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55 Days At Peking [Blu-ray]
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 12 April 2014
The film made in the true 'Hollywood' tradition of the 'Epic's' era of the
late 50's to mid 60's.
This a sweeping and dramatic production set at the beginning of the 20th
century during the 'Boxer' uprising in 'China'
The Film starring 'Charlton Heston' who seemed to often be the 'face' of
the epic's of that era, he starred notably in films such as 'The Ten Commandments'
'Ben Hur' and the film it's been said he was born to front 'El Cid'
The Film :
In 'Peking' a compound is occupied by Foreign Diplomats and businessmen with
their family's from around a dozen countries including 'America' 'Britain' 'France'
'Germany' and 'Russia' protected by a small force of troops from each.
Major 'Matt Lewis' (Charlton Heston) returns to 'Peking' with his small troop of
marines, from the outset there seems to be a hint of romance between him and
a guest (who is about to be turned out of the hotel) Russian 'Baroness Natasha
The Major forms close links with 'British' Ambassador 'Sir Arthur Robertson' (David
Niven) as unrest deepens outside of the compound.
'The Dowager Empress' wants the foreign intruders out of 'China'
The compound is soon under siege from thousands of 'Boxer's' who outnumber the
small garrison considerably, it will take all the ingenuity and courage the defenders
can muster.
Only the leadership of the 'Major' and 'British Ambassador' holds the desperate attempt
to survive the onslaught in check.
The 'Empress' orders her generals to involve the army under their command to prevent
a relief force from reaching 'Peking' to assist the defenders.
'The 'Countess' who had initially attempted to leave roles up her sleeves to assist the
surgeon with the wounded.
The film has moments of compassion, a hint of romance, moments of sadness coupled
with tension and frequent battle (siege) scenes.
A well made '1963' production that has been given an impressive upgrade to the 'Blu-ray
( until now, I hadn't seen the film for many a year, I remember it being a good film, in truth
I'd forgotten just how good, many of the great 'epic's' of those times were well made, standing
the test of time and well worth seeing, as is the case with this.
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on 19 February 2010
This if by far the best print of 55 Days At Peking I have ever seen. With the Intermission included and great song at the end. Beautiful wide-screen transfer with brilliant colours as well as audio. Thoroughly recommended.
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on 7 May 2016
Too many parts of this had been cut out. It is disjointed and flows as smoothly as concrete. Some vandal has cut out huge lumps and destroyed a great film. If you want to watch this magnificent film avoid the repulsive copy I was fobbed off with. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T GET RIPPED OFF BY A VANDALISED RELIC OF A GREAT FILM. Amazon should be ashamed to be an accomplice to this crime.
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on 19 February 2015
55 DAYS AT PEKING [1963] [Blu-ray] Romantic Adventure! Exciting Action!

A sweeping story of loyalty and love; as a small group of foreigners are trapped inside the Forbidden City of Peking, under siege by thousands of Chinese fanatics. The courage and leadership of a US Marine [Charlton Heston] and the British Ambassador [David Niven] are the only hope against unsurmountable odds, while a beautiful Russian Countess [Ava Gardner] must choose between freedom and commitment.

Samuel Bronston's '55 Days at Peking' is an unforgettable tale of un-parallel fury, brought to life with passion, romance, and violence of a historic time.

FILM FACT: The film received two Academy Award® nominations for Dimitri Tiomkin for Best Original Song and Lyrics by Paul Francis Webster. Original Music Score. In addition to directing, Nicholas Ray plays the minor role of the head of the American diplomatic mission in China. This film is also the first known appearance of future martial arts film star Yuen Siu Tien. Japanese film director Juzo Itami, credited in the film as Ichizo Itami, appears as Colonel Goro Shiba. Most of the starring Chinese roles, including the Empress Dowager and her Prime Minister, are played by white performers. The Japanese in the foreign legation are played by Asian actors, but they have relatively minor roles. This film was originally distributed by The Rank Organisation.

