Drama depicting rural life in contemporary Afghanistan and the Afghani people's love for an ancient traditional sport similar to horseback polo.


John Frankenheimer


Dalton Trumbo (screenplay), Joseph Kessel (based upon the novel 'The Horsemen' by)





Cast overview:
Omar Sharif ... Uraz
Leigh Taylor-Young ... Zareh
Jack Palance ... Tursen
Peter Jeffrey ... Hayatal
Srinanda De Srinanda De ... Mukhi
George Murcell ... Mizrar
Eric Pohlmann ... Merchant in Kandahar
Vernon Dobtcheff ... Zam Hajji
Saeed Jaffrey ... District Chief
John Ruddock John Ruddock ... Scribe
Mark Colleano Mark Colleano ... Rahim
Salmaan Peerzada ... Salih (as Salmaan Peer)
Aziz Resham Aziz Resham ... Bacha to Ghulam (as Aziz Resh)
Leon Lissek ... Chikana Proprietor
Vida St. Romaine Vida St. Romaine ... Gypsy Woman (as Vida St Romaine)


In the poor, desolate northern provinces of the mountainous feudal Sunni kingdom of Afghanistan (before the Soviet-engineered republican revolutions), the status of the proud men and their clans is determined less by wealth or even military power (both rare) then by victories in the ancient, though game of buskashi, a vicious form of polo dating back to Genghis Khan, in which the chapendaz (participating horsemen) use their horse-whips on both mounts and rivals in a ruthless fight for a heavy 'ball', a dead calf, which must be carried a long way, almost impossible with all the others mercilessly assailing. Tursen, a former champion, now holds the status of village notable thanks to his position as stable-keeper of the regional lord Osman Bey, and has finally bred a horse without equal, the white stallion Jahil, in time for the royal tournament on the plain of Bagrami, just outside the capital Kabul. As Tursen is too old and has a crooked leg, his son Uraz, even prouder and with a ... Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


They are part of an ancient splendor that belongs to history and defies the passage of time. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


John Frankenheimer considered Anthony Quinn for the Jack Palance role. See more »


When Tursen (Jack Palance) has a flashback to one of his past victories, one can tell that he is swinging a phony, lightweight, stuffed goat carcass around when his horse jumps up on the mud hut. See more »


District Chief: What demon has possessed you to mock these good people with that piece of dog-bait?
See more »

User Reviews

Bite the bullet!
23 May 2010 | by dbdumonteilSee all my reviews

With a writer like Trumbo (who also did one of the best anti war movies of all time :"Johnny got his gun" )and a director like Frankenheimer ("the Manchurian candidate " "seconds" "birdman from Alcatraz" ,how could you be wrong?Add Omar Shariff and Jack Palance.Plus the marvelous wild landscapes .And the magic of these Asian nights.And however it does not quite make it.The slow-moving story is sometimes boring ,in spite of the talent of the actors (and the horses who play a prominent part ,check the title).The magnificence of the settings makes up for it but make sure you see it on a wide screen in a movie theater.Much of its appeal is inevitably lost on a tiny TV screen.

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Release Date:

23 July 1971 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Horsemen See more »


Box Office


$6,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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