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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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent film. Stayed true to actual events. Found it insightful in the events happening currently.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
a classic, and one I enjoy every time I watch it. This movie is a worthy addition to every film library-add it and enjoy.Published 1 month ago by lothlore
Magnificent historical drama with intelligent script. They do not make them like this anymore.Published 2 months ago by steven friedman
An often overlooked film from the 1960s. It's unusual because the story is that of a great yet eccentric commander taking a job he knows will fail. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Bob W.
The 1960's were time when wide-screen epics were all the rage, but few make the cut anymore. Developed to fight the overwhelming presence of television, these behemoths, like... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mark D. Burgh
Khartoum is a great film. It is however certainly more appreciated by a student of history. It is not one of the historical epics that were popular in the early 2000s like Troy,... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
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