I'll say it again: This is one of the greatest adventure/romance epics ever made -- and I don't use those terms lightly. Harry Faversham (John Clements), whose family wore its military tradition as its badge of honor, resigns his commission when his regiment is sent to Egypt to help win back the Sudan under Kitchener. His three best friends, who were fellow officers, and his fiance, Ethne Burroughs (June Duprez), give him white feathers as a mark of cowardice. He is determined to prove them wrong, goes to the Sudan on his own, and redeems himself in rousing adventures.
Particularly good is Ralph Richardson as Captain John Durrance, one of the three friends, who had silently been in love with Ethne Burroughs. Blinded by sunstroke and left for dead after an attack on his detachment by part of the Mahdi's Army, Durrance is rescued by a native peasant whom he cannot see and who will not speak. The peasant, of course, is Harry Faversham. Later in England, he faces a terrible dilemma with only one honorable choice. Richardson brings so much skill to the part of Durrance, whether the brisk and optimistic epitome of an upper-class officer or as a man in love doing the right thing, that he almost steals the movie.
The sweeping photography of the Nile and Egypt is first-rate, and the battle scenes are big and wide. The romance is understated and noble. And there is some sly, good-natured humor aimed by the Kordas at British traditions. The movie is more than 65 years old and is as fresh and exciting as it was when it first came out. It was filmed in Technicolor; the colors are rich and vibrant. It features a great score by Miklos Rozsa.
This is one of those excellent movies that make you wonder why anyone would attempt a remake.
Incidentally, June Duprez starred the next year in another great adventure, The Thief of Bagdad. It's as worth purchasing as Four Feathers.
on 16 January 2015
I Totally agree with other reviewers about this film being a classic amongst British films , a great love story wrapped in a fantastic Victorian war/adventure story , i wont deal with the overall story as i know others have done a better job of this before , my brief review is for anyone thinking about whether it is worth buying the new Bluray copy which has been released over maybe an old dvd copy they have . lets remember firstly that this movie is 76 year old , and although it has been restored because of the film stock used at that time there is a lot of graininess in many parts of the film , mostly in the internal studio shot scenes , and in the filtered darkness scenes midway through the film , this is to be expected , what i didn't expect was the fact that most of the movie especially the scenes shot outside would be so stunning and so very very well restored .
i had to stop rewind and just glory in some of these scenes , they were so sharp and so bold with the contrast and colors that they looked like they had been filmed last week . The red of the British tunics was stunning the colors of the African landscape and the native tribesman robes etc was so sharp and distinct , even the mighty Nile looked incredible with the muddy waters rushing by with great clarity and definition , now i watched this on a Samsung 55 inch Led T.V. and i was extremely impressed with the jump up in quality from the old dvd copy i have in my collection , this is surely the best this old classic has ever looked , and how many times do we here of a totally below par dvd transfer to Bluray failing to impress . There,s a couple of extras on the disc which i have not had time to look at yet inc a 1975 interview with Ralph Richardson and the usual original film trailer , also a newsreel film called " A DAY AT DENHAM " as well as an image gallery , the cover artwork is great and who ever did the restoration made an incredible job of the old film , it is in my opinion WELL WORTH the upgrade especially if you have the right T.V. and set up to get the best out of the Bluray disc , so don't hesitate to get it and enjoy this classic all over again as you have never seen it before ..
on 18 July 2008
It is remarkable to think that this classic British adaption of A.E.W Masons' much-filmed 1902 novel dates back nearly seventy years at the time of writing. During the 1930s' British cinema was noted for its' so-called 'quota quickies'- run of the mill movies which are now largely forgotten. Of course there were some high quality pictures released here during that decade- notably for example Alfred Hitchcocks' remarkable run of features (albeit brilliant films that now look dated) and the hilarious exploits of Will Hay, but with the former about to depart for Hollywood it was left to the Hungarian-born Korda brothers to usher in the remarkable decade of British film making that was to follow. They had already made an impression in the world of film as early as 1933 with 'The Private Life of Henry VIII', cited by many as the first British feature to make an impact in America, but 'The Four Feathers' is filmmaking on a different level.
