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Set in the expanse of the Sudan desert in the midst of holy war, Khartoum (1966) plays like an attempt to work the Lawrence of Arabia magic on the (mostly) true story of eccentric British general Charles "Chinese" Gordon in 1884 North Africa. The magnificent opening desert battle suggests David Lean's epic sweep, at least until the film settles into a more modest story of political games, military standoffs, and a battle of wits and wiles between two fierce leaders. Charlton Heston plays the wily Christian soldier as cocky, unconventional maverick, and Laurence Olivier (behind heavy make-up and a thick black beard) is almost as good as his cagey nemesis the Mahdi, the Islamic holy warrior on a mission of annihilation. More talk than spectacle, the film falls short of Lawrence but is nonetheless a compelling story of colonial politics, cynical maneuvering, and the unconventional heroics of another colorful British maverick abroad. --Sean Axmaker
- Great picture
Khartoum is a masterpiece and made so by a great actor- Charlton Heston....more info
Charlton Heston plays the charmed, charismatic Gen. Charles Gordon and Sir Laurence Olivier is suitably menacing as the Mahdi in this thumping tale of the siege of Khartoum and the death of history's classiest fall guy. Great action sequences throughout: the assault on the city, the relief expedition, the attempt of the river steamers to run the Dervish gauntlet....more info
- Classic inspirational story, classic film, but do read the history too
This is a wonderful story and a riveting film, as the other reviewers have noted. This DVD version is crisp and clear, well done. The final narrator comment is on the mark -- A world in which there is no room for Gordons is doomed to turn to sand.
If you would like to learn in exquisite detail what the Mahdi was truly like, his background, the games he played interposing himself between God and man, his private vices versus public face of holiness, the extent of his crimes against duped humanity, how he died [the narrator fo the film says we will never know, but Rudolph Slatin reported the cause of death more than 100 years ago], then by all means read "Fire and Sword in the Sudan," written by Colonel Sir Rudolph Slatin Pasha, an Austrian officer held captive inside the inner circles of both the Mahdi and his successor the Khalifa Abdullahi for twelve agonizing years. General Gordon's severed head was brought to Slatin in prison before it was taken as prize to the Mahdi. Slatin, an expert linguist and accomplished field commander, was appointed by Gordon as governor of Darfur and led troops in the field against rebels for one year after being cut off from all contact with his government. He played convert to Islam as a strategy to inspire his troops and to stay alive as a personal slave to the Mahdi and the Khalifa, biding his time until he could make good his escape. Slatin's story is at least as inspiring as the life of the legendary General Gordon. Several anecdotes Slatin reveals about Gordon give a special insight into the kind nature of the great but human general.
My only complaint about "Khartoum" -- The movie was grossly slanderous toward General Hicks, who commanded the troops massacred in the opening scene. Rediculed in the movie as a "fool," the facts show him a great hero. When questioned by one of his friends before the fatal expedition in which Hicks died and his 10,000 troops were wiped out, Hicks said, "I am as Jesus Christ in the midst of the Jews." He knew he was about to become a martyr. He and his handfull of officers all agreed their chances were bleak. Still he marched off, thinking his honor might be impugned if he refused to advance. When the Mahdi made Hicks an offer to accept his surrender with terms and passed out hundreds of handbills along the route of march documenting that offer, Hicks refused. He died to protect his honor just as Gordon later died. An officer sent to his death for nothing by ignorant politicians. Sound familiar?
Sir Winston Churchill's book "The River War" is a brilliantly told first-hand account of the retaking of the Sudan. Churchill's written description of the charge of the 21st Lancers is as vivid as any war scene ever filmed.
General Gordon's Khartoum Journals are also available in several different printings.
"Khartoum" will open an entirely new world to those interested enough to study the history. Those were days when 3,000 men could be killed in one twenty minute clash by spear and sword, rifle and pistol. The scenes of bravery on a large scale are like nothing we could imagine today. Many of us tend to panic at the scale of human life taken in today's war on terror. We forget the huge scale of the battles our ancestors fought before the dawn of the age of modern weaponry and terrorist attacks. We underestimate the ability of a strong society to absorb incredible blows in battle, and risk joining the ranks of the terrorized and self-defeated. Abraham Lincoln once wrote that if this great nation is to ever die, it will be by suicide, not at the hands of foreign armies incapable of stealing a single drink from the Ohio river....more info
- An epic entertainment!
