Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Khartoum. again.

KHARTOUM, 1966. I had forgotten how good KHARTOUM is, directed by stalwart Basil Dearden, and 2nd Unit (presumably those battle scenes) by veteran Yakima Canutt (the chariot race in BEN-HUR etc). It has two towering performances - Charlton Heston, steadfast as usual, as General Gordon, in his element unpeeling the layers of Gordon's complex character,  and a mesmerising turn (in a handful of scenes, but dominating the film) by Laurence Olivier as The Madhi - 
he is almost unrecognisable, blacked up here. This was Olivier's great late period, running the National Theatre, films like TERM OF TRIAL and BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (where he is almost ordinary) He was also playing OTHELLO to great acclaim at the time, also blacked up as the Moor, (it was also filmed, with Maggie Smith), after those iconic performances in RICHARD III, THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL, THE ENTERTAINER and SPARTACUS.
His Madhi is a stunning creation.  The film is quite topical now, showing as it does the confrontation between Western imperialism and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism - this time in the Sudan of the 19th century. Fascinating for those interested in its history and that of Egypt.
Add in Ralph Richardson on prime form as Gladstone, and familiar faces like Richard Johnson, Marne Maitland, Peter Arne, Nigel Green, Michael Hordern, Alexander Knox, Douglas Wilmer, Johnny Sekka. The story of how General Gordon (a fanatic to some) manages to hold Khartoum as the Madhi's forces attack is well told here and its totally engrossing as the beseiged city holds off the Madhi's forces., also effective is that opening sequence as the British army is led deeper and deeper into the remote Sudan as the Madhi's forces wait to attack ...
I didn't want to see it back in 1966 (when I was 20 and there were more trendy movies around), but seeing it now its marvellously done, with Heston back at what he does best, after his tepid performance in THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY the year before, where Rex Harrison had the showier role as Pope Julius (as per recent review of that). Dearden too was branching out into international films after those British classics like POOL OF LONDON, THE BLUE LAMP, SAPPHIRE, VICTIM ....

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I am also a fan of KHARTOUM and of Olivier's performance, (though today a black actor would naturally play the part). Not being a fan of Heston I have to admit he is very good here and the film works as an epic, and an underrated one.