Synopsis: After an Egyptian army, commanded by British officers, is destroyed in a battle in the Sudan in the 1880's, the British government is in a quandary. It does not want to commit a British military force to a foreign war but they have a commitment to protect the Egyptians in Khartoum. They decide to ask General Charles "Chinese" Gordon, something of a folk hero in the Sudan as he had cleared the area of the slave trade, to arrange for the evacuation. Gordon agrees but also decides to defend the city against the forces of the Mahdi - the expected one - and tries to force the British to commit troops.
Production: MGM/UA
  Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
128 min

The Nile was always there.

Long before Cairo, long before

the tombs of kings...

it was the reason

for everything.

It's a little hard to grasp how

far this river's been flowing.

This is the rain

that fell on Abyssinia.

These are the waters drained

from central African lakes...

that have flowed 4,000 miles

to make Egypt green.

The Nile has its memories.

The story of Khartoum

is a recent one...

less than a century old.

That's yesterday

in this part of the world.

But however far back

you may go...

all the Nile's recollections

have several things in common.

There's always God,

for instance.

Or, if you prefer, the gods.

It seems to have been

quite impossible...

to live beside this river...

and not to have visions

of eternity.

And there's always mystery.

You never quite know.

You wind up with a few questions

that no one can answer.

One more thing.

Why is it that everything

was always so big...

outsized, larger-than-life?

Vanity? Perhaps.

Or visions.

Vanity was always mixed up

with vision.

And that's

part of this story, too.

But it's the Nile

that remains the original fact.

The Nile and, of course,

the desert.

Move up, up the Nile.

Leave Egypt behind

and the green land.

Enter the Sudan.

A million square miles

of desert and scrub.

It was here out of the vast,

hot African nowhere...

that a man of the Nile,

a man of vision...

and mystery and vanity

rose up in the 1880s...

to challenge first Egypt,

and then the world.

He called himself the Mahdi,

the Expected One...

and he gathered about him

his desert tribesmen...

and he cried out for holy war.

Egypt hired an army

of 10,000 men...

and a professional English

soldier to command them...

and sent them 1,600 miles

up the Nile to Khartoum...

and on into the desert

to destroy this man, the Mahdi.

Our history might have taken

a quite different turn...

had Colonel William Hicks not

forgotten, if he ever knew...

the Sudan's great fact...

its immensity.

The Mahdi led him on and on...

and on.

- Keep those men back!

- Right you are! Keep order!




Get those rifles

to the high ground!



you're men of the desert.

My Lord Mohammed, blessings

and peace be upon him...

commands me to speak...

for I am the Mahdi,

the Expected One...

and I am sprung from

the forehead of the family...

of my Lord Mohammed,

blessings be upon him.

My beloveds,

did I not promise thee...

a miracle would fall from heaven

from the Prophet Mohammed?

And was not this so?

We fight a holy war against

the fat and the corrupt...

and the sinful

and the unbelieving.

We fight a war to restore to a

disobedient, forgetful world...

the laws and commands

of the Prophet Mohammed...

blessings and peace

be upon him...

whose instrument on Earth I am.

Exalt ye not that men are dead,

since more must die tomorrow.

My beloveds, in a vision...

the Prophet Mohammed

has instructed me.

Let mountain and desert tremble.

Let cities shudder,

and let the fat and the rich...

and the corrupt in far places

mark this moment...

and turn in fear

of all those miracles to come!

And let none in all Islam,

from this victorious hour...

believe I am other

than the Expected One...

the true Mahdi.


it is the hour of prayer.

Explain to me, somebody, where

in heaven's name is Wolseley?

Explain to me

how a rabble of tribesmen...

armed only

with spears and swords...

can destroy a modern army?

Not a British army,

Prime Minister.

- To the last man.

- An Egyptian army.

I don't care whose army.

10,000 men...

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Robert Ardrey

Robert Ardrey (October 16, 1908 – January 14, 1980) was an American playwright, screenwriter and science writer perhaps best known for The Territorial Imperative (1966). After a Broadway and Hollywood career, he returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.As a playwright and screenwriter Ardrey received many accolades. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1937, won the inaugural Sidney Howard Memorial Award in 1940, and in 1966 received an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay for his script for Khartoum. His most famous play, Thunder Rock, is widely considered an international classic.Ardrey's scientific work played a major role in overturning long-standing assumptions in the social sciences. In particular, both African Genesis (1961) and The Territorial Imperative (1966), two of his most widely read works, were instrumental in changing scientific doctrine and increasing public awareness of evolutionary science. His work was so popular that many prominent scientists cite it as inspiring them to enter their fields. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Khartoum" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Oct. 2020. <>.

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