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.
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.