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USA 1963
Directed by
Nicholas Ray
154 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
1 stars

55 Days At Peking

Director Nicholas Ray quarreled so violently with producer Samuel Bronston that he eventually quit the picture, which was finished by Andrew Marton and Guy Green, both of whom were uncredited, effectively ending his Hollywood career (he also soon afterward suffered a severe heart attack). Shot on a huge 60 acre purpose-built lot near Madrid the hugely expensive film is a ham-fisted sub-Fordian take on the 1900 Boxer rebellion with American military man Charlton Heston and British diplomat David Niven valiantly withstanding the murderous attacks of fiendish Orientals and Ava Gardner providing the eye candy as an adventuress turned self-sacrificing altruist (according to gossip she was so difficult on set that she was written out of the film, resulting in a laughably awful death-bed scene)

1960s big budget spectacles (this was filmed in Super Technorama 70) have not aged well, beyond impressing for the real large-scale logistics which are today replaced with CGI.  This is certainly the case here with the main failing of the film being the Western-centric with God-on-our-side ideology that underpins it, a perspective which at its most egregious resulted in the passing off of a nuggeted-up Robert Helpmann and Flora Robson as Chinese aristocracy.  Such blinkered perception has long since been deconstructed, leaving the film a badly-dated legacy of yesteryear that has nothing to recommend it.




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