Cast: Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, David Niven, Flora Robson, John Ireland, Harry Andrews, Leo Genn, Robert Helpmann, Kurt Kasznar, Philippe Leroy, Paul Lukas, Elizabeth Sellars, Massimo Serato, Jacques Sernas, Jerome Thor, Geoffrey Bayldon, Joseph Fürst, Walter Gotell, Jûzô Itami, Mervyn Johns, Alfredo Mayo, Martin Miller, Conchita Montes, José Nieto, Eric Pohlmann, Aram Stephan, Robert Urquhart, Lynne Sue Moon, Burt Kwouk (old man voice), Lucy Appleby (uncredited), R.S.M. Brittain (uncredited), Carlos Casaravilla (uncredited), Michael Chow (uncredited), Michael Chow (uncredited), Siu Loi Chow (uncredited), Félix Dafauce (uncredited), Andrea Esterhazy (uncredited), Nicholas Ray (US Minister uncredited), Robert Rietty (Spanish Minister (voice) uncredited) and Fernando Sancho (Belgian Minister uncredited)

Directors: Nicholas Ray, Guy Green and Andrew Marton

Producer: Samuel Bronston

Screenplay: Bernard Gordon, Philip Yordan, Robert Hamer (additional dialogue) and Ben Barzman (uncredited)

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Cinematography: Jack Hildyard

Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 [Super Technirama 70]

Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 Digital Dolby Stereo

Subtitles: None

Running Time: 166 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Andrew's Blu-ray Review: Hollywood filmmaking took a turn in 1953, when Twentieth Century-Fox released ‘The Robe,’ its first CinemaScope picture. Historical epics had been popular since silent-movie days, but the enormous size and scale offered by innovative Super Technirama 70 widescreen technology seemed made to order for an industry now in hot competition with television. Before long everyone from Douglas Sirk’s ‘Sign of the Pagan’ [1954] to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Spartacus’ [1960] was working on an eye-filling spectacle with a historical theme, and producer Samuel Bronston made them his personal mission, building a studio complex in Spain that was sprawling enough to accommodate the gazillions of stars, extras, and technicians the genre required. Samuel Bronston produced five historical epics during the early 1960s, starting with ‘King of Kings’ and ‘El Cid’ in 1961 and ending with ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ and ‘Circus World’ three years later. None brought more problems to its makers than the 1963 production ‘55 Days at Peking’ and directed by Nicholas Ray in Super Technirama 70 with Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, and David Niven in the leads.

The story takes place during the Boxer Rebellion, which shook China at the turn of the twentieth century. Angry about foreign powers, imperialist land grabs, and Christian evangelists posing threats to traditional Chinese culture, the ultraconservative Boxers persuaded the ruling Qing Dynasty to drive out the countries responsible for these influences. In the year 1900 a multitude of Boxers swarmed into Peking, as Beijing was then known by Westerners, and drove the foreigners and Chinese Christians living there into a single small area, aided by an influx of government troops. The besieged diplomats, soldiers, and citizens held off their attackers for fifty-five days, until fighters sent by an alliance of eight nations came to the rescue arriving in the nick of time like cavalries in an old-fashioned western, according to the film's version of these harrowing events.

`55 Days at Peking' focuses on three main characters. Charlton Heston plays Matt Lewis, the tough-as-nails American major who takes command of a 500-man defence unit inside the diplomatic compound. David Niven plays Sir Arthur Robertson, the good-natured British ambassador who votes to stay in Peking when all the other diplomats are eager to pack their things and go. Ava Gardner plays Natalie Ivanoff, a fading Russian baroness with a checked past her infidelity drove her husband to kill himself and a newfound capacity for sacrifice. The most compelling secondary characters are Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi [Flora Robson], the reigning monarch whose support is crucial to the Boxers' campaign, and Prince Tuan [Robert Helpmann], a schemer who's more interested in power than in the dynasty's long-term wellbeing. Also on hand are Sargent Harry [John Ireland], who serves Lewis as a sort of conscience, Dr. Steinfeldt [Paul Lukas], a seasoned physician trying to keep the wounded Westerners alive, and Teresa [Lynne Sue Moon], a Chinese-American child orphaned by the conflict.

