Omar Sharif in Genghis Khan (1965)

Sharif Conquers The Conqueror

As a young man Temujin (Omar Sharif) is taken prisoner by barbarian Jamuga (Stephen Boyd) who makes the young Mongol his slave, forcing him to wear a heavy circular and chains stock to restrict his moment. But young Temujin finds couple of allies in Geen (Michael Hordern) and Sengal (Woody Strode) who help him to escape. On a quest to unify the Mongol tribes he learns a lot none more so from the wise Kam Ling (James Mason) whilst having run ins with this old foe Jamuga until the two inevitably confront each other once and for all.

It is 50 years since director Henry Levin made "Genghis Khan" and much has changed in the world of cinema in those interceding years which means when you watch "Genghis Khan" for the first time now it is a very different experience to what was intended. You might say that surely that is the same for all older movies but for some reason "Genghis Khan" sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb now. I just hope for those who did watch "Genghis Khan" on its release all those years ago still get some enjoyment from it, much more than I did watching now.

James Mason in Genghis Khan (1965)

So let me tackle the elephant in the room and that is we have well known actors cast as people from other countries. Whilst Omar Sharif is a talented actor he doesn't pass for Mongolian. But then Sharif is more convincing that the likes of Robert Morley, Michael Hordern and James Mason who in particular delivers a performance as King Lam which embodies pretty much everything which was wrong with doing this as he ends up delivering over the top mannerisms till he now comes across as an offensive stereotype. Look I am not criticising the movie for doing this as this was what was done 50 years ago but I am pointing out how this element now makes "Genghis Khan" uncomfortably dated.

But then there are other issues and whilst some might like to mention that it is not a wholly accurate retelling of the life of Genghis Khan I would like to point out how dull it is. And that is down to scenes which constantly lack atmosphere especially when it comes to dialogue heavy scenes such as those where Temujin is learning from The Emperor of China as you have Sharif trying to look interested whilst Robert Morley is giving the Emperor that aspect of comical pompousness which was the actor's trademark but there is no believability to the words, just actors reciting lines. Even moments of drama fair just as poorly and far too often it felt to me that Henry Levin was far too interested in the scale of the production than making the story come alive.

So that really brings me to the one positive I have to say about "Genghis Khan" as it is an old fashioned action and adventure movie made on a large scale. As I have mentioned in other reviews I love seeing old movies where you know that the long legion of soldiers you see riding in formation on horseback are thousands of extras rather that computer generated images. I love the sense of production that a movie like this has and whilst "Genghis Khan" doesn't compete with the greats of the era the fact that Levin has attempted to make an epic at least gives it some face value entertainment.

What this all boils down to is that "Genghis Khan" didn't do it for me as watching it for the first time now various elements let it down from being dated to the lack of atmosphere. But I will say one thing; it is a hell of a lot better than John Wayne's "The Conqueror".