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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Zarak (1956)

Set in the Northwest Frontier and Afghanistan in the 19th century while still under British rule. After the chieftain's (Frederick Valk) eldest son (Victor Mature) is caught with the chieftain's favorite wife (Anita Ekberg), she is sold into slavery and he is banished from the tribe. But he becomes a notorious bandit robbing from and fighting the British. While its narrative is not all that different from those 1940s Universal back lot jobs with Turhan Bey or Jon Hall, visually this is an elegant and handsome movie. Shot in CinemaScope by Ted Moore (GOLDFINGER) in Morocco, it has the look of a genuine epic. It's a Saturday matinee potboiler at heart, with the casting of Victor Mature how could it be anything but, still it has the feel and ambition of an "A" movie. But when a scantily clad Ekberg bumps and grinds her hoochie dance, you know you're in 1950s double feature territory. Based on the 1949 book THE STORY OF ZARAK KHAN, the real Zarak Khan lived in the 1930s and 40s and helped the British fight the Japanese during WWII. I suppose changing the setting to the 19th century Raj empire seemed more exotic hence the change in time period and locale. The noisy score is by William Alwyn. Directed by Terence Young (WAIT UNTIL DARK). With Michael Wilding who makes for a wan British hero, Patrick McGoohan, Finlay Currie, Bernard Miles, Andre Morell and Eunice Gayson (DR. NO).

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