Producer Samuel Bronston had grand ambitions for ‘55 Days at Peking,’ and the film represents the epic moviemaking that characterised the golden age of Hollywood. The battle sequences are stunning in their scope, and Beijing was re-created in elaborate and enormous sets. Although these features drew much praise, they drove up production costs and contributed to the film's losing money despite its success at the box office. Other production troubles included director Nicholas Ray's walking off the set near the end of filming. Andrew Morton and Guy Green completed the movie, though they were uncredited. A first-rate cast is marred only by the use of Western actors as Asian characters. Also to note, is Dimitri Tiomkin's brilliant and stunning film score.

But the film remains in memory for its flashing movement and fireworks. The producers were sensible enough to keep the dialogue, which is often banal, to a minimum. Although it was all done in and around Madrid, the sound and fury and beauty of these momentous ‘55 Days at Peking' are brought vividly to life. Most of the principals and their stories are not.

Blu-ray Video Quality – Anchor Bay UK's Region B/2 Blu-ray of `55 Days at Peking' is a very good 1080p encoded image sourced from a 2013 restoration and exceedingly brilliant 2.35:1 [Super Technirama 70] aspect ratio. It comes complete with long overture, intermission and exit music. The clean image has vivid colours, even if some scenes appear on the weak side, with the density perhaps a bit light. The Anchor Bay Blu-ray disc of `55 Days At Peking' is yet another classic offering available only in Region B/2. The price is totally brilliant and can't be beaten, that's for sure. I suppose a Region A/1 release could turn up sometime in the near future, especially for the U.S.A. film fans.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – `55 Days at Peking' blasts onto Blu-ray with a steady dynamic 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The audio is superb on this release, with a deep, rich sound that helps submerge viewers into the action and drama. Dialogue is always crisp and clear, remaining intelligible in even the most action-laden portions. Essentially, the audio track makes full use of the variety of speakers housed in high definition via your Home Cinema set-up and works really well to create a rich and fulfilling experience for audiences' ears!

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: Restoration Extra [1080p] Here you get to see the difference in image quality via 3 Chapters. With this brilliant demonstration, you first get to see the 8 perforation Original Camera Negative and then you get compare the 35mm Reduction Negative. With the 8 perforation Original Camera Negative you get to see a crisp stunning sharp image, which is really enhanced on this Blu-ray disc. Whereas the 35mm Reduction Negative the image is very soft warm colours and not very sharp and of course seeing it in 1080p makes the image it look even worse. The whole demonstration is totally silent, which is a crying shame, as I would have liked to compare to see if there was any difference in the audio clarity. The Image Restoration was done by Pinewood Studios in the UK and was restored in 2013 from the 8 perforation Original Camera Negative, which is the aspect ratio 2.35:1 [Super Technirama 70].

Special Feature: Playout Music: The Peking Theme "So Little Time" and was recorded by Andy Williams. The words were composed by Paul Francis Webster. Paul Francis Webster [20th December, 1907 – 18th March, 1984] and was an American lyricist who won three Academy Awards® for Best Song and was nominated sixteen times for the award. Music was composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. The name Dimitri Tiomkin calls forth the image of one of Hollywood’s most distinguished and best-loved composers. Whether the genre was Westerns, drama, comedy, film noir, adventure, or war documentary, Dimitri Tiomkin’s visceral, dramatic underscores helped bring more than 100 feature films to vivid life. The list of respected directors who continuously called on his services is impressive: Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, and Alfred Hitchcock among them.

Bonus Information: The Title Background Paintings were produced by Dong Kingman. Dong Kingman was a Chinese American artist and one of America's leading watercolour masters. As a painter on the forefront of the California Style School of painting, he was known for his urban and landscape paintings, as well as his graphic design work in the Hollywood film industry. He has won widespread critical acclaim and his works are included in over 50 public and private collections worldwide, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Brooklyn Museum; DeYoung Museum and Art Institute, Chicago.

