KHARTOUM! A Charlton Heston Movie like None Other.

In 1883, William Gladstone (Ralph Richardson), Britain’s prime minister, enlists reputable Gen. Gordon (Charlton Heston) to smooth over the situation in Sudan after a brutal battle has left several British men dead. Gordon, known to defy orders, is received well in the city of Khartoum — so instead of acting as an ambassador, he motivates the city to prepare its defenses. Despite massive efforts to divert enemy attack, Gordon’s new, small army is no match for what befalls it.4th

This Movie I saw a very long Time ago in a theater that has clouds floating by on the ceiling. And it cost Ten Cents to use the Commode Stall. But I found this Movie strangely prevalent to Our Times Today in several ways which I will talk to you later in this Blog.

Even the OVERTURE music is Calling you in for a deeper investigation of the Historical Importance of this Hollywood Flick. Is it Good? No, it’s OUTSTANDING! And watching two Leaders wanting to come together and yet no…Their Magic keep’s them apart.

The Battle of KhartoumSiege of Khartoum or Fall of Khartoum was the conquest of Egyptian-held Khartoum by the Mahdist forces led by Muhammad Ahmad of Sudan. Egypt had held the city for some time, but the siege the Mahdists engineered and carried out from 13 March 1884 to 26 January 1885 was enough to wrest control away from the Egyptian administration.

Siege of Khartoum
Part of the Mahdist War

Portrayal of Gordon‘s death by George W. Joy
Date13 March 1884 – 26 January 1885LocationKhartoumMahdist SudanResultMahdist victory
 British Empire
 Mahdist Sudan
Commanders and leaders
 Charles George Gordon  Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah
unknown artillery
50,000 warriors,
unknown artillery
unknown skiffs
Casualties and losses
Almost entire force destroyedunknown, but reportedly heavy
~4,000 civilians dead

After a ten-month siege, when the Mahdists finally broke into the city, they killed the entire garrison of Egyptian soldiers, along with 4,000 mostly male Sudanese civilians, and enslaved many women and children. According to some accounts, they killed and beheaded British General Charles George Gordon, delivering his head to the Mahdi.

Siege of Khartoum

Map of Khartoum during the siege.

Gordon arrived at Khartoum on 18 February 1884, but instead of organising the evacuation of the garrisons, set about administering the city.

His first decisions were to reduce the injustices caused by the Egyptian colonial administration: arbitrary imprisonments were cancelled, torture instruments were destroyed, and taxes were remitted. To enlist the support of the population, Gordon legalised slavery again, although he had abolished it in Sudan while serving as Governor-General. This decision was popular in Khartoum, but caused controversy in Britain.[7]Muhammad Ahmad, the self-proclaimed Mahdi.

20 piastre promissory note issued and hand-signed by Gen. Gordon during the Siege of Khartoum (26 April 1884)[8]

20 piastrepromissory note issued and hand-signed by Gen. Gordon during the Siege of Khartoum (26 April 1884)[8]

Gordon was determined to “smash up the Mahdi”. He requested a regiment of Turkish soldiers to be sent to Khartoum, as Egypt was still nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire. When this was refused, Gordon asked for a unit of Indian Muslim troops and later for 200 British soldiers to strengthen the defenses of Khartoum. The Gladstone cabinet rejected all these proposals, since Britain was still intent on evacuation and refused absolutely to be pressured into military intervention in Sudan.

Gordon began to resent the government’s policy, and his telegrams to British offices in Cairo became more acrimonious. On 8 April he wrote: “I leave you with the indelible disgrace of abandoning the garrisons” and added that such a course would be “the climax of meanness”.[9]

Knowing that the Mahdists were closing in, Gordon finally ordered the strengthening of the fortifications around Khartoum. The city was protected to the north by the Blue Nile and to the west by the White Nile. To defend the river banks, he created a flotilla of gunboats from nine small paddle-wheel steamers, until then used for communication purposes, by fitting them with guns and defensive metal plates for armor. In the southern part of the town, which faced the open desert, he prepared an elaborate system of trenches, makeshift Fougasse-type land mines, and wire entanglements. Also, the surrounding country was controlled by the Shagia tribe, which was hostile to the Mahdi.[4]

By early April 1884, the tribes north of Khartoum rose in support of the Mahdi, and cut the Egyptian traffic on the Nile and the telegraph to Cairo. Communications were not entirely cut, as runners could still get through, but the siege had begun. Khartoum could rely only on its own food stores, which could last five or six months.

