55 Days at Peking (1962)

Genres - Action, Adventure, Epic, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic, Adventure Drama, Costume Adventure  |   Run Time - 154 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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55 Days at Peking is an odd movie in director Nicholas Ray's canon, although it is questionable as to whether it should be included among his works, as he was removed from it halfway through filming. Peking certainly feels like a movie guided by more than one hand, which ultimately impacts it effectiveness. Despite its ups and downs, there's enough to make Peking worth watching, especially from those who have a fondness for historical war epics. Peking gets off to a smashing start., with a beautiful presentation of the colors of the various nations involve din the story. Many of the battle and action sequences are also exciting, and the physical production is often stunning. These are balanced by some rather stilted attempts at humanizing the characters involved, an attempt that is scuttled by uninspired writing, curiously detached (for Ray) direction and an annoying performance from Charlton Heston. Ava Gardner does manage to find some interesting variations on a stock character. Even better is Flora Robson, whose Chinese empress is sinister and duplicitous; the best work comes from David Niven, giving the kind of light, witty performance he had practically patented by this point. Although anyone with a desire to get a fully-rounded picture of the Boxer rebellion should avoid Peking, there's enough action to satisfy fans on big battle flicks.