Immersed in Blu-ray: Khartoum

Basil Dearden’s underrated Mid-East epic from 1966 dazzles in a limited edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time (Oliver!, Zulu, The Way We Were).

Coming toward the end of the roadshow era of extravaganzas, Dearden (Victim, The League of Gentlemen, The Blue Lamp) serves up ill-fated anti-imperialism in Ultra-Panavision 70 (wonderfully shot by Ted Scaife). It’s about the real-life 19th century face-off between two religious fanatics in the Sudan: Charlton Heston’s British General Gordon and Laurence Olivier’s Mahdi, the self-anointed “Expected One.”

Khartoum explores the collision of vision and vanity: a rather dour indictment of Mid-East politics, which also anticipated the darkening conflict in Vietnam, for good measure. As historian Julie Kirgo writes in the notes, the film falls glances back at Lawrence of Arabia and looks ahead to Patton (both Gordon and the Mahdi believed in reincarnation and that they were divinely inspired). While Heston gives one of his most restrained and contemplative performances, while Olivier shows off his charisma and theatrical skill. Meanwhile, the fall of Khartoum, a bloody annihilation, is magnificently staged by the legendary Yakuma Canutt and his second unit.

Time has been kind to Khartoum, as this Blu-ray attests, at 2.76:1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA. It’s definitely worth the upgrade from DVD.

 

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech

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