History fascinates me. Not the dates, not so much the politics (though that can be often very interesting, too), but society, culture. How people lived, and how—if you really think about it—mankind hasn’t, fundamentally, changed too much over the past few millennia.
Look at The Fall of the Roman Empire, for instance: a tale of a dying emperor, realizing that his own son—the heir to the throne—is too debauched, too fond of gladiators and wine, to ever be able to fulfill the dying man’s dream of a united Roman Empire. What ensues—as a seeming upstart is nominated successor, as jealousy and hatred arise where there had been camaraderie and boisterous affection—could be true of anything happening today.
Considering the last film I reviewed—about Genghis Khan’s grandson, Halaku (Hulegu Khan)—it seemed to me about time that I watched this one. What strengthened my resolve was that I happened to watch the Julie Andrews-Omar Sharif starrer The Tamarind Seed last week, and I was reminded that Omar Sharif starred as Genghis Khan here. ‘And Omar Sharif as Genghis Khan’, as the credits read. [An uncanny coincidence there, with—as in Halaku—the lead actor’s name appearing at the end of the credited cast].
Like Robert Mitchum, Stewart Granger is one of those actors who just needs to be in a film for me to want to see it. When the film in question boasts of Deborah Kerr opposite Granger, lots of swordplay and palace intrigue, a magnificently villainous villain, and some very fancy costumes: my day is made. And, best of all: not one Granger, but two: he’s in a double role here (well, one of the characters is hardly there, but still). Yippee!
I’m not a fan of mindless violence and blood and gore, but I’ve always adored old war movies. Whether it’s a fast-paced Alistair MacLean type thriller (read Where Eagles Dare, one of my all-time favourites) or a reliving of a real event, I love the atmosphere: the Schmeissers and the Vickers, the invariably atrocious German accents, the partisan natives, the courage and inherent good-ness of the good guys, which always triumphs over their own other weaknesses. Clichéd, I know, but watchable, too—as in this case.