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 desert...
- 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...
- An epic from the True Tales of the Empire period
This film had a big impact on me when I saw it as a 12 year old in 1966 at the State Wayne Theater. I am sure that I did not understand all of the political conversations, though as an adult I find them the best parts of the film. I am sure that I did not understand Gordon's motivation for going to the Sudan nor his attachment to it.
The big action scenes and particularly the famous scene of Gordon facing the mob at the end of the movie without a weapon and freezing them all in place (for a bit), always stayed with me. I liked the military considerations and was angered that the army would not get to Gordon in time.
There were any number of big movies made from tales of the British Empire. Lots of pageantry, color, war, and heroism that is bigger than life. While there are obvious things to criticize in a film that is nearly forty years old (the flooding of the protective moat is particularly obvious to today's eyes and probably were in 1966), I prefer to look at the things that work. Heston does pull off the strange charisma of Gordon, Richard Johnson is fabulous as Col. Stewart, Olivier does a characterization of the Mahdi that would not be acceptable today, but provides a clear villain for this 60s film. Ralph Ricahrdson, one of the great actors of all time, does a superb job as Gladstone and Johny Sekka was wonderful and memorable as the wise, brave, and witty Khaleel.
This is not a great film, but a pretty sound depiction of historical events that we would be better off retaining in our memories. Gordon dies, and so did the Mahdi a few months later, but Gordon was a strange and amazing man as was the Mahdi. It is a strange twist of history that brought them on a collision course. Kitchener went back to the Sudan and conquered Khartoum a couple of decades later and rebuilt it as Gordon had done earlier.
When people only criticize the British Empire they should remember the suffering and misery it tried to alleviate in places like the Sudan and balance that with perceived acts of less nobility.
- Problematic yet entertaining
Any film sporting a cast including Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Richard Johnson, and Ralph Richardson has to be a winner, right? Errr, maybe. Take a look at the 1966 epic "Khartoum." It's got all the elements of a Hollywood blockbuster made in an era when big screen sagas dominated ticket sales. Bombastic musical score? Check. Big name actors? Check. Lush, atmospheric vistas beautifully and tastefully photographed? Check. "Khartoum" has all these elements, including a kingly run time of 134 minutes. So what went wrong? Depending on your viewpoint, everything or nothing. Personally, I sort of liked this movie about British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon's excursion to the Sudan to fight off an Islamic fanatic named the Mahdi. Then again, I've never seen "Lawrence of Arabia," the epic of epics I'm told this movie tried to shamelessly rip-off. I've got a degree in history, so I always like to sit down and watch Hollywood attempt to do historical pictures. My background, unfortunately, doesn't encompass nineteenth century British politics, so I had to look at the movie from a purely entertainment level. From that angle, "Khartoum" is intriguing.
At the beginning of the film we see a contingent of British army regulars and local Arab auxiliaries wiped out by the fanatical army of the Mahdi (Olivier). This Islamic warrior seeks to throw the British out of the Sudan, capture the Suez Canal, and then launch a jihad against the western world. Enter Prime Minister William Gladstone (Richardson) and his cabinet. These politicians are quite concerned about the Mahdi's militant overtures. The threat of losing their hold on the Suez could cause Gladstone to lose political power, and the public is having a field day about the lost army in the desert. Prime Minister Gladstone doesn't want to take a further risk by sending another army into the field. What will happen to him if that force disappears as well? Then Colonel J.D.H. Stewart (Johnson) comes up with a novel idea: why not send good old General Charles Gordon (Heston) down to the Sudan to straighten out matters? "Chinese" Gordon knows the ropes in the region since he helped abolish slavery in that part of the world a few years before. The Arabs just love this Brit, so why not make use of his talents to undercut the local support for the Mahdi? Gladstone rejoices, recognizing he has a way out of this sticky political predicament. He quickly convinces Gordon to undertake a secret mission into the Sudan.