Finally, it is hard to deny that `55 Days in Peking' is short on psychological depth and historical accuracy, and the dialogue contains the kind of insensitive racial comments that have become mercifully rare today. Still, the visuals are as arresting as ever and it's no wonder that reviewer after reviewer has praised the spectacular fireworks, especially at the climax and the film vividly represents a bygone age of international spectaculars that made up in extravagance what they sometimes lacked in coherence and common sense. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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on 7 December 2011
Many have asked why "55 Days in Peking" or other movies like "El Cid", "The Fall of the Roman Empire" or again "Circus World" did not receive a proper Hollywood treatment...

The answer is simple. They were all Samuel Bronston's productions, and Mr. Bronston was at odds with the Hollywood establishment of the time.
Hollywood can be a very jealous and unforgiving "lover". If you do not strictly play by their rules, they may hold a grudge on you... for years.
Just look at what happened to Darryl Zanuck, the creator of 20th Century-Fox himself, in the early-mid sixties and you will see that those gentlemen
do not joke around...

If this is still the case is a question for the savvy (I would doubt it after all these years...). Yet it is known that once you're out, you're out.
Hollywood very seldom grants a second chance.

See also the example of some Orson Welles movies which have also been re-released recently, but just by a Korean and Portuguese distribution companies.

In the case of Bronston's pictures, only two ("El Cid" and "The Fall of the Roman Empire") have seen a recent revival through a privately owned distributor in the U.S. called The Miriam Collection (The Weinstein Company), which has restored and remastered them both back to their original glory.

Some years ago they announced other titles of this series to be re-released in this fashion, but alas, thus far none of the others received this treatment.

Let's hope in a better future next way round.

In any case, don't doubt the Korean distributions, nor, for this matter the Brazilian (Portuguese) ones. I already own a few and can guarantee that they stand at par with other products made both in Europe as well as in the United States.

The only difference is that they may not come with tons of extras attached to them, nor a plethora of foreign dubs or subtitles (except of course Korean and/or Portuguese), but what they usually have are both the Original version of the soundtrack coupled with an added Korean or Portuguese one.
If the superimposed Korean or Portuguese subtitles stand in your way, just remove them by activating the appropriate button on your remote.

The two more prominent and recent releases are "The Egyptian" (1954) (The Korean version is Digitally remastered in sound and vision), although 20th Century-Fox has also done their homework and now are releasing the very same movie with an additional separate music soundtrack score, through Twilight Time in a limited 3,000 copy version, and "Genghis Khan" (1965), starring Omar Sharif, which has been released in Germany first, by Columbia Pictures, and immediately afterwards by Sony Pictures in the U.S. (both do not sport any remastering in either sound or sight - they just slammed the widescreen version on a DVD et voila!).
But please be warned.
There is also a Spanish version of Genghis Khan. Stay away form that one, unless you want it in a 4x3 Full Screen video format (meaning that you lose 2/3 of the frame ratio of the original screen width...)

I hope I have been able to clarify some points here and enable you to browse around and find that not always Hollywood does the job it should, but that many others out there are more than happy to help out.
Sometimes even with better results...

Happy viewings.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 March 2012
55 Days at Peking is directed by Nicholas Ray and Andrew Marton and collectively written by Philip Yordan, Bernard Gordon, Robert Hamer and Ben Barzman. It stars Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, David Niven and Flora Robson. Music is scored by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography is by Jack Hildyard.

1900, Peking, China. The Boxer Rebellion. 13 of 18 provinces are under foreign rule and the Chinese have had enough. With Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi secretly supporting the Boxer societies, the foreign powers come under attack and are forced to defend the legations' compound until reinforcements from the military arrive. The defence would last for 55 days.

Lavish, full of pictorial scope, often stirring, yet it's saggy in the middle, too long, killed Nicholas Ray's career (and nearly himself since he collapsed on set) and apparently offensive to some with its imperialistic trumpeting. It has been called the magnificent failure, and in truth that's about as apt a tag line as you could get. For production value it's up with the best of them as producer Samuel Bronston oversees the building of the wonderful Peking sets (Veniero Colasanti & John Moore) at his Madrid base, and it is a joy to behold. Tiomkin's score pings around the locale with aural pleasure and when the action does come it considerably raises the pulses.