On 16 March Gordon launched an abortive sortie from Khartoum, resulting in the deaths of 200 Egyptian troops; the combined forces besieging Khartoum had increased to more than 30,000 men. Through the months of April, May, June, and July, Gordon and the garrison dealt with being cut off, as food stores dwindled and starvation began to set in for both the garrison and the civilian population. Communication was kept through couriers while Gordon also kept in contact with the Mahdi, who rejected his offers of peace and to lift the siege.

On 16 September an expedition sent from Khartoum to Sennar was defeated by the Mahdists; more than 800 garrison troops died at Al Aylafuh. By the end of the month, the Mahdi moved the bulk of his army to Khartoum, more than doubling the number already besieging it. As of 10 September 1884, the civilian population of Khartoum was about 34,000.[10]

Fall of Khartoum

Death of General Gordon at Khartoum

Gordon’s plight excited great concern in the British press, and even Queen Victoria intervened on his behalf. The government ordered him to return, but Gordon refused, saying he was honour-bound to defend the city. By July 1884, Gladstone reluctantly agreed to send an expedition to Khartoum. The expedition, led by Sir Garnet Wolseley, took several months to organise and did not enter Sudan until January 1885. By then the situation of the Egyptian garrison and civilians had become desperate, with food supplies running low, many inhabitants dying of hunger, and the defenders’ morale at its lowest.The Nile Expedition for the relief of Gordon

The relief expedition was attacked at Abu Klea on 17 January, and two days later at Abu Kru. Though their square was broken at Abu Klea, the British managed to repel the Mahdists. The Mahdi, hearing of the British advance, decided to press the attack on Khartoum.

On the night of 25–26 January an estimated 50,000 Mahdists attacked the city wall just before midnight. The Mahdists took advantage of the low level of the Nile, fording the river on foot, and rushed around the wall on the shores of the river and into the town. The details of the final assault are vague, but it is said that by 3:30 am, the Mahdists outflanked the city wall at the low end of the Nile while another force, led by Al Nujumi, broke down the Massalamieh Gate, despite taking some casualties from mines and barbed wire obstacles laid out by Gordon’s men. The entire garrison, physically weakened by starvation, offered only patchy resistance. Within a few hours, they were slaughtered to the last man, as were 4,000 of the town’s inhabitants. Many women and children were carried away into slavery.[11]

Accounts differ as to how Gordon was killed. According to one version, when Mahdist warriors broke into the governor’s palace, Gordon came out in full uniform, and, after disdaining to fight, he was speared to death in defiance of the orders of the Mahdi, who had wanted him captured alive.[12] In another version, Gordon was recognised by Mahdists while making for the Austrian consulate and shot dead in the street.[13]

The most detailed account of his death was given by his body servant Khaleel Aga Orphali when he was debriefed by British officers in 1898, after the reconquest by Kitchener. According to Orphali, Gordon died fighting on the stairs leading from the first floor of the west wing of the palace to ground level, where the attackers stood. He was seriously wounded by a spear that hit him in the left shoulder. Together with Orphali, Gordon fought on with his pistol and sword, and was hit by another spear.

“With his life’s blood pouring from his breast […] he fought his way step by step, kicking from his path the wounded and dead dervishes […] and as he was passing through the doorway leading into the courtyard, another concealed dervish almost severed his right leg with a single blow.”

[14]Soon after that, Orphali was knocked unconscious. When he woke up several hours later, he found Gordon’s decapitated body near to him.[14] Gordon’s head was taken to Omdurman, where it was shown to Rudolph von Slatin, one of the Mahdi’s prisoners.[15] After it was shown to Slatin, the head was brought to the Mahdi. According to some sources, Gordon’s body was dumped in the Nile.

After the reconquest, various attempts were made to locate Gordon’s remains. Advance elements of the relief expedition arrived within sight of Khartoum two days later. After the fall of the city, the surviving British and Egyptian troops withdrew from the Sudan, with the exception of the city of Suakin on the Red Sea coast and the Nile town of Wadi Halfa at the Egyptian border. Muhammad Ahmad was effectively in control of the entire country.[16]

Now, the Movie, KHARTOUM, is done in the Old Style of Great Movie Making-OVERTURE and INTERMISSION included. And it is very, very interesting Watching How the Political Battles unravel. And I was taken aback to the Middle East problems and Our just ending Our Troop involvement in Afghanistan.