One of the most striking elements of this 1939 movie is its' feature-length, Academy Award-nominated Technicolor. Back then even American cinema was only just beginning to realise the possibilities of this new but expensive process; four years after the first full-length, three-strip technicolor film (Becky Sharp), black-and-white movies were still dominant. The cinematographer of The Four Feathers, Frenchman Georges Perinal, makes the most of the opportunity presented here; the colours used in the scenes set in England perfectly evoke the era of Britain in which it is set (the late 19th century) and the Egyptian scenes, including the shots of the River Nile and the desert, are simply stunning and even now they make spectacular viewing. The bright red uniforms worn by the soldiers also come through well. The location provides a great, expansive setting for some remarkably staged battle sequences featuring countless extras and plenty of guns.
The plot which I'm not going to give much of away concerns Harry Faversham (John Clements) who is accused of cowardice when he betrays his family tradition and refuses to participate in the war against Sudanese rebels, much to the disappointment of his beautiful fiancée (June Duprez), who alongside three of his friends including John Durrance (Ralph Richardson in a major role), presents him with a white feather to signify her feelings- hence the title of the story. Faversham swiftly changes his mind however and sets out to engage himself in an act of phenomenal heroism in an attempt to redeem himself. This involves disguising himself as a dumb member of the opposition army, a dangerous mission if ever there was one.
The performances in this movie are first rate, especially John Clements in the main role alongside Ralph Richardson as John Durrance. Richardsons' charisma really shows up on the screen. The ageing C.Aubrey Smith is the pick of the bunch however in my view as Harry Favershams' crusty father-in-law, he has an air of traditional British humour about him in his recollections of the way things were in his day. Duprez makes a glamourous Ethne Burroughs and she would become hot property the following year as the princess in the Thief of Baghdad, a fantasy movie I wholeheartedly recommend. Unfortunately her movie career went off the rails soon after that.
I would however point to a few elements of the film that I feel uncomfortable with; first of all the scene where Harry Faversham gets himself branded to aid his disguise (ouch, that makes me cringe!) and secondly the moment in which John Durrance gets blinded by the sun in an open area of desert. Most viewers nowadays will complain that the film contains racist references (the term 'fuzzy wuzzies' was even used as a promotional tagline!). Of course this sort of thing has rightly been eradicated from cinema today but back then views were different so I urge people to put this film into its' historical context. These are only minor criticisms.
The DVD transfer is very good on the whole. The print does look a bit dated at times compared to say the much-restored 'Wizard of Oz' (also 1939) but it is better than one would expect. As for the DVD extras we get an image gallery, the trailer and a 1973 Russell Harty interview with Richardson which is okay but I would have preferred it if Richardson had talked more about his career and spent less time telling jokes! This is overall however an excellent release of a motion picture which I'm sure will continue to dazzle movie watchers for years to come.
on 17 July 2007
This film has been made and remade 7 times this is the fourth remake and by far the best.
The 3 previous 2 had been silent movies thats didnt do very well and in 1929 another version was made but the 1939 version is the fim that stands out not only in 30's cinema but in cinema today.
starring John Clements, Ralph Richardson and June Duprez. Set in the 1880s during the reign of Queen Victoria, it tells the story of a man accused of cowardice.
It would be best to watch 1966 film called Khartoum starring Charlton Heston as Genral Gordan as the four feathers comes straight after the events in Khartoum.
This is an example of how great technicolor can be when it first came out still realy good colour to this day.
The Picture quality of the film i would give it 4 out 5 probably the best print out there.
Some great battle scenes towards the end a strong story.
A must for any cinema lover or fan of brittish cinema at its best.
'Harry Faversham' born into a family with great military tradition and history, grew up hearing of
heroic's and sacrifice and a loathing for cowards.
Now grown up, 'Harry' (John Clements) serves in the army as did his forefathers.
His regiment are about to be posted to Egypt to reclaim the territory lost when 'General Gordon'
and his command were overrun at Khartoum 10 years earlier.
Now his father has died, 'Harry' decides to resign his commission, he no longer feels the need
to uphold the tradition and expectations.
The decision will hugely disappoint his fiancee's 'Ethne's (June Duprez) father, she will share
the shame of it.
'Harry' receives three white-feathers from his childhood friends and once comrades 'John Durrance'
(Ralph Richardson) 'Peter Burroughs' (Donald Gray) and 'Thomas Willoughby' (Jack Allen)
'Harry' has been branded a coward, the fourth feather he takes from 'Ethne's' white feather fan.
Meanwhile the regiment are making preparations for battle, his three friends that sent him the feathers
At home, 'Harry' is struggling with the decisions he'd made, he believes himself deserving of the four
feathers he holds.
