3 May 2011 | Bunuel1976
THE GOLDEN HORDE (George Sherman, 1951) **1/2
I was only vaguely familiar with this colorful (albeit low-budgeted) epic from Universal dealing with Samarcand's resistance to the onslaught of the titular army, commandeered by the legendary Genghis Khan. The plot is unusual in that their come-uppance occurs largely through a woman's shrewdness; in fact, while the expected skirmishes are certainly there, the hero is not very flatteringly depicted: he is boorish Crusader David Farrar who arrives upon the scene with his men (chief among them a pre-stardom Richard Egan) presumptuously intent on taking charge of the situation – since the city is ruled by a girl (Ann Blyth, petite but effective nonetheless in portraying her character's iron-willed disposition)!
Her plan is to have the Khan's two envoys (one of them his own son) clash when she offers herself to one of them as ransom for the city's deliverance!; while an accompanying Shaman (played by genre regular George Macready, but almost unrecognizable behind the almond-eyed make-up!) tries to calm the waters and make them see the wiliness of her proposal, like Farrar himself, they are too obstinate and proud to act sensibly! Typically, the protagonists themselves start off on the wrong foot (early on, he admonishes Blyth's male subjects for even accepting to be subservient to a member of the opposite sex and, what is more, openly considers her suggestions of what action is to be taken as "half-witted"!) but, before long, predictably (or, if you like, as dictated by Hollywood in those times) they find they cannot live without one another!
For good measure, Blyth's castle is fitted with a variety of secret passages which are, subsequently, often resorted to in order to save the battered hide of Farrar's knights (needless to say, though brute force takes the upper hand at first, eventually it has to accede to the hidden powers – and not just the obvious physical attributes – that a female, invariably, is better equipped to supply)! In the end, the Khan decides that Samarcand is not for him (thanks also to a prophecy that forbids him personally physical entrance into the city?) and takes it on the lam. The film looks good (belying its humble pedigree) and, at just 73 minutes, certainly does not overstay its welcome; however, the repetition pertaining to Farrar's pig-headedness and the two deluded romantic contenders' squabbling does tax one's patience somewhat on occasion...