55 Days at Peking: Finally on DVD
Written: Mar 30, 2000 (Updated Jun 9, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Bronston, Great production, Charlton Heston, 2.35:1 theatrical format DVD
Cons:Andy Williams title song doesn't seem to fit
The Bottom Line: Great depiction of the foreign legations in 1900 Peking against the Boxers. Gripping fight scenes make it good for action fans and the story will appeal to history buffs
55 Days at Peking (1963)
UPDATE: 55 Days at Peking is finally available on DVD in color in 2.35:1 theatrical format in the entire 150 minute running time. Very worthwhile to see this old favorite in its glory. 6/9/2012
This blockbuster was produced by Samuel Bronston, who produced such epics as El Cid, The Fall of the Roman Empire, and King of Kings.
These movies all featured all-star casts and were characterized by larger than life portrayals of the protagonists. Bronston also spared no expense to bring the flavor of the place and time to his productions building massive sets and using casts of thousands. It is a pity that there are not more producers of this caliber today. The only other film maker I can think of who specialized in big productions was Cecil B. DeMille.
55 Days at Peking starred Charlton Heston, a great actor who specialized in heroic portrayals of uncompromising integrity, notably El Cid, General Gordon at Khartoum, Ben Hur, Moses, and John the Baptist. In "55 Days at Peking", he stars as "Major Matt Lewis", a tough-as-nails U.S. Marine in 1900 China. China is fragmented into feudal territories, controlled by warlords and concessions owned and operated by "foreign devils" the Chinese term for the great powers, such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and, oh yes, America, who are exploiting China for their gain.
Major Lewis commands the garrison of the American legation in Peking. His handful of Marines must protect the legation when the Chinese revolt in what is now called the Boxer Rebellion. The Europeans band together, notably including David Niven, in a typically good performance, as the British ambassador. The Chinese number about 130,000, while the Europeans number in the hundreds or perhaps a thousand in all. Still, with modern weapons they continually repulse the waves of Boxers. When all is said and done, they have been embattled for 55 days before they defeated the Boxers, once and for all, thus the title.
Beautiful Ava Gardner provides a love interest for Major Lewis, basically a fleeting side note to the main story line, and not a big part.
Basically, "55 Days at Peking" is an action movie with heroics, inspiring good emotions for our ol' Yankee pride. I recommend it as a tonic to those who enjoy epic and heroic pictures, as I do, such as "Khartoum", "El Cid", "They Died With Their Boots On", and "The Great Escape".
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