Gordon knows the score, but decides to go anyway. Stewart goes along as an assistant and as a spy for Gladstone. The General and Stewart sail up the Nile to Khartoum, where they plan on arranging resistance to the fanatics. Things go awry almost immediately, as a former slaver whose son Gordon killed refuses to help the British. Then the Mahdi's forces box the General into Khartoum. The city faces food and supply shortages that require Gordon to launch a few small attacks in the desert while Stewart remains behind to fortify the city with a moat. After he meets with the Mahdi and learns how dangerous the guy is, "Chinese" Gordon realizes he'll need the help of the British if he wants to hold the region. Across the desert go the messengers, but Gladstone stonewalls in London, claiming Gordon went to the Sudan on his own accord and thus must fix the mess himself. The prime minister even goes so far as to accuse Gordon of exaggerating the threat facing the city. Eventually, Gladstone sends forces to save Khartoum, but gives the leader of this army strict orders to drag his feet. Lots of politics here, folks, but it all makes sense when you see it. Gordon stands tall at the end when the Mahdi launches a massive offensive against Khartoum. The final battle scene is an intense one and helped elevate my overall impression of the film.
"Khartoum" does slightly drag in spots, namely when all the political wrangling between Gordon and Gladstone takes place, but it is still fun for viewers who like dialogue heavy films. Besides, it isn't as though there's no action going on-there just isn't enough to satisfy viewers who found other Hollywood epics so much fun. You want non-stop action, watch "Zulu." You want to think a little bit about the machinations behind the imperialism, give "Khartoum" a shot. A better argument of the inferiority of this film could easily be made concerning the other elements of the story. The performances tend towards the uneven, sadly, as Olivier hams it up as the bass voiced Mahdi. He's barely recognizable behind all that shoe polish make-up and thick beard. Heston imbues his depiction of Gordon with a certain wryness that occasionally appeals but too often feels out of place. Moreover, his British accent is the least convincing one I have heard in a long time. Richardson and Johnson don't have much to do in their roles, and don't get the amount of screen time allotted to Olivier and Heston. "Khartoum" works, ultimately, but with serious reservations.
The DVD version of the film contains only a trailer as an extra. The restored print looks great, and that brassy musical score booms wonderfully. I'm not sure I can recommend actually buying this movie. If you like films about the Middle East, the British Empire, or epics than I'm sure you would want to add this one to your collection. I suggest a discrete rental and then a decision. I can say that I would watch this film again, if for no other reason than to see that cool landmine device Gordon cooks up with a pistol and a length of primer cord. Enjoy!...more info
- Khartoum in Cinerama
1966's Khartoum is an all star Cinerama achievement, based on the true story of the British Sudan set during the early to mid-1880's. Beautifully and epically filmed in three locations in Egypt, plus in London.
See this breathtaking Cinerama motion picture the way it was meant to be watched - in widescreen, coupled with today's crisp stereo surround sound.
The movie is based on a very important historical confrontation between Victorian English General Charles 'Chinese' Gordon, played by Charlton Heston, and a radical Muslim warlord who believed himself to be Islamic 'Mahdi' or 'The Expected One', played by the marvelously well cast English actor, Laurence Olivier. The Mahdi declares a total jihad against all infidels (sounds like today).
Ironically the current Islamic dictatorship of OPEC's Iran have publicly stated they are attempting to provoke the 'return of the Mahdi' so he can 'assist the Muslims in destroying the infidels'. History does indeed repeat itself.
Some of the other exceptional cast members include:
Richard Johnson ... Col. J.D.H. Stewart
Ralph Richardson ... William Gladstone
Alexander Knox ... Sir Evelyn Baring
Johnny Sekka ... Khaleel
Michael Hordern ... Lord Granville
Zia Mohyeddin ... Zobeir Pasha
Marne Maitland ... Sheikh Osman
Nigel Green ... Gen. Wolseley
Peter Arne ... Maj. Kitchener
Oscar nominated English composer Frank Cordell's rousing musical score will pleasingly linger after viewing the this exceptional film.
