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Four Feathers, the [Import]

John Clements , Ralph Richardson , Zoltan Korda    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Far too many film versions of the The Four Feathers have been made over the years, which is especially surprising considering that this 1939 Korda brothers production is surely definitive. The film simultaneously celebrates and pokes fun at British imperialism, showing the kind of dogged stiff-upper-lippery that forged an Empire, but also the blinkered attitudes and crass snobbishness of the ruling classes (and those accents--did people ever really talk like that?). Whatever political subtext may or may not be read into it, though, the film is best celebrated for its magnificent vistas: partially made on location in the Sudan, as well as at the famous Denham Studios, this is British cinema from the days when it thought to rival Hollywood for sheer spectacle. Vincent Korda's production design and the glorious early color cinematography are helped greatly by fellow Hungarian émigré Miklos Rozsa's epic score.

John Clements is the notional hero, the man who determines to show the world that he is not a coward after resigning his commission (even though it would surely have saved everyone a lot of bother if he had just stuck with it) but the film is stolen by Ralph Richardson, magnificent as an officer struck blind and led to safety by Clements' Harry Faversham. The later scenes when Richardson's Capt. Durrance realizes the truth and its implications are the most poignant and emotionally truthful in the film. C. Aubrey Smith is delightful as the old buffer who relives his battles on the dinner table; to a modern audience, however, the "blackface" casting of John Laurie as the Khalifa strikes a discordant note. But adjusting some expectations for its vintage, this is a triumph of derring-do and far and away the most gripping version of this oft-told story on film. --Mark Walker

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic! May 21 2004
By flask
Format:VHS Tape
Alexander Korda's "The Four Feathers" (1939) is perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of British filmmaking -- a crowning achievement in Imperialistic propaganda and a nostalgic testimony to the societal traditions which once inhibited us as individuals. Simply put, "The Four Feathers" is a cinematic masterpiece in the vein of "The Drum" (1938), "Kim" (1950"), "The Jungle Book" (1942) and "Gunga Din" (1939). It also represents a rare instance in which a film is far superior to the original novel.
The original novel upon which the film is loosely based was penned by A.E.W. Mason and has an actual excuse for being somewhat flimsy: Following the bloody outbreak of World War I, Mason wrote the story as a mere identity cover while doing espionage work for the British government. He was able to scout northern Africa under this guise of an accomplished author gleaning material for the plot of the novel.
The plot of "Four Feathers" is simple yet engrossing: A young man, Harry Faversham (the dashing John Clements), is brought up by his distant father (Allan Jeayes) in a lonely household steeped in Imperial tradition which values courage and honor above happiness or life itself. His natural human instinct of self-preservation is accentuated into possible cowardice by the horrifying war stories told around the dinner table by old veterans. As he matures, Faversham falls deeply in love with Ethne Burroughs (the radiantly beautiful June Dupréz) and decides that he would rather spend his life in his own way than be trapped in the futile repetitiveness that is a soldier family.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars four feathers on DVD Feb. 18 2004
Format:VHS Tape
Film Buffs look to your neighbors across the Pond. I ordered "A Matter of Life or Death in VHS/Pal and converted it to DVD.The Brits have it in DVD/PAL The locals (USA) dont seem to want to budge (people who could get this on DVD). I'd suggest the same with this wonderful movie. I wrote to Carlton Films/e-mail to check on titles. Film Buffs of the Classics of Korda - there is a wealth of film sitting on the shelf. To serve the many the few are forgotten. Thanks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No Joy July 5 2014
You sent me a copy of The Four Feathers in PAL: We Don't use PAL in North America.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Four Feathers Jan. 22 2014
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I really enjoy the old movies. I found this version much more detailed than the newer one with Heath Ledger so was very pleased that I had purchased it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brave after all! Oct. 4 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is a classic war movie in every sense. The story, the setting and the artistry are wonderful. A great addition to any war-buff's collection.
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