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Saturday, October 22, 2011

GENGHIS KHAN (1965)

Omar Sharif & Stephen Boyd play tit-for-tat Mongolian Warlords in this bizarrely cast Irwin Allen (less-than) historical epic about the founding father of the great Khan dynasty. Filmed on an unexpectedly lux scale, it lumbers along with a cast of thousands hacking away at each to little effect. Meantime, a big international cast (James Mason, Françoise Dorléac, Eli Wallach, Robert Morley, Telly Savalas, Michael Hordern, Woody Strode) collect their checks & try to keep a straight face. (YellowFace in the case of Morley & Mason. PC it ain’t, but Mason is deliciously naughty and they make a funny team. Heck, the rest of the cast are about as Mongol as these two are Chinese.) With films like WHERE THE BOYS ARE/’60 on his CV, and two Dean Martin Matt Helm pics coming up, Henry Levin was just the megger for Irwin Allen. They did manage to get Geoffrey Unsworth as cinematographer, but then went with Dusan Radic’s ludicrously overripe score. Happily, they shave a good 30 years off Khan’s life, so we get out after two hours. But not before seeing Beijing interiors that glisten like a Las Vegas Peking Duck joint and palace grounds that might serve as a Ming Dynasty Miniature Golf course. Sink your shot on the last hole and you get to watch the movie all over again!

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Sergei Bodrov’s MONGOL/’07 was supposed to be the first in a Genghis Khan trilogy. Impressive in its physical production, frustratingly opaque in storytelling, the sequels have yet to appear. And now Bodrov’s prepping a film with Jeff Bridges & Julianne Moore! It’s not about the Khans.

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