MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. Co-Pick of the Week: Classic. The Four Feathers (Korda)

The Four Feathers (Three and a Half Stars)

U.K.: Zolta Korda, 1939 (Criterion Collection)

Four adventure-loving upper class British soldiers — best friends who are about to leave for the 1896-98 colonial wars in Sudan — symbolically exchange four white feathers, plucked from  the plume of the beautiful Ethne (June Duprez), daughter of the harrumphing and matchlessly windy Gen. Burroughs (C. Aubrey Smith, of course). The feathers are symbols of cowardice, a fatal soldierly weakness of which one of the four, Harry Faversham (John Clements), is being accused by his three chums: stalwart John Durrance (Ralph Richardson),  “Fat Face” Tommy Willoughby (Jack Allen) and Ethne’s disapproving brother, Peter (Donald Gray).

 Harry, who is Ethne’s fiancee and the son of yet another military luminary, General Faversham (Allan Jeayes), would rather make love than war. But his ’60s philosophy damns him in the eyes of his trio of dedicated warrior pals, his Fiancee/wife-to-be, and, it seems, his entire class.

Why do we kow with such certaity that Harry, like Lord Jim or Beau Geste, will redeem himself by novel’s end? Well, because this is movie based (faithfully) on a Kiplingesque British war novel set in Victorian  England, and in Sudan, and Khartoum, and written by A. E. W. Mason (author of the classic mystery novel “The House of the Arrow”), and because, in that kind of book, British upper class “cowards” or “outlaws” often redeemed themselves, somehow, unless they died a coward’s death. And also because it’s a breathlessly exciting, staunchly romantic war-adventure movie, beautifully photographed (by Georges Perinal and, in Sudan, by Osmond Borradaille), scripted by R. C. Sherrif, directed by Zoltan Korda, produced by Zoltan’s brother Alexander Korda, and designed by the third of those magificent Hugarians, Vincent Korda — a movie with the kind of heart-stopping scenes that make a young adventure-loving boy want to take off immediately for the land and time of Gunga Din.

If you’re going to live under imperialism, this is the way to do it. And while we’re at it, don’t miss the upcoming Criterion Eclipse set “Sabu!” with three more colonial adventures by the Korda brothers, all starring the exuberant Indian boy actor, Sabu, and all adapted faithfully (and excitingly) from novels or stories by A. E. W. Mason or Kipling. Watching these movies, especially The Four Feathers, is royal (or royalist) fun. It makes you want to go adventuring, pluck a plume, hop on a horse, uscabbard a sword, and lead a desperate charge in Khartoum, a white feather in your pocket.

Well, at least it makes you think about it… 

Extras: Commentary by film historian Charles Drazin; Interview with Zoltan Korda’s son, David; short film A Day at Denham (1939), with footage of Zoltan Korda on the Four Feathers set; Trailer; Booklet with essay by Michael Sragow.  

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon