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169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Academy AwardÂ(r) winners* Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier face off in this epic, stirring drama of two men and two empires. Filmed in glorious CineramaÂ(r), with stunning desertbattles staged by the creator of the Ben-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)

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Richard Johnson, Ralph Richardson, Alexander Knox
  • Directors: Basil Dearden, Eliot Elisofon
  • Writers: Robert Ardrey
  • Producers: Julian Blaustein
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: May 7, 2002
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000062XF0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,998 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Khartoum" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 162 people found the following review helpful By k2 on March 15, 2002
Format: DVD
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.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 4, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
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.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful By John A Lee III on April 4, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Richard Arant on October 8, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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