Zoltan Korda's 1938 The Four Feathers was the last and best traditional patriotic film of the pre-World War II era. Based on a 1902 novel by A.E.W. Mason, it benefited from glorious Technicolor photography and unique location shooting: Korda and his second unit crew, under Osmond H. Borradaile, not only shot the action scenes where the battles really took place but also included among the extras people who'd actually seen the fighting (and participated in it) 45 years earlier. Coupled with Korda's skills as an action director (he'd been a cavalry officer, and he knew how to move men and their mounts quickly and to good effect), the result was a movie that captured the imagination of the public on the eve of World War II with its vision of self-sacrifice and gallantry. The movie is a reminder of a time when it was possible to believe that armies could liberate peoples from tyranny, and that the use of force could be a good thing. The film is not unquestioning in this belief, as attested by its brutally humorous treatment of the aging general played by Sir C. Aubrey Smith ("Those were the days when war was war, and men were men"), but ultimately it comes down on the side of action as opposed to inaction. Korda's and Borradaile's African footage was so good that it has been reused in dozens of other movies (including remakes of this one). Follow That Camel, by the British Carry On company, was a direct and savage satire of The Four Feathers; and, as was revealed in an interview shortly after its release, it was The Four Feathers and not Beau Geste that Marty Feldman was satirizing in The Last Remake of Beau Geste, but it was too late to change the title once he'd realized his mistake.
by Bruce Eder review