Khartoum -- where the Nile divides, the great Cinerama adventure begins!...more info
- Excellent story; fine acting
The outstanding cast in this true story of China Gordon's demise in the Sudan at the hands of the presumed "Mahdi" in 1884, is only one of several factors that make this a great film. The story line is excellent, as it not only presents the desert conflict battle scenes extremely well, but it also visually describes the political and social intrigue involved in the British efforts to establish and maintain its colonial empire in that era. In a subtle and obviously unintentional manner, the film also presents some hints of contemporary conflicts and social issues. A truly fine film!...more info
- Historical Relevance
Apart from being a spectacular that was extremely well-made with excellent scenery and great actors that portrayed their characters convinceingly,the basic themes in the movie suggest that history does to some extent repeat itself. It had a religious fanatic that threatened the Middle East and required the intervention of a world power. One statement by PM Gladstone was "How could a group of desert tribesmen defeat a modern,well-equipped army?" Another statement was that the British had an obligation to protect Egypt(Today Iraq?). Gladstone's response was "You mean tne Suez Canal" A vital British interest.(Today read "OIL"?)...more info
- One of Chuck's best
Before he was NRA junta chief and in between making movies where a planet of apes evolved from men and Soylent Green was people, Charlton Heston was a pretty damn fine actor. His performance is pre-"method" but commanding, and he definitely holds his own in all the scenes with Olivier.
This film is based on the actual seige and capture of Khartoum in the Sudan in 1884. The events are of couse slightly disorted (as usual) but the essence of the story is correct. I don't think the box office reciepts would have been too good if they actually showed Gordon (Heston's character) as being 5'2" in boots. The real story is rather chilling and sad but the film manages to make it inspiring to a point, the situation being one where victory may be impossible but heroism, a willingness to fight the "good fight", is not.
As to the quality of the disc itself, there are no extras except the trailer. The sound quality is merely ok, but the picture transfer is beautiful. A+ on that count. If you saw the recent film of "The Four Feathers" I would recommend this film over it. It is a little leisurely in pace ealy on but it is well crafted and very well written....more info
- Underrated historical adventure !
This film recalls the British defeat in nothern Africa by Arab tribemen circa in 1833 .
And the fine actings of Olivier as Mahdi and Heston as Gordon are not enough to hold the slow paced script .
There are terrific edition problems . Notice for instance the previous moment to the attack at dawn and notice the landscape , in Gordon side we have night but in the other side we have a radiant sunshine .
Basil Dearden was a talented filmmaker but not in these waters . Since Lawrence de Arabia became a hitherto in what desert movies concern , you should wait a real twist of road to avoid be compared with that David lean's giant film.
Dearden gives a theatrical approach to this film and the dialogues are very slow paced ; there are unforgettable moments as the the speech between Mahdi and Gordon in the first quarter of the film and it seems the film will fly , you feel an uncomfortable sensation of incoherence through the script .
Gordon is in a real trouble with the reduced scope of the Minister but the film lacks expression and force .
You are capable to experience the absence of the organic flow in the drama ; the battle scenes are too short and so far to be credible .
The climax ending is extremely cold and predictable.
The film will be reminded in the future as a clear management default , but definitively it is not a great film, due its inner weakness.
- Not Terribly Memorable
This isn't Charleton Heston's best work by a long-shot. His acting is hardly convincing as General Charles Gordon. The cinematography is decent but there seems to also be an absence in character depth throughout the movie: there is also little action.
Epic movies about the colonial era in Africa are never easy: this movie just doesn't do it. The best role played in the movie was that of "The Mahdi" by Laurence Olivier, however, he is hardly a convincing Moor. All of the scenes just seem to fall short in climax or tension for this sort of drama.
The failure of the movie also lies in its attempt to simplify the complexities of the time: the script writer failed to grasp te culture of the epoch and this is made evident in the movie. As a result, the dialogue is hollow and the action dull. Perhaps worth renting for those who are admirers of either Heston or Olivier but there isn't much to own here.
