During the thirteenth century, the shy Mongol boy Temujin (Carlo Cura) becomes the fearless leader Genghis Khan (Omar Sharif), who unites all Mongol tribes and conquers most of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
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During the 1200s, young Marco Polo, joins his father Niccolò and his uncle Matteo, who recently returned from China, and prepares to visit the Pope who summoned them. The Pope entrusts the Polo family with a trade mission to China and with a personal message of peace for China's Emperor Kublai Khan. Unknown to all of them is the fact that the peaceful Kublai Khan is facing a treasonous dissension among his Mongol war chieftains, led by his war-loving son. His son wants the throne for himself and desires to destroy all Chinese subjects, in favor of his Mongol ones. He also wants to invade Europe and avail himself of slaves, territory and spoils of war. In Venice, the Polos board a ship for the Holly Lands, presently occupied by the Crusaders. From there, they are to proceed by caravan, overland, to Samarkand and eventually reach Peking. However, the overland route passes through several kingdoms, caliphates and wild rugged regions inhabited by unwelcoming warlike tribes. The route also...Written by
If you give this film a chance for the sake of Orson Welles, you will be disappointed. By all means, he is the first actor to appear in the film, but in one scene only. The rest of the film is mainly worth seeing for the sake of Omar Sharif at his most dashing and Anthony Quinn as Kublai Khan - he never failed to fulfill a character.
For the rest of the film, it's a feast to the eyes, and the music is perhaps the best part. The worst part is the script.
They always do that with the Marco Polo story. They never stick to his own book but make just anything up as romanticized as possible to avoid the casual scientific and extremely dry documentary of the book, which tells nothing of the characters but only of facts. The episode of the old man of the mountain is always especially screwed up into any fabulous extravaganza, and especially so here. He was a historical figure and actual leader of the assassins, but for some reason in every new version of Marco Polo they have to do anything to exagerrate his legend as much as possible. Here it is simply made ridiculous, and Akim Tamiroff is the only miscast of the film. They could have turned it into a real horror episode but only make it fall flat in absurdity.
Originally, it was planned to become a great epic directed by the qualified veteran Christian-Jacques with Alain Delon as Marco Polo, and there was nothing wrong with that idea. Unfortunately the project shipwrecked, and this was made instead some years later, still with a mainly French technical crew, but much cut down and shot almost entirely in Serbia.
So it's just another among the number of Marco Polo distorted fantasies, but it's not the worst one. I believe the worst one was the soap opera with Gary Cooper 1938, which was anything but the Marco Polo story. The best one though was the great television series of 1982-83 in eight long meticulous episodes with Ken Marshall, Denholm Elliott as the father, David Warner, F. Murray Abraham and Ruocheng Ying as the ultimate Kublai Khan, which TV-series so far also came closest to at least almost reaching the truth.
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