Acting performances are mostly OK, especially when Niven and Heston share scenes as it's great to see a genuine screen presence playing off of classy elegance. Gardner, whilst not in any shape or form bad, gets one of those annoyingly dull romantic interest roles that a film of this type didn't need. It doesn't help that there is zero chemistry between Gardner and her "borderline" beau, Heston. It's no surprise to find that Heston thought Gardner was a pain during the shoot!

As for the troubling thematics? Where the Chinese are portrayed as Christian slaughtering savages and the foreign imperialists as noble defenders of the right to take over China? Well the picture does come off as trying to excuse foreign imperialism in China, but it helps to note that this is merely a movie about one event in that part of history. With that in mind, anyone viewing it expecting anything other than the 55 day siege told from the legation's viewpoint is always going to be in for a let down! And right from the off we are shown and told with a tint of sarcasm that all these "foreign" countries want a piece of China as they raise their flags and trundle out their national anthems.

The Peking Alamo? Well maybe? Best to go into it expecting your eyes and ears to be dazzled rather than your brain. 7/10

Dutch Region 2 DVD has a fine print and subtitles easily switched off.
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on 1 December 2016
This was one of the last epics Samuel Bronston produced throughout his career. This along with another box office bomb in Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) staring Stephen Boyd and Christopher Plummer financially ruined Bronston. However the films box office performance (In the USA) should not stop you from watching this highly entertaining movie.

Heading a international cast as have Charlton Heston, who had turned down the lead in Fall of the Roman Empire to star in this film. He plays the tough fictional character of Maj. Matt Lewis who is slightly based on the real life John Myers who served at Peking. His co stars include David Niven as Sir Arthur Robertson who is the leader of the British embassy at Peking and we have American beauty Ava Gardner as Heston's love interest Baroness Natalie Ivanoff who has a dark past that she wants kept secret.

In support we have a whose who of character actors such as John Ireland as a American sergeant, Harry Andrews as Father de Bearn who builds a cannon for the defences, French actors Jacques Sernas and Philippe Leroy as heroic French defenders, Spanish actor Fernando Sancho (most famous for his Spaghetti Western roles) as a uncredited Belgium ambassador and Sword and Sandal villain Massimo Serato is the Italian support.

The first 90 minutes generally sets up the scene with each character being shown and the tension rising between the Boxers and the foreign powers before the inevitable kicks off and they lay siege to Peking. The battle scenes are well staged and exciting as thousands of extras fill the screen. I felt the climax could've been built up slightly more before the reinforcements arrive but over all it has some nice action sequences that are well worth checking out.

Overall it may not be as good as Samuel Bronston's and Charlton Hestons other epic, El Cid but it is still a well made film by Nicholas Ray (who collapsed during filming and was replaced by Andrew Marton and Guy Green).
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on 10 April 2014
Another fine example of a full marks restoration of a movie with a magnificent transfer to blu ray. Picture and sound quality both superb, put many modern movies to shame. Even if you don't like this film buy the blu ray to wallow in the quality, as good as it gets.Well done Restoration Team! If only all transfers of older films were half as good as this one.
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on 4 June 2014
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.
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on 10 March 2014
Actually I was really full of anticipation for the film. From a Western point of view it was one of the rare moments when all powers (including Russia and Japan) were brothers in arms. Whether it was a just cause or not. I don`t want comment on that.

Hence for a movie maker it should be heaven since he can leverage all the different charakters, uniforms and customs of his main audience.

The result is rather poor. The British are godlike creatures, even compared to the heroic Americans. The Germans are fat piglike stereotypes. Especially German envoy Clemens von Ketteler who looked totally different to his film charakter.

To be fair there was one German officer who fought with the Americans and looked kind of chevaleresque..

What I disliked most was the marching in of the allied troops. All looked great except of the Spanish boys tying to look like German soldiers. Wrong marching music as well... :)
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