111 of 121 people found the following review helpful
A first rate, rip-roaring adventure story,
This review is from: The Four Feathers [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 28, 2006 7:45:45 PM PST
Anthony J. Kentuck says:
Dear Mr Moore
your review would hold a lot more credence if you hadn't stuffed it up by stating that
in the, then, upcoming remake, the Ralph Richardson part was to be played by Heath Ledger and the
John Clements part by Wes Bently, when in actual fact it was the other way around, but then you're a
critic, a breed that all too rarely has any talent of their own!!
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2007 4:59:11 PM PDT
Eric Pregosin says:
At ease, Mr. Kentuck. So he got the roles reversed, he's human and humans make mistakes. In all honesty though the 2002 version was more a remake of the made for tv remake in 1978. I have all 3 disc and each one is enjoyable in its own right. The "remake" of this version is in fact the 1956 version titled Storm over The Nile which was also done by the Korda brothers.
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