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Genres: Action , Adventure , Drama
Actors: Charlton Heston , Laurence Olivier , Richard Johnson , Ralph Richardson , Alexander Knox , Johnny Sekka , Michael Hordern , Zia Mohyeddin , Marne Maitland , Nigel Green , Hugh Williams , Ralph Michael , Douglas Wilmer , Edward Underdown , Peter Arne
Director: Basil Dearden , Eliot Elisofon
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 1966
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10 (3080 votes)

After an Egyptian army, commanded by British officers, is destroyed in a battle in the Sudan in the 1880’s, 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, 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 the Mahdi – the expected one – and tries to force the British to commit troops.

Film Review

The war against the Mahdists in the Sudan, the first modern confrontation between the so-called "Liberal/Christian" west and the "Arab/Islamic" east was the subject of several films, but one is KHARTOUM, concerning the initial incidents of the war, and several of the other are the several versions of FOUR FEATHERS, concerning the events leading to the final defeat of the Mahdists in 1898 at Omdurmann. The film THE LIGHT THAT FAILED takes place (in part) in the early part of the war, when the British were slowly re-advancing to Khartoum and Omdurmann.KHARTOUM deals with the events from 1883 to January 1885, when a fanatical Islamic fundamentalist known as "the Mahdi" arose in the backwater of the Sudan, preaching destruction of the infidels who were controlling Islam, and eventual domination of the globe by a reinvigorated Islam led by himself. This figure was actually Mohammad Ahmed, a Dongolese of Islamic ancestry. He claimed he was "the Mahdi"…

Among that genre of film that is now almost extinct. Television, especially Public Television does this sort of thing as mini-series and sometimes to the detriment of the subject because the story is abnormally drawn out to cover a certain number of episodes. Khrartum is the best role Charleton Heston ever had, with the possible exception of Will Penny, and I actually liked Laurence Olivier for the first time in years, as the Mahdhi. His mannered acting method almost never allowed me to forget that he was Olivier, but here, the Mahdhi is such an extreme character that I almost forgot it was Olivier playing him. It nearly took away my dislike of him after his weird Othello. This film is a bit on the slow side, but the story went along well, the scenery was fabulously golden and dry, and Heston's Scottish accent was believable. I always enjoy Richard Johnson in anything and here he was, once again the noble 'Horacio' type to Heston's hero, as he was in that Heston direct…

If you watch this film with modest expectations, you will probably like it fairly well. It's not "Lawrence of Arabia," not even in the same ballpark; I mention this because I think "Khartoum" got made because of the success of "Lawrence" a couple of years earlier. (Both films depict obsessed and quite weird Brits in the desert.)"Khartoum" is much too flat and talky, but it definitely has its moments. Olivier's performance as the Mahdi is stunning, unforgettable, filmdom's greatest depiction ever of a radical Islamic fundamentalist who's convinced he can rule the world. The performance is actually far more relevant today than in 1966, when it probably struck many viewers as quaint, an artifact of a bygone era. I don't know if Larry got an Oscar nomination for his work here; if not, shame on the Academy.The battle sequence at the end is good but it's over far too quickly – the whole darn movie points toward it, and th…