Saturday, September 21, 2013

1963 - 55 DAYS AT PEKING - another super sized production from Samuel Bronston

Producer Samuel Bronston who never thought modest in his film productions decided to dramatize the 1900 Chinese Boxer rebellion.  To accomplish this task he literally built the city of Beijing in Spain.  This is a massive production involving huge sets and employed the famous "cast of thousands."

Nicholas Ray was hired to direct and either had a nervous breakdown or a heart attack dealing with the extreme demands of Ava Gardner and the overwhelming technical details of the production.  2nd unit director Andrew Marton coordinated the battle and destruction scenes and another director Guy Green who had worked as a cinematographer for David Lean finished up the film. 

I will admit this is not a great film, the soap opera love story plot between Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner really slows down the film and is not remotely interesting.  However the amazing sets and action pieces are really something to see with the vast cast of extras deployed in the battle scenes.  Where did they dig up all those Chinese extras in Spain?

You can dust off the old cliche "they don't make them like this anymore,"  but the reality is they don't. This mindless film is fun to watch (especially on a large screen televison), with it's 70mm photography and old school star powered cast which included Heston, Gardner and David Niven.  It's a very enjoyable time killer. A fascinating example of excess in the film business.

150 minutes

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