After much thought, 'Harry' decides to travel to Egypt to rejoin 'Kitchener's' offensive, his intention to
earn the right to return the feathers to his friends with honour.
Perhaps he one day return home with pride to perhaps reclaim the hand of 'Ethne'
He travels in disguise with the enemy, just before a surprise attack on the advance-force, he tries to
warn the encampment of the danger, however he is rendered unconscious by a blow to the head, the
moderate force are overrun, two of his friends become captives, the third 'John' had been blinded by
exposure to the sun left for dead.
'Harry' crossing desert and rowing down river struggles to get his friend to safety.
Many moons later, 'Harry' locates captives 'Peter' and 'Thomas' though suffering intense punishment
the opportunity to do the right thing and return the feathers to his friends keeps him focused and determine.
Considering the film was first released in 1939 the picture quality on the Blu-ray format is really quite
impressive, the sound quality also good, the film was of course not made for wide-screen the presentation
Many versions have been made since, however despite it's age, this is the one to watch.
An Early Classic !!
Special Features -
* Original Theatrical Trailer.
* A Day at Denham newsreel film.
* Archive 1975 Interview with 'Ralph Richardson'
* Image Gallery.
The best cinematic treatment of A.E.W. Mason's novel is here, a rousing and moving tale of a military man who is branded as a coward by those closest to him. Receiving four feathers as a sign of cowardice, Howard Faversham is inspired to go redeem himself in the eyes of his peers during the Mahdist War 1895.
Zoltan Korda throws everything but the "Kitchener" sink at the production.
1939 was a stellar year for cinema, arguably the greatest ever. Action/Adventure film fans were treated royally this year, with the likes of Beau Geste, Gunga Din and The Four Feathers to whet the appetites. The latter is a top line production, a Technicolor spectacle of derring-do and manly codes such as bravery and honour. Some these days may balk at the imperialist fervour that hums along the way, and some characterisations are very much of the time, but with such film making expertise on show, from direction, acting, costuming, photography and musical score, this is classical cinema in its purist form. 9/10
on 11 January 2011
The film is as good as every other reviewer claims. I'll just mention that the DVD is nicely done. There's no impediment to your enjoyment; the highly saturated and vivid Technicolor hues look fantastic, and probably exactly as they did when this film was first projected in 1939. I have the Network release. It's well presented with attractive images and has some useful info noting the cast and crew and chapter titles. Even the special features are good. You get the theatrical trailer, an image gallery of the stars and scenes from the film, and a very entertaining interview where Russell Harty often fails to get a word in while Ralph Richardson enjoys himself talking to Harty's studio audience. 5 stars!
on 23 April 2003
The Korda 'Feathers' is a marvellous treat, in almost all categories superior to the recent remake which looks embarassingly bland in comparison.
Korda's film has edge, political rather than social, in its satire, and it raises the imperialist issue and questions patriotic flagwaving to an extent that makes it highly relevant today. Its jokes are consistently subversive, even more so today in the wake of the Iraqi war.
The film has an abounding authenticity when dealing with Egyptians and locations, and although the first battle seems rather lowbudget compared to the grandeur of the recent remake, overall this 1939 spectacularly Technicoloured film has all the production values one could wish for. This edition has been lovingly produced and is a joy to watch.
on 27 December 2013
I loved the historic scenes---the English countryside/manor/and London---
but most of all the authentic native action. The battle scenes filmed in
Africa, are colorful and seem as genuine as can be imagined. The cast
does a fine job, costuming is great. I think learning of the that era, via
this film, can be thought of as an educational experience.
on 3 May 2013
Based on the novel by A E W Mason, this is good old fashioned 'Boys Own' adventure story set in the Sudan shortly after Gordon of Khartoum was killed. An army officer resigns his commission just as his regiment is posted to the battle front in the Sudan. His friends and his fiancee each send him a white feather signifying cowardice. He sets out to prove them wrong. Made in 1939 and shot on location in the Sudan, the technicolor film quality belies its age and is very good for its era. This story has been filmed a couple of times under different titles, but this is arguably the best. PS: I wrote that about the DVD. I now have a Blu-ray version; The video is markedly better with vibrant colours and a lighter, brighter picture, particularly in the indoor shots. The sound, on the other hand, was not so satisfactory. The speech was clear enough but has a slightly louder dynamic and the music suffered from amplitude distortion. Having said that the Blu-ray is worth having for the picture alone.