In the Sudan, in 1884 to 1885, Egyptian forces led by British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon (Charlton Heston) defend Khartoum against an invading Muslim Army led by a religious fanatic, Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi (Sir Laurence Olivier).
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After an Egyptian Army, commanded by British officers, is destroyed in a battle in the Sudan in the 1880s, the British government is in a quandary. It does not want to commit a British military force to a foreign war, but they have a commitment to protect the Egyptians in Khartoum. They decide to ask General Charles "Chinese" Gordon (Charlton Heston), something of a folk hero in the Sudan, as he had cleared the area of the slave trade, to arrange for the evacuation. Gordon agrees, but also decides to defend the city against the forces of Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi (Sir Laurence Olivier), "The Expected One", and tries to force the British to commit troops.Written by
This movie was criticized for its propagandistic portrayal of good versus evil, a "despotically violent Arab masculinity against a noble, rational Western one." There was also much criticism of casting a white actor as Mohammed Ahmed el Mahdi. See more »
Although Gordon and The Mahdi communicated by courier throughout the siege, they never actually met face-to-face. See more »
Gen. Charles 'Chinese' Gordon:
The Mahdi plans to lay siege to Khartoum. Take it by force. To slaughter all the Egyptians - and those Sudanese who haven't accepted him.
Col. J.D.H. Stewart:
But... there are 35,000 people in Khartoum.
Gen. Charles 'Chinese' Gordon:
Those are his purposes. And I believe him. The man is sincere. He believes utterly in the Divine necessity for what he's doing. How could I have been such a stumbling fool! I'm a man who will question anything, except my own religious convictions. The Mahdi's no different. There's vanity for you! I seem...
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The cinema version was uncut but UK video and DVD releases were cut by 29 secs by the BBFC to edit footage of dangerous horsefalls. See more »
'Khartoum' is a grossly under-rated film that deserves much more.It is an outstanding recreation of the late 19th century war in Sudan where British forces led by the enigmatic General Gordon fought against fanatical tribesmen under the leadership (spell?) of the self proclaimed 'Mahdi'(expected one).Charlton Heston plays Gordon with his usual efficiency but the scene stealer is undoubtedly Sir Laurence Olivier as the 'Mahdi'.His make-up,accent,wardrobe and sheer charisma truly make for heady viewing.The cinematography is excellent and the flavor of the times is captured beautifully.The action scenes are terrific and the score compliments the goings-on perfectly. I would personally rate it on par with the much respected and much loved 'Lawrence of Arabia',which was in much the same mould as this,though made 4 years earlier in 1962.
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