- One of the best Cinerama spectaculars
In 1962, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer started to use three camera Cinerama to tell stories rather than travelogues. But in 1963, three camera Cinerama was relegated to the trash heap and Ultra Panavision, a 70mm anamorphic process giving a 2.75 aspect ratio, was used for Cinerama movies. The depth generated by the technology was replaced with the director's ability to set up scenes that would not get distorted on the large curved screen. Of course, all the technology in the world can not replace an intelligent story and the story-telling Cinerama movies had its ups and downs. Here is one of the highlights. A fascinating, little-known history lesson is made into an intelligent action spectacular written by an author who specializes in African history, Robert Ardrey. In the tradition of "Lawrence of Arabia," we get a psychological and political analysis, a mixture of action set pieces directed by the remarkable Yakima Canutt (the director of the chariot race in "Ben-Hur") and character analysis directed by Basil Dearden. The acting is phenomenal. Charlton Heston does his finest acting since "Ben-Hur" and Laurence Olivier is outstanding, even frightening. But do not forget Ralph Richardson, Richard Johnson and the rest of the cast. They are all equally effective. I believe the reason that this film was not more of a success or more appreciated was a timing issue: it was released during the summer. Not a good time to release a film situated in the Sudanese desert. Even "Lawrence of Arabia" was released right before Christmas. The five star rating is for the film. Now, for the DVD, MGM continues its practice of delivering the worst product. Of course, this is a member of their less expensive collection and my criticisms are little. First, the titles have been changed. The original titles were presented on a backdrop of royal blue while the letters were thin, gold and contained jewels. Here, they appear as yellow letters from a word processing package on a black background. Why was it changed? Second, the aspect ratio is 2.35 rather than the Ultra Panavision 70mm 2.75. Third, the sound is absolutely horrendous. It must be monaural. No bass, no depth, no surround effects. The explosions shook the theatre. Here, they disappear into the background. Still, despite the presentation, with only a couple of artifacts in the film, it is still an excellent motion picture that more and more people should discover....more info
- Very good film with just one visual flaw
Let me say first of all this is an almost excellent film. Heston's great in it as Gordon, so's Olivier in the smaller but significant part of the muslim fanatic. The film is like 90% true story. The only reason I don't give it all five stars is in one shot when Gordon is outside and he and his men are fighting a small muslim army on horse back you can tell Heston really isn't outside and behind him is like a rear projection screen. But this one editing flaw doesn't by any means wreck the whole movie!...more info
- Ecellent Widescreen
This is great in widescreen at last! Had to depend on USA for that.
Well acted naturally with Charlton Heston and Sir Laurence Olivier.No comp spec effects, real people real action and good history.
To day it would have got the Pte Ryan treament, but still comes across "battle gore". Very well filmed and beautifully presented film....more info
If you are a fan of history and Charlton Heston you will need to watch this movie. True to the actual facts of what happened there.
This film has probably one of the best scripts in years. Since heavy exposition is needed in the beginning, it is handled with witty and brilliant dialog, delivered with aplomb by an experienced British cast. Oliver's performance is somewhat over the top, but the best performance is given by Richard Johnson, as Charlton Heston's military aide. A good, old-fashioned spectacle, with a fine music score, rousing when it has to be and fully melodic when capturing the mystery of Egypt....more info
- Worth Seeing Again!
I viewed this movie when it made the theater tour. Since then, I learned more about the history of the British Empire in the period. Khartoum is well written, well acted and has no major technical or historical inaccuracies that I could detect. Khartoum is definitely worth watching more than once....more info
- The Way Top
The movie was suggested by Lytton Strachey's fine essay on Gordon that appeared in his classic EMINENT VICTORIANS, and indeed the story was brewing for a long time before a combination of international interests unleashed KHARTOUM in the English speaking world.
It was a time when Olivier, newly remarried and the surprised father of a young family, was desperate for money and wouild snatch up any job, so the film world was brightened, if that's the word, by Olivier appearing in any old movie if they gave him enough lucre. It's as if he was saying, I did the repertory thing for thirty years, it's time for a payoff. Thus we got extra helpings of ham in BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING, THE SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN, THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, really any old blockbuster. It was a rare 60s movie that didn't have room for Olivier in it. He was never good in any of them, but in KHARTOUM his performance as the Mahdi causes enough offense nearly to justify, years later, the recent subway bombings in London. With russet makeup smeared over his face (slightly different shade than the blackface he used in OTHELLO), Olivier bites every piece of scenery known to man, playing rhe Mahdi as a mad tyrannical prophet of Islam, like a Westerners fantasy of Al Qaeda, hollering for white men's blood and letting his strange fantasies about Allah cloud his limited intellect.
Next to him, Gordon (Charlton Heston) almost looks like a sane man.
Maybe the filmmakers were making some sort of antiwar statement. At this distance it's hard to say. What we see is pretty frightening, for there's over the top and then there's OVER THE TOP AS THE MAHDI....more info
- "out of the vast, hot, African nowhere..."
Though the historical events in this film took place in 1884-85, there are aspects of it that remind one of today's headlines; this is a sadly underrated film, with a fantastic cast, massive battle scenes, and a beautifully written script about an extraordinary man.
