Khartoum is an action-filled entertainment pic which contrasts personal nobility with political expediency. The colorful production builds in spectacular display, enhanced by Cinerama presentation, while Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier propel towards inevitable tragedy the drama of two sincere opponents.
Filmed in Egypt and finished at England’s Pinewood Studios, the historical drama depicts the events leading up to the savage death of General Charles Gordon, famed British soldier, as he sought to mobilize public opinion against the threat of a religious-political leader who would conquer the Arab world.
Heston delivers an accomplished performance as Gordon, looking like the 50-year-old trim soldier that Gordon was when picked to evacuate Khartoum of its Egyptian inhabitants.
Olivier, playing the Mahdi, is excellent in creating audience terror of a zealot who sincerely believes that a mass slaughter is Divine Will, while projecting respect and compassion for his equally-religious adversary.
Basil Dearden directs with a fine hand, while Yakima Canutt, second unit director given prominent screen credit, works simultaneously to create much big-screen razzledazzle action.
1966: Nomination: Best Original Story & Screenplay