In retrospect, the British Empire wasn’t exactly a glowing success story given the toll it has taken on the countries we conquered. The same could be said for the actions of almost all colonial nations. Sudan is a country no stranger to subjugation and itself once held power in the region under the Kush. In the late 19th century, the north-east African country was controlled by the Egyptians. One of its pivotal moments, the Siege of Khartoum, is brought to life in Basil Dearden’s film Khartoum.

When 10,000 Egyptian troops under the command of an English officer are defeated by the forces of Muhammad Ahmad (Laurence Olivier), the British Prime Minister (Ralph Richardson) is loathed to send in troops. However, as pressure grows, he’s forced to deploy Major General Gordon (Charlton Heston). A military hero who, despite ending the slave trade in Sudan, is mistrusted by the government. Accompanied only by Colonel Stewart (Richard Johnson), he arrives in Khartoum to discover a perilous situation.

Khartoum evokes the memories of classic British adventures such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Four Feathers. This is enhanced by a stirring score from Frank Cordell. However, Dearden’s film is hardly a patriotic flag-waving affair. It’s highly critical of the ruling classes and their treatment of Gordon and the Sudanese. Don’t mistake Khartoum for an action film. Its strength is in the writing and having such powerful actors to deliver a clever and involving script.

Extras:

  • 1080p presentation (on Blu-ray) from a gorgeous high-definition transfer
  • Presented in the film’s correct aspect ratio 2.76:1
  • LPCM 2.0 Audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles
  • Audio Commentary with Film Historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman
  • Exclusive new video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Phil Hoad, alongside a selection of rare archival imagery

Khartoum is released on dual format DVD & Blu-ray by Eureka Classics on 3 December.