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Harem (1986)

Jessica, a young British girl, goes off to Arabia with her father to be with her fiancé when he's called there suddenly on diplomatic duty. On a tourist journey she's kidnapped by what ... See full summary »


William Hale (as Billy Hale)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nancy Travis ... Jessica Grey
Art Malik ... Tarik Pasha
Sarah Miles ... Lady Ashley
Yaphet Kotto ... Agha Kislar
Julian Sands ... Forest
Cherie Lunghi ... Usta
Omar Sharif ... Sultan Hassan
Ava Gardner ... Kadin
Georgine Anderson ... Aunt Lily
Shirley Cain Shirley Cain ... Embassy Hostess
George Camiller ... Vizler Bey
JoJo Cole JoJo Cole ... Emily
James Coyle James Coyle ... Sultan's Spy
Sarah Crowden ... Charlotte
Caroline Dorian Caroline Dorian ... Victoria


Jessica, a young British girl, goes off to Arabia with her father to be with her fiancé when he's called there suddenly on diplomatic duty. On a tourist journey she's kidnapped by what appears to be a Beduion tribe and sold into the harem of the Sultan. The man that took her captive is not actually a Beduion but an Oxford educated revolutionary who traded Jessica for the release of his friends from the Sultan's prison. As her fiancé struggles to free her from the harem he inadvertently hires the very man who put her there to get her out. Meanwhile, Jessica is fending of the Sultan's advances and coming to know a new way of life. Romance, political intrigue, and the jealousies of the harem all threaten Jessica's narrow view of the world. If she escapes will she actually be able to return to life in Victorian England? Written by Susan Southall <stobchatay@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Parents Guide:

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Release Date:

9 February 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El harén See more »

Filming Locations:

Almodovar del Rio, Spain See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Ava Gardner and Omar Shariff had previously work together in Mayerling. See more »


When Tarik is approaching the train, he is holding an Arab musket in the air over his head by the fore-stock, but the soundtrack plays several groups of rapid-fire shots even though his finger is never on the trigger, plus the fact that it's a musket and can only fire one or two shots a minute. See more »


Lady Ashley: There is nothing in the Ottoman Empire that cannot be bought. And no secret that cannot be sold.
See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

The guilty pleasure to end all guilty pleasures
29 May 2005 | by nerovilleSee all my reviews

When I heard that Nancy Travis, who played across Mike Myers in "So I Married an Axe Murderer," and Art Malik, who played the heavy in "True Lies," were the romantic leads in this 1980s TV drama, I knew it was something I had to see. In its ludicrous, Reagan-era soap operatic way, it's an entertaining little gem, filled with delightfully cringe-inducing lines like, "Because you don't have a woman's heart!"

It's also a compendium of just about every cliché known to man, from the freedom-loving American ingénue who shoots like Annie Oakley, to the stuffy Victorian aunt, to the student revolutionary who jumps on soapboxes at every opportunity, to the uber-Orientalist portrayal of the harem with all its poisonous plots and sexy belly dancers. It's set back around 1907 in the Ottoman Empire, and the story, such as it is, involves the adventures of a blond, dewy-eyed American girl named Jessica (Travis) who goes to Turkey with her proper and equally blond English fiancée (Julian Sands), and gets kidnapped. Inevitably, she ends up in a harem, fending off the advances of a besotted sultan (Omar Sharif), and the wicked intrigues of his chief wife (Ava Gardner, channeling the stepmother from "Snow White"). Although the sultan is awfully keen on her, Jessica falls in love with the leader of the revolutionary movement, Tarik Pasha- who is played with a completely straight face by Art Malik.

The whole story unfolds like a dime store novel, which I suppose is appropriate given the setting, and even though it's as preposterous as the average episode of the old Zorro TV show, it's still a lot of fun. The whole premise of the show, with its emphasis on the tyrannized and barbarous East, would probably give old Edward Said fits, but it's notable for the fact that it has good Turks alongside its bad, and that it has a genuine Muslim actor as the hero. There's quite a few hot Middle Eastern and South Asian guys running around in this, and Art Malik is surprisingly appealing (and gorgeous) as the idealistic young Turkish hothead. There are also plenty of beautiful location shots in the old Moorish mosques and palaces in Granada and Cordoba, and in Morocco as well, although the director seemed to forget that the Sahara desert is nowhere near Turkey.

It's actually comparable to "The Lady and the Highwayman," another kitschy, lavishly produced '80s period soap, although unlike "Lady," "Harem" does not have Hugh Grant and was never released to DVD. However, it's definitely worth a watch if you don't mind your entertainment on the corny side. Even though I was groaning at many of the plot twists and dialogue, I would happily watch it again.

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