Khartoum is a 1966 British epic war film written by Robert Ardrey and directed by Basil Dearden. It stars Charlton Heston as British Gen. Charles “Chinese” Gordon and Laurence Olivier as Muhammad Ahmed (a Sudanese leader whose devotees proclaimed him the Mahdi), with a supporting cast that includes Richard Johnson and Ralph Richardson.[4] The film is based on historical accounts of Gordon’s defence of the Sudanese city of Khartoum from the forces of the Mahdist army, during the 1884–1885 Siege of Khartoum.[5] The opening and closing scenes are narrated by Leo Genn.

Directed byBasil Dearden
Eliot Elisofon
(introductory scenes)
Written byRobert Ardrey
Produced byJulian Blaustein
StarringCharlton Heston
Laurence Olivier
Richard Johnson
Ralph Richardson
Narrated byLeo Genn
CinematographyEdward Scaife
Edited byFergus McDonell
Music byFrank Cordell
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date9 June 1966 (World premiere, London)
Running time134 minutes
128 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$6 million[1] or $8 million[2]
Box office$3 million (est. US/ Canada rentals)[3]

Khartoum was filmed by cinematographer Ted Scaife in Technicolor[6] and Ultra Panavision 70, and was exhibited in 70 mm Cinerama in premiere engagements. A novelization of the film’s screenplay was written by Alan Caillou.[7]

The film had its Royal World Premiere at the Casino Cinerama Theatre, in the West End of London, on 9 June 1966, in the presence of H.R.H. Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, and the Earl of Snowdon.[8][9]

Khartoum earned Robert Ardrey an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.[10][11] The film also earned Ralph Richardson a BAFTA Award nomination for Best British Actor.


In 1883, in the Sudan, a force of 10,000 poorly trained Egyptian troops under the command of the colonising British Army Col. William “Billy” Hicks (Edward Underdown) is lured into the desert and defeated by native tribesmen led by Muhammad Ahmed (Laurence Olivier), a Nubian religious leader of the Samaniyya order in Sudan who had declared himself Mahdi. British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (Ralph Richardson), who does not wish to send more military forces to Khartoum, is under great pressure to send colonial military hero Major General Charles George Gordon (Charlton Heston) there to salvage the situation and restore British dominance. Gordon has strong ties to Sudan, having tried to break the slave trade there in the past, but Gladstone distrusts him. Gordon has a reputation for strong, if eccentric, religious beliefs and following his own judgement, regardless of his orders. Lord Granville (Michael Hordern), the British Foreign Secretary, knowing this, tells Gladstone that by sending Gordon to Khartoum, the British government can ignore all public pressure to send an army there, and absolve themselves of any responsibility over the area if Gordon ignores his orders. Gladstone is mildly shocked at the suggestion, but as it is popular with the public and Queen Victoria, he adopts it for the sake of expediency.

Gordon is told that his mission, to evacuate troops and civilians, is unsanctioned by the British government, which will disavow all responsibility if he fails. He is given few resources and only a single aide, Colonel J. D. H. Stewart (Richard Johnson). After an attempt to recruit former slaver Zobeir Pasha (Zia Mohyeddin) fails, Gordon and Stewart travel to Khartoum, where Gordon is hailed as the city’s savior upon his arrival in February 1884. He begins organising the defences and rallying the people, despite Stewart’s protests that this is not what he was sent to do.

Gordon’s first act is to visit the Mahdi in his insurgent camp, accompanied by only a single servant. He gains the Mahdi’s respect and, in the verbal fencing at the parley, discovers that the Sudanese leader intends to make an example of Khartoum by taking the city and killing all its inhabitants. The River Nile city of Khartoum lies at the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. A qualified military engineer, Gordon wastes no time upon his return in digging a ditch between the two to provide a protective moat.

In Britain, Gladstone, apprised of how desperate the situation has become, orders Gordon to leave, but, as he had feared, his command is ignored. Colonel Stewart is sent by Gordon to London to explain the situation in Khartoum. Over the next several months, a public outcry forces Gladstone to send a relief force, but he sees to it that there is no urgency, hoping to the last that Gordon will come to his senses and save himself.

Gordon, however, has other ideas. News arrives in Khartoum about a relief force led by General Wolseley being sent from Britain. When the waters recede in winter, drying up his moat, the small Egyptian army is finally overwhelmed by 100,000 native Mahdist tribesmen. On 26 January 1885, the city falls under a massive frontal assault. Gordon himself is slaughtered along with the entire foreign garrison and populace of some 30,000, although the Mahdi had forbidden killing Gordon. In the end, Gordon’s head is cut off, stuck on top of a long pole, and paraded about the city in triumph, contrary to the Mahdi’s injunctions.

