"Well everyone, here it is and better than ever! :)
As always, Charlton Heston's screen presense Magnificent. David Niven is as charming as ever and always brings his particular brand of class to the screen. And what could one say of Ava Gardner that hasn't been said, before? Truly, she shines in this picture.
One Note to bring to your Attention: Subtitles (which are sometimes set as Default by the manufacturer) are Removable via the Set-Up Menu. Very simple to do.
You will not be disappointed with the video and sound quality of this release.
Enjoyable epic and star vehicle
Grant A Thompson | 01/05/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
""55 Days At Peking" is an unusual and enjoyable epic and star vehicle. Not least among its admirable characteristics is a set re-creating in Spain an authentic impression of the old Legation Quarter of Peking. The set makes sense to anyone who knows the actual site in modern-day Beijing. That is a considerable achievement in the pre-digital cinematic art of illusion. It shows, too, that there was a great deal of China knowledge behind the making of the movie. Well into the 1990s, many Boxer Rebellion-era structures survived in the old Legation Quarter of Beijing. Due to enduring political and cultural sensitivities, the historical significance of these structures was unsignposted and ignored by the official Chinese tourist authorities, and most of the area was occupied by Chinese Government organisations. The gate of the former British Legation which was recreated for the movie could still be seen just off Chang'an Avenue in Zhengyi Street, a short walk southwest from the Beijing Hotel. The layout and other striking architectural features of the area are well-recorded in books such as Michael J. and Yeone Wei-Chih Moser's "Foreigners Within The Gates" (Oxford 1993). The movie takes liberties with history--overplaying, for instance, the US military contribution, and making the British Minister (played by David Niven) appear a more militarily energetic figure than he seemed to contemporary observers of the siege of the legations. Some purists might find jarring the poor Chinese calligraphy in graffiti, and the casting of (generally well made-up) Caucasian actors in major Chinese roles. However, the standard caveat applies that this is an entertainment, not a documentary. Talent like Chow Yun-Fat, John Lone, Gong Li, Zhang Yimou and Wayne Wang wasn't available to western moviemakers in 1963. "55 Days At Peking" entertains with a creditable impression of this historical episode when China warred by proxy on the rest of the world. It is an interesting film to compare with "Khartoum", in which Charlton Heston also plays the lead, as part of the canon of epic moviemaking about imperial and colonial wars. The casting and illusion of China is worth comparing with "The Inn Of The Sixth Happiness" (1958), in which Robert Donat plays a Chinese mandarin and Wales substitutes for China. It would be fascinating to see a remake of this film with a re-worked story and script, a re-arrangement of Dimitri Tiomkin's excellent score, digital technology, and cross-cultural casting and direction. However, as it probably still could not be shot in China without unacceptable interference, it might need "Red Corner" treatment."
Fascinating mixture of spectacle and intimacy
Toshifumi Fujiwara | Tokyo, Japan | 03/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The last theatrical feature film from director Nicholas Ray who made REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, BIGGERT THAN LIFE, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, etc., is a historical epic spectacle set in Beijing, China in the midst of the revolt of the Boxers. Producer Samuel Bronston wanted to make an exotic film about war, political intrigue, and international solidarity.However, epic spectacle is not realy Ray's league. And in the midle of the shooting, Ray had a heart attack. Most of the "big" scenes ended up to be shot by second-unit director Andrew Morton. and while they are effective enough, they arr not that great.Still, this film bears a lot of the unmisstakable signature of Ray; the master of human emotion. Never before Charlton Heston was able to show such an intimacy, so much of human vulnerability in a film. The scene in which he has to tell the daughter of his best friend's half-chinese daughter that her father was killed in action (a scene that banal directors would treat as a shalow tearjearker) shows how much subtle and truthful emotion Ray was capable to pull out from his actors.Ava Gardner plays a turnished Russian contessa, and is extraordinary. Her story is perhaps the strongest among this multi-charactered, muti-layered drama.While the production design is quite adequate considering the film was shot in Spain in the 60's, and surprisingly deprived of phony extoticism for that time, contemporary viewers may take it rather silly. But please remember that at that time, somesthing like THE LAST EMPEROR was impossible. Western film crew were not even allowed to set foot on the Chinese land.Some scenes still are good example of another trademark directorial touch of Ray; his love for extremely dramatic composition and particulary to pull out the dramatic core of a scene by setting it on an unstable location such as stairs.It is a flawed film, perhaps, but still extremly beautiful and emotional. Dimitri Tiomkin's score (and the song "So Little Time") is also unforgettable."
Fine Movie, Disappointing DVD
Blackhawk | Huntsville, AL USA | 06/17/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I won't comment on the movie except to say that I do like it and would agree with the other favorable comments here. I've seen it more than a few times and it always is an enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the DVD release. The audio is adequate though it is only stereo. I didn't notice any particular problems with it. The video, on the other hand, is decidely inferior. It looks like it was transferred from a medium quality video tape. I have seen better looking presentations on broadcast TV. I had a tape recorded off the air that looked as good as this DVD. But the tape is gone and the DVD will at least last. The best thing that can be said about the DVD's video is that it is widescreen, but it is not anamorphic. Very disappointing. I hope some company will do a decent release of this in the not to distant future."
The Golden Age of Hollywood!
F. S. L'hoir | Irvine, CA | 04/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This epic, set in China at the beginning of the twentieth century, has everything: top-notch Hollywood stars, including David Niven, Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner--to all appearances, still in their prime; magnificent costumes and sets; high production standards; thrilling action scenes, and a cast of thousands without computer generation. In fact, they just don't make 'em like this anymore!
Particularly memorable are the opening scenes in which each of the foreign legations at Peking--including the British, French, German, American, Russian, and Japanese [all the usual suspects] are raising their flags at dawn, to a cacophony of competing national anthems (a scene echoed at the end, when after pulling together for 55 days against a common enemy--the Harmonious Fists, or Boxers--the besieged foreigners revert ominously to their separatist ways. Equally interesting are the scenes in the beautifully recreated Forbidden City at the court of the Manchu Empress, whom the incomparable Flora Robsen invests with sympathy as well as inscrutability. Robert Helpmann, the great premier danseur of the Royal Ballet, plays the sinister prince Tuan, and Leo Genn performs the role of his rival, the general Wen Lu (who has conducted a secret love affair with the enchanting Russian Countess [Gardner]), whose reputation has been consequently ruined [It seems to me that some of Genn's scenes have unfortunately been cut or lost with the passage of time].
The transfer to DVD is sharp and does not seem to have diminished in color, and the sound is excellent with one important exception. Lamentably, Dimtri Tiomkin's musical score, which accompanies the opening titles has not been re-mastered properly, and it sounds tinny and wobbles slightly off tune. Although this significant imperfection had me worried at the beginning, all sonic quaverings disappear as soon as the film starts. Although Korean and Japanese subtitles appear at the beginning, they are easily dispensed with by a press of the "subtitle off" button. Unfortunately, there are no English captions for the hearing impaired.
Nevertheless, we should be grateful to the Korean company for releasing this splendid example of Hollywood films at the end of a golden era. One wonders why Hollywood itself did not do so.