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55 Days at Peking
A handful of men and women held out against the frenzied hordes of bloodthirsty fanatics!
Diplomats, soldiers and other representatives of a dozen nations fend off the siege of the International Compound in Peking during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. The disparate interests unite for survival despite competing factions, overwhelming odds, delayed relief and tacit support of the Boxers by the Empress of China and her generals.
The late career epics of Nicholas Ray really hit the spot. After “King of Kings”, Ray stayed with mega financier Samuel Bronston and produced “55 Days At Peking”, about the siege of the Boxer Rebellion against the Allied embassies in the early 1900’s. Rumored to have collapsed on set and not even finish shooting some scenes, it’s debatable how much others influenced the project, but regardless, I found the film to be an emotional knockout as well as featuring many of the common Ray undercurrents. Starring Charlton Heston as the American military commander and David Niven as the stiff British upper lip who trenches in the Allied forces against the rebels, “55 Days At Peking” is mesmerizing in its action…
It sure is grand, but then so is probably any movie from the mid-century that cost a bajillion dollars.
All the principals are Westerners in yellow-face makeup, which is worth seeing for historians of R*CISM.
Also, there's this kid...who represents...Charlton Heston's connection...to his country? to his humanity? I feel like this was inserted into an otherwise melodramatic struggle of epic sighs and gestures to show everybody that hey, Hollywood cares, goddammit.
I accidentally started watching the dubbed german version which actually has a different song in the beginning (using the same musical theme but having some doofus song made up that explains the setting). It seemed not at all fitting A quick switch to the original sound track and all is fine.
The Movie is inspired by a historical events which the New York Sun called "the most exciting episode ever known to civilization“ so one could assume there may be a exiting movie somewhere in there. This is not it.
"55 Days at Peking“ is a bit of an epic which means it is long and contains a
lot of huge set pieces. Other then most of these epics this…
As a concept and rough outline, this is a story that seems destined for film, as foreign powers in Beijing banded together during the Boxer Rebellion for mutual defense. It's an incredible sort of story, but the film just didn't capture that. The political background seemed underdeveloped, and most of the countries seemed to be overly marginalized and I would've liked to see them in stronger complementary roles.
The plot drags along at points, and if nothing else, the film really does give the vibe of trying to wait something out, it's just not good when the thing I'm trying to wait out is the movie itself. Even the action scenes seem tired.
The film did seem to have one strength, and that was David Niven's role as a British diplomat that played a key role in trying to hold off the siege.
They don't make 'em like that anymore. 55 Days at Peking is film-making on an epic scale, with ginormous sets and thousands of extras; what would these days be plasticky CGI and rendered hordes. Unlike most period epics, this one I found fairly engaging - it didn't drag, the story was interesting, the visuals were great, and they kept the melodramatics and romance in check.
Directed by Nicholas Ray this film stars Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 international diplomats are besieged in the Chinese capital.
As a spectacle this film has some great sets, locations and impressive battle sequences which form the back drop for the story. Despite being based on real events the characters are largely fictional, replacing real people to give a story that fits the studio. When it comes to the question of imperialism and outside influence in China the film tends to leave the morals of the situation somewhat forgotten.
From the extraordinary number of actors in Asianface to the way the Chinese are vilified, 55 Days at Peking has some pretty serious racist implications that have made it age badly. Still, it does explore the way the West exploited China, so it's not completely oblivious. The production value is exemplary and Dimitri Tiomkin's lush, Oscar-nominated score is quite strong. However, the selling point here is Charlton Heston, who is charismatic and photogenic as usual. He and Ava Gardner have a palpable sexual chemistry that makes their too few scenes together tower above any of the unexciting action sequences. For all its scope, this is surprisingly dull, especially once the rebellion is underway. The dreamy Andy Williams tune "So Little Time" that plays at the film's end is rather sublime.
55 Days at Peking is a large scale historical epic told from a Western viewpoint.
It depicts how the foreign residents of the Diplomatic Quarter of Peking managed to hold off a siege of two months during the Boxer rebellion in the summer of 1900, before being relieved by a multi-national expeditionary force.
Don't come to this expecting historical accuracy or a fair minded approach to depicting both sides of the story. The western troops are all shown to be heroic steadfast fellows, while the chinese are all conniving sneaky little buggers.
So what you get is a film that is considered racist by todays standards and while based on fact shows mostly a fictional account.
You need to switch off your modern day mindset and remember this was made in the early 60's. In doing that you should be able to gain some enjoment from this epic adventure story stuffed with overblown characters and heroic action scenes.
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