Academy Award¬(r) winners* Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier face off in this epic, stirring drama of two men and two empires. Filmed in glorious Cinerama¬(r), with stunning desertbattles staged by the creator of the Be... more »n-Hur chariot race, Khartoum is a "magnificently staged action spectacle [with] outstanding portrayals" (Boxoffice) and breathtaking cinematography. In 1883, British Prime Minister Gladstone (Ralph Richardson) dispatches General Charles Gordon (Heston) to Khartoum, Sudan, where thousands of civilians are threatened by a Muslim fanatic, the Mahdi (Olivier), and his army of followers. Gordon gains the Mahdi's respect but can't prevent the Mahdi's men from laying siege to the city. Now, as history hangs in the balance, Gordon faces the fight of his life defending the ancient city of Khartoum. *Heston: Actor, Ben-Hur (1959). Olivier: Actor, Hamlet (1948); Lifetime Achievement (1978); Outstanding Achievement as Actor, Producer and Director on Henry V (1946)« less
Interesting treatment of the historically factual past in that part of the world. Seems that there will always be a great deal of strife amid the cultural and religious differences in the MidEast and African continent. Great story.
A thinking person's action spectacular
k2 | Cleveland, OH USA | 03/15/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is one of the great intellectual, action movies in the tradition of "Lawrence of Arabia!" The sharp screenplay by Robert Ardrey, an African historian, is crammed with ideas: colonialism, religion, fate, politics, etc. At the same time, it is an incredible recreation of the battles surrounding that period of history and the siege of Khartoum. The battle sequences were directed by none other than Yakima Canutt, the legendary director for the chariot race in "Ben-Hur." Charlton Heston's performance as General Gordon is one of his finest. Laurence Olivier's performance as the Mahdi is outstanding and will leave you a little spooked as he reveals the mind of an Islamic fanatic. This film was not a hit in the United States. I believe that is because it was released in the summer and a movie about the desert should never be released then. ("Lawrence of Arabia" was released right before Christmas.) If released in the winter, it would have done much better business and been given more respect as part of the traditonal end-of-year important films. It was also released in Cinerama, the defunct curved screen process, making the film's incredible photography and direction truly spectacular. And it explains some of the photography angles. I see the DVD is not preserving the original 2.75 Cinerama/Ultra Panavision aspect ratio ("Hello, MGM! Wake up!") but no matter. This is one of the finest historical films you will ever see. And with the recent trajedies, it is even more pertinent. History does repeat itself! One of the finest lines in the film is when General Gordon, Charlton Heston, says to the Mahdi, Laurence Olivier, "While I may die of your miracle, you will surely die of mine." It really does not get much better than this."
"out of the vast, hot, African nowhere..."
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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"."
John A Lee III | San Antonio, TX | 04/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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. "
A Grand, Historic, Sweeping Epic with a cast of thousands
John A Lee III | 10/10/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Does history repeat itself? I first saw this movie years ago. After the first terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in the mid-1990's, when Osama Bin Laden first declared a "jihad" against the United States, I was reminded of the movie. Osama Bin Laden is the spitting image of the "Mahdi", played by Lawrence Olivier. The parallels are uncanny. Believing that he was "the predicted one" spoken of by the prophet Muhammad to bring the sword against infidels and convert the world to Islam, the Mahdi sprung up from the deserts of the Sudan in 1883 to organize a Holy War against the British Empire and all Christendom. A century later, Bin Laden also sprung up from the Sudan (he was expelled from Sudan in 1996 and his assets there seized). In fact, recall when then U.S. President Bill Clinton bombed the aspirin factory there in an attempt to annihilate Bin Laden - in Khartoum! To understand what is taking place in the world today, this movie is a must see. I would highly recommend it for high school and college students, as well as adults desiring to make sense of what drives the radical Islamic jihadists. This movie reveals that their radical mindset is nothing new - it was alive and well in 1883 much the same as today. Besides being a true story, Khartoum is a gripping tale of good versus evil, full of action, battles, and edge of your seat suspense and intrigue. If you haven't seen Khartoum, do it now. It's a TOP 10 for sure."