A domestic sect called Boxers take it upon themselves to terrorize the foreign element in 1900 China. The Dowager Empress (Flora Robson) unofficially supports their attempts to ouster the foreigners (colonialism was still very much part of the landscape) who all reside in a guarded compound. But the league of nations under the leadership of a British diplomat (David Niven) stands its ground. It's just a matter of time before a full out rebellion begins. One of the last of the great movie epics, this is the kind of movie making that we'll never see the likes of again. The producer Samuel Bronston actually built the entire city of Peking in Spain and there are no CGI effects. When you see see a thousand Chinese attacking the compound, those are a thousand humans not 100 people multiplied via CGI to look like a thousand. Though the film's sympathies lie with the foreign legations, the screenplay allows us to see the Chinese point of view and their frustration at how foreign powers are dividing up China like a pie. The romantic narrative between a U.S. Marine (Charlton Heston) and a Russian baroness (Ava Gardner) isn't very compelling but the action set pieces are first rate. I'm not sure how much of the film can be called a Nicholas Ray film. Though he is the only credited director, there are allegations the film was finished by other hands when he had a breakdown. Whatever ... it remains an enjoyable picture of its kind. A marvelous score by Dimitri Tiomkin. With John Ireland, Leo Genn, Paul Lukas, Harry Andrews, Kurt Kasznar, Elizabeth Sellars, Robert Helpmann and Jacques Sernas.
The Anchor Bay blu is a stunning wide screen transfer from a 70 millimeter negative of the original Roadshow release.