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The Four Feathers
The Four Feathers
Actors: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez, Allan Jeayes
Director: Zoltan Korda
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     2005     2hr 9min

Some movies you just have to love. Oh, they may be well, even beautifully, made; wonderfully cast and stirringly acted; uplifting in theme and noble in motive. That's fine. In fact, that's great. For that, you admire them....  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith, June Duprez, Allan Jeayes
Director: Zoltan Korda
Creators: Georges Périnal, Alexander Korda, Irving Asher, A.E.W. Mason, Arthur Wimperis, Lajos Biró, R.C. Sherriff
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Classics, Indie & Art House, Love & Romance, Military & War
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/19/2005
Original Release Date: 08/03/1939
Theatrical Release Date: 08/03/1939
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 9min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

A first rate, rip-roaring adventure story
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 05/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Thank god I gave this movie another chance! A few years ago I watched this film on a local public television station. The print they showed, however, was old and worn, with hundreds of lines and specks marring every scene. Also, the color was so badly faded that it almost looked like it was filmmed in black and white.But reviewing the film on a newly restored and enhanced print was nothing short of a revelation. It was frequently gorgeous to look at, and the high quality of the print allowed me to focus on the story. Many of the scenes were filmmed on location in the Middle East, which greatly added to the appeal of the movie (in American epics of the thirties, even the Crimea and India ended up looking like the Mojave Desert for obvious reasons--reminds me of the funny scene in the second Austin Powers movie, where Austin casually remarks while driving down a road that is clearly on the California coast, "Isn't it amazing how much the coast of England looks like California?"). In 1939, the British film industry still lagged far behind the American film industry in technical proficiency. Alfred Hitchcock, who left England in 1940 to work in the US for the next 25 years, managed to succeed despite the studio shortcomings, but even in his British films of the thirties the gap in sound and basic photographic techniques is all too apparent as we watch the films of that time. One of the great achievements of Producter/Director Alexander Korda (his brother Zoltan directed THE FOUR FEATHERS while Alexander produced and owned the studio that made the film) was making the first films in Great Britain that rivaled the technical (as opposed to cinematic) accomplishments of Hollywood. THE FOUR FEATHERS holds up admirably with most of the big budget films made in Hollywood in 1939. The color is perhaps not as vivid as in GONE WITH THE WIND or THE WIZARD OF OZ, but it nonetheless is quite good for the time. And this film is thoroughly convincing as an epic. Thousands and thousands of extras were used, but unlike Hollywood, where whites were made up to look like Native Americans, Asian Indians, or Arabs, the extras in THE FOUR FEATHERS clearly hailed from one or another part of Africa or the Middle East.The cast is solid, but two performances stand out. C. Aubrey Smith made a career out of playing bombastic and self-important British Colonels or Generals. And he never performed that role better than in this film. But the best performance was by the always spectacular Ralph Richardson (does anyone else find a stunning physical resemblence between him and Kevin Spacey?). No one ever stole a scene from Ralph Richardson. Even in small roles he could dominate the action. Tragically, his film opportunities rarely took advantage of his gigantic talent. His technique and voice were the equal of Olivier and Alec Guinness, yet he never quite matched their film success. He did, however, manage to excell on the stage. In this regard, Richardson's career mirrored that of John Gielgud, whose screen career was equally paltry compared to his stage successes. Apart from THE FOUR FEATHERS, my favorite Ralph Richardson performances are an amazing film version of A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT and Q PLANES (AKA CLOUDS OVER EUROPE). His character in the latter was the direct inspiration for "John Steed" in THE AVENGERS on TV in the sixties.Now for the scary news. This marvelous film is being remade starring Heath Ledger (from A KNIGHT'S TALE--medieval history reborn as an MTV inspired movie) in the Ralph Richardson role and Wes Bently (from AMERICAN BEAUTY) in the John Clement role. Kate Hudson from ALMOST FAMOUS takes the female lead."
M. Ferrer | SPAIN | 11/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There are films that are classics since the day they are released. This film is one of those. Zoltan Korda shows his elegance and skills presenting us a typical adventure.

Based on the novel by A. W. E Mason, it is the story of young Harry Faversahn born and raised to follow the military life like all his ancestors. Pity that his father is an obssesed of the glories of the Empire, and that his friends bored the child telling stories about battles, slaughters and Baklava (the scene with C. Aubrey Smith explaining the battle with a pineaple and some walnuts is one of the best in the story of cinema).

