gordon is sent to Khartoum and fails to prevent a massacre, it is he who will be blamed; not the Briish government... For heroes are supposed to perform miracles...
En route to Khartoum, Gordon discovers that most of Britain's allies and friends of his former exploits now support the mystic Mahdi... But when Gordon with Col. Stewart (Richard Johnson) finally reach Khartoum, the people give him a warm welcome... They feel their problems must soon be over now that Gordon Pasha has arrived...
Things, however, do not go as planned... Khartoum runs out of food... The Mahdi's men infiltrate the city... And Gordon seek a plan...
Lawrence Olivier is superb as the fanatical Arab leader, Muhammed Ahmed Al Mahdi, the Expected-One... His softly glowing black eyes never blink... His measured voice spreads holy terrors: "I have been instructed by the Lord Mohammed, Peace be upon Him, to worship in the Khartoum mosque. Therefore I must take Khartoum by the sword."
With outstanding color photography, exquisite sets and costumes, "Khartoum" has great moments:
The bloody and brutal massacre of an entire army in a burning
The Gordon/Mahdi meeting... The only non-historic element of the film
which, in fact, never took place - contributes enormously to the dramatic effect of the motion picture.
The raid on the Mahdi's own supplies...
The exodus of all foreigners and Europeans out of the city...
With an Oscar-Nominated script mounted on a grand scale, "Khartoum" is an epic entertainment, a fine and powerful motion picture...
The exploits, the single-handed capacity Gordon Pasha displayed again and again to control large groups of people quite unarmed and alone, is almost magical; quite scary, in fact...
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