There are scenes that take "artistic license", but the film is quite accurate in its facts on General Gordon; a military genius who hated war, a deeply religious man who worked to end slavery, and who fell in love with the desolate scorching sands and the people of the Sudan.
The pairing of Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier is fabulous, and their scenes together are riveting. Heston is gaunt in this film, to closer portray the slightly built Gordon, and speaks with a subtle but excellent English accent; Olivier is the fanatic who calls himself The Mahdi ("The Expected One"), waging a holy war with his followers to destroy anyone who opposes his beliefs, with the aim of conquering the world for his fundamentalist faith.
Other wonderful performances come from Richard Johnson as Col. Stewart, Ralph Richardson as Prime Minister Gladstone, Nigel Green as Gen Wolseley, and Johnny Sekka is a delight as Gordon's servant Khaleel.
After British-led Egyptian forces are massacred by The Mahdi's insurgents, the British government asks Egypt to give up the Sudan, and General Gordon is called to evacuate the European and Egyptian civilians from the Sudan; he stays to ward off the terrorists and the siege of Khartoum takes place.
The sweeping panoramas of the desert and the Nile river are sumptuous (cinematography by Edward Scaife), and the Frank Cordell score is terrific, though it owes a bit to Maurice Jarre's music for "Lawrence of Arabia"; released 6 years earlier, "Lawrence" has some comparisons to this film, as they are both about adventurous men of courage who felt comfortable in Arab lands.
This film sparked my imagination and made me want to know more about Gordon's fascinating life and the history that surrounded him, and it is one I could watch repeatedly. Total running time is 134 minutes.
"...but there is this: A world with no room for the Gordons, is a world that will return to the sands"....more info
This is the story of British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon's final battle. It is a little know episode to Americans but is a compelling story made even more so by this fine production.
Gordon won fame by ridding the Sudan of the slave trade and as a successful general in the Opium Wars in China. When a religious fanatic rises in the Sudan and massacres a British led force, Gordon is sent in to bring out the Egyptians and Europeans. The prime minister, however, is not willing to commit to anything else. He doesn't even want to do that. He has no desire to run a colonial empire. The politicians in London care about little other than keeping the egg from their own faces.
Gordon makes it to Khartoum but is unable to accomplish his mission. The Mahdi is willing to let the Europeans go but he is not willing to let the Egyptians go. Gordon is unwilling to sacrifice any of his men so he stays to fight, sure that London will send an army to save him. The politicians do send an army but is has order to drag its feet. They believe that Gordon will flee on his own when things get too dire. It is a matter of politicians not understanding the motivations of a principled man and that same man not understanding the baseness of politicians. It is a gripping story.
Gordon is played by Charlton Heston who does a superb job. The Mahdi is played by Sir Lawrence Olivier who succeeds in portraying an Islamic religious fanatic in a light that is not stereotypical. It is a great job all around.
- Clash on the Nile
Based on a true story from the 1880s, Khartoum tells of the clash between General Charles George Gordon and "The Madhi". The movie isn't always true to history. For instance, the two men never apparently met face to face and the desert campaigns are oversimplyfied. That said, the film is magnificent. There are no less than five large battle scenes from a truely epic clash near the beginning when the Madhists wipe out thousands of Egyptian soldiers to an armed riverboat fighting its way past a town to the final epic fall of the city. Oh yes, a battle I believe meant to represent Abu Klea (and perhaps another fight) was more accurate then the recent "Four Feathers" film in that the British actually hold off the Islamic assault. The battles were done by the man who executed the brilliant stunts in the "Ben-Hur" chariot race. The musical score is appropriate for the film and the cinematography is pretty good.
The acting is really what helps the movie though. Charleton Heston presents a sympatheic though complex Gordon. Excentric, devoutly Christian, brave, at times ruthless when he feels he needs to be, and truely caring for the mostly Muslim population of the city; all of these fit the character Heston portrays. Olivier does an excellent job protraying the fanatical and ruthless "Mahdi" determined to sweep across the Islamic world in a wave of fury. The resulting clash between these two powerful men ultimately makes for a good story. I recommend it.
Oh, there are a couple of Osprey campaign series books on the Sudanese war if anyones wishes to look them up on Amazon. They are "Khartoum" and "Omdurman"....more info