But Harry is a good boy so he joins the army, trains all day and even has time to conquer beautiful Ethne. With that Harry decides to leave the army, but good things do not last forever, so in the evening of his engagement party his regiment is call to arms. To Egypt to fight against the wicked Egyptian rebels. But Harry refuses and so his former best friends send him three feathers, a sophisticated way to call him a coward. But the fourth, ah! the fourth one is the most terrible of all because is Ethne who gives it to him.

So our hero is an outcast, nodoby loves him, nodoby cares for him. And Harry proving that after all he is a Favershan embarks to Egypt to save his comrades. Disguised as a mute native he saves them all. Crosses the dessert, saves Durrance (who is in love with Ethne too), saves Willoughby and Burroughs from a dreadful prision and evidently gives back each of the four feathers.

The locations and the scenes are espectacular. But also the dialogues. The cast is superb, and propbaly you will end watching the film while humming Rule Britannia.

No adaptation done after has ever reached its level so do not waste your time with others. This is the version.
The Epic Classic of 1939
Roger Kennedy | 08/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Some viewers, especially if they are Islamic, may find this movie daunting. But unfortuentely they chose to view it in a political context, ..., and miss the whole point. This movie is a stirring, if slightly dated saga of Victorian honor and duty. It bares little resemblence to the novel by A.E.W. Mason providing as it does a lot more action and movement. This is one of the few cases where the movie actaully comes across better than the original novel. The Korda production provides for brilliant sets, authentic costumes and totally accurate scenery. The vast resources of the British Empire were able to provide an authentic backdrop for the production value of this movie. This is truly a classic of the old cinema. As for the history, the Madhi was hardly some kindly fellow from the desert. He was a fanatic murderer, bent upon distorting Islam for his own purposes. ...The Madhi sought merely to remove the Anglo-Turkish influences from the region and replace it with his own religeous terror. He managed to kill Gordon at the epic siege of Khartoum in 1885, and it took the British 10 yrs to muster the inclination to go back to the region and defeat the Mahdist movement. It is interesting to point out that the fanatic swine Bin Laden was inspired by the Madhi, and no doubt sees himself as one and the same. There is not much difference between them really. Of course then we had the redoubtable British Empire to crush such vermin, whereas today we don't. The Mahdi's successor, The Khallifah was hardly much better. For 10 yrs he ruined the Sudan and Ethopia with famine and war before the Britsih crushed him at Omdurman, as related in the movie. There was no such prison break inspired by a Faversham character, nor is this shown in the book, but Korda put it in to liven up the novel which it surely does. The prison conditions shown in the movie are accurate as to the way the Madhist treated "infidels" and other prisoners. Make no mistake about it, neither the Madhi or Khallifah were nice men. They were not patriots in the name of Islam, but cruel religeous leaders who killed and exploited for their own gain. The Madhi died of sexual exhaustion in his harem after the fall of Khartoum in 1885, so much for being the pure hero of Islam. Viewers should check out the movie "Khartoum" to get a better perspective of historical events in the Sudan during this period.This is a wonderful movie which will inspire the viewer with how such pretending murderers were dealt with in Queen Victoria's time. Enjoy."
MGM's disappointing DVD release
Robert E. Masone | Wading River, NY | 04/22/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"My review is not of the movie itself, which has always been one of my favorites and is grand, but of the cheap DVD just released by MGM. I have been waiting for several years for a DVD of this movie and was eagerly anticipating buying it as soon as it was available. My disappointment is based on several factors: one, the transfer is only OK, it looks much the same as the VHS version. It's clear that no restoration or enhancement was done to create a sharp, clear DVD. It's just a video transfer to DVD. So, one must ask why did MGM bother to do this except to cash in. Second, whichever idiot wrote the liner notes on the back cover obviously hasn't even seen the film. Also, there isn't even a card on the inside listing the scenes or any information at all about the film. In addition, the sole "extra" is the trailer. No one even took the trouble to give biographies of the actors or the producers/director. An essay on the Kordas would have been most welcome.
It will be a long time before I buy a DVD released by this company without reading the reviews first. I feel like a sucker and I would advise any real movie fan to pass on this one and wait in hopes that a better one is in released in the future. As a footnote, I would like to recommend that whoever is in charge of this stuff at MGM call up Warner Bros. or Universal for a how to lesson on releasing classics in DVD. Maybe then they'll "get it.""