The British relief column arrives two days too late.[12] The British withdraw from the Sudan shortly thereafter, and the Mahdi himself dies six months later. In the United Kingdom, public pressure, and anger at the fate of Gordon, eventually forces the British and their Egyptian allies to re-invade the Sudan ten years later, and they recaptured and colonised Khartoum in 1898.


Roger DelgadoGeorge Pastell and Jerome Willis also had parts.[13][14] Each later played a villain in various episodes of Doctor Who.

Major-General Charles George Gordon CB (28 January 1833 – 26 January 1885), also known as Chinese GordonGordon Pasha, and Gordon of Khartoum, was a British Army officer and administrator. He saw action in the Crimean War as an officer in the British Army. However, he made his military reputation in China, where he was placed in command of the “Ever Victorious Army“, a force of Chinese soldiers led by European officers which was instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion, regularly defeating much larger forces. For these accomplishments, he was given the nickname “Chinese Gordon” and honours from both the Emperor of China and the British.

Charles George Gordon
Nickname(s)Chinese Gordon, Gordon Pasha, Gordon of Khartoum
Born28 January 1833
London, England
Died26 January 1885 (aged 51)
KhartoumMahdist Sudan
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Ever Victorious Army
Years of service1852–1885
Commands heldEver Victorious Army
Governor-General of the Sudan
Battles/warsCrimean WarSiege of SevastopolBattle of KinburnSecond Opium War
Taiping RebellionBattle of CixiBattle of ChangzhouMahdist WarSiege of Khartoum 
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Order of the Osmanieh, Fourth Class (Ottoman Empire)
Order of the Medjidie, Fourth Class (Ottoman Empire)
Chevalier of the Legion of Honour (France)
Order of the Double Dragon (China)
Imperial yellow jacket (China)

He entered the service of the Khedive of Egypt in 1873 (with British government approval) and later became the Governor-General of the Sudan, where he did much to suppress revolts and the local slave trade. Exhausted, he resigned and returned to Europe in 1880.

A serious revolt then broke out in the Sudan, led by a Muslim religious leader and self-proclaimed MahdiMuhammad Ahmad. In early 1884 Gordon was sent to Khartoum with instructions to secure the evacuation of loyal soldiers and civilians and to depart with them. In defiance of those instructions, after evacuating about 2,500 civilians he retained a smaller group of soldiers and non-military men. In the months before the fall of Khartoum, Gordon and the Mahdi corresponded; Gordon offered him the Sultanate of Kordofan and the Mahdi requested Gordon to convert to his religion and join him, to which Gordon replied abruptly: “No!”[1] Besieged by the Mahdi’s forces, Gordon organised a citywide defence that lasted for almost a year and gained him the admiration of the British public, but not of the government, which had wished him not to become entrenched. Only when public pressure to act had become irresistible did the government, with reluctance, send a relief force. It arrived two days after the city had fallen and Gordon had been killed.

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah (Arabic: محمد أحمد ابن عبد الله‎; 12 August 1844 – 22 June 1885) was a Nubian[1] Sufi religious leader of the Samaniyya order in Sudan who, as a youth, studied Sunni Islam. In 1881, he claimed to be the Mahdi. He led a successful war against Ottoman-Egyptian military rule in Sudan and achieved a remarkable victory over the British, in the Siege of Khartoum. He created a vast Islamic state extending from the Red Sea to Central Africa, and founded a movement that remained influential in Sudan a century later.[2]

Muhammad Ahmad
Artistic representation of Muhammad Ahmad
Ruler of Sudan
SuccessorAbdallahi ibn Muhammad ‘Khalifa’
Born12 August 1844
Labab Island, Turkish Sudan
Died22 June 1885 (aged 40)
KhartoumMahdist Sudan
NamesMuhammad Ahmad Ibn ‘Abd Allah

From his announcement of the Mahdiyya in June 1881 until 1898,[1] the Mahdi’s growing number of supporters, the Ansars, established many of its theological and political doctrines. After Muhammad Ahmad’s unexpected death on 22 June 1885, his chief deputy, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad took over the administration of the nascent Mahdist state.

Following Ahmad’s death, Abdallahi ruled as Khalifa but his autocratic rule, as well as directly applied British military force, destroyed the Mahdi state following the Anglo-Egyptian conquest of Sudan in 1899. Despite that, the Mahdi remains a respected figure in the history of Sudan. In the late 20th century, one of his direct descendants, Sadiq al-Mahdi, twice served as prime minister of Sudan (1966–67 and 1986–89). He pursued democratizing policies.[2]