Saturday, July 4, 2015

Movies from the Imperial Age

In keeping with what I'm reading, I decided to track down a couple of appropriate films. Three I've seen, the other only glimpsed part of years ago.

The first is Khartoum (1966). It stars Charlton Heston as Charles "Chinese" Gordon and Lawrence Olivier as Muhammad Ahmed, the Mahdi. The problem I see for many modern viewers will be the pretty terrible blackface worn by Olivier to portray a dark-skinned Sudanese. Personally, I'm less worried about that than I am by Olivier's awful hamminess. I haven't seen it in years, and I'm curious how it holds up.

The second is the blackly comic, Royal Flash (1975), the great Richard Lester's film about George MacDonald Fraser's rogue, Harry Flashman. It stars Malcolm McDowell and Oliver Reed, and it really doesn't get much better than that in the seventies for my money. Scripted by Fraser, it's the only one of the Flashman novels to ever be filmed. I haven't read anyof the books (yet). I remember liking this movie a lot.

Next, returning to seriousness, I got Zulu Dawn (1979), a prequel to Zulu (1964). It depicts the victory by Zulu forces under King Cetshwayo at Isandlwana earlier in the same day as the Battle of Rorke's Drift. Again, I remember liking it, but I have no idea how it stands up today.

Finally, a strange film I saw bits and piece of on cable several years ago: The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). It's filled with all sorts of off-kilter moments and Punch-inspired animation. It's supposed to be both satirical and decently accurate, its script be heavily based on The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith, a study of the Light Brigade's fatal charge. As I'm about to dive into Trevor Royle's history of the war, Crimea: The Great Crimean War, I'll probably watch this first.


  1. Do yourself a favor and pick up a Flashman novel-wonderfully hilarious.
    I would also recommend the movies - Zulu, The Wind and the Lion, and The man who would be King.

    1. I really need to start the Flashman books. Thanks for the movie ideas - I haven't watched any of those in nearly twenty years. I'll watch Zulu Dawn and Zulu back to back. And then I need to figure out which is the best version of The Four Feathers (or maybe I'll just watch 'em all).

  2. I recently watched ZULU DAWN and found it mostly boring. It just doesn't have the personal level tension of ZULU.

    1. Thanx for the warning. I only saw it once over twenty years ago and have no recollection of its quality.