GENGHIS KHAN—- always appreciated is history coming alive on film. The Emperor of China could have looked like Robert Morley (“It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark.“), and it’s a given that Genghis’ wife resembled a blond French girl (Francoise Dorleac). Charge! Omar Sharif does what he can as a rather more handsome and considerate Geng than the one encountered by those long-gone peoples he duly put to the sword.* Stephen Boyd drops pretense at warmth and goes Full Bad Guy as ‘Jamuga.’
Fearlessly daft dialogue goes with inspired casting to make this fun for adults with a sense of the absurd, while comic-book plotting and big-scale battles make it neat for little boys—or at least those who saw it back in 1965 (on a double-bill with Cat Ballou: go figure).
“If I were free from this yoke, my hands would steal your jackal breath forever!”
Filmed in Yugoslavia, which served well visually in all the wide-open expanses and hordes of cheaply paid extras. The regulations protecting animals must have been pretty spacey over there, too, judging by the horrendously violent horsefalls that fill up the action scenes.
Dusan Radic thundered up a rousing score befitting the mighty Mongol: its grandeur and sweep is the pictures most creditable accomplishment. Not that it ain’t worth a look–wait’ll you see James Mason (‘Kam Ling’) and Eli Wallach (the ‘Shah of Khwarezm’) got up in exotic 13th-century silks and droopy mustaches. Eli gets to declaim “We will crush this wolf, this thirster after blood, this corrupt defiler of women, this… scavenger!” O’ Foolish Persian of the Funny Hat.
Other Mongols include Telly Savalas and Woody Strode. For the record, the main Asian characters are played by an Egyptian, an Irishman, three Englishman, a French gal and three dudes from the USA: one Greek, one African American/ Creek & Blackfoot, one a Polish Jew.
Galloping past scholars much as The Conqueror did with Wayneghis Khan a decade earlier, this rowdy mid-sized howler runs 124 minutes, directed by Henry Levin. Workmanlike, with 53 features of varying quality on his resume, Levin is rarely mentioned, but when he helmed this $3,500,000 fling he’d been on a run of hits—Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Where The Boys Are and The Wonderful World Of The Brothers Grimm— so no doubt more was expected from this epic than the $2,250,000 it captured in the States.
The script was from Beverley Cross, who gave a nice polish to Jason And The Argonauts before launching The Long Ships and ‘releasing the Kraken’ for Clash Of The Titans, so his make-ancient-talk credentials are hysterical-historical on their own hook. Sharif, 32, recovered lost ground later that same year with the titanic success of Doctor Zhivago, but Boyd took the bad reviews for this on the chin, following the crippling failure of The Fall Of The Roman Empire. With Michael Hordern (in camp heaven and not holding back), Yvonne Mitchell, Kenneth Cope and Don Borisenko.
- *The Prince of Conquerors lived to be 65 (quite the feat for 1227), making up for a rough childhood by subduing over 12,000,000 square miles, reducing by a whopping 11% the population of.. the planet. He also created one of the first postal systems, so we should give the guy a little credit.