55 Days at Peking - video artwork
55 Days at Peking

55 Days at Peking

Released on Intervision.
Slipcase - Rental Tape

In 1900 China was still ruled by ancient dynasties, but already the spark of revolution was in the air. Kindled by the fanatical hatred of foreigners and fanned by a ruthless band of brigands known as "Boxers", flames were soon burning at the gates of the Imperial City. While the foreign communities went about their business with almost ritual formality, the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi (FLORA ROBSON), urged on by the villainous Prince Tuan (ROBERT HELPMANN), secretly encouraged the Boxers in their savagery. First missionaries and then the German Ambassador were butchered. Major Matt Lewis (CHARLTON HESTON), with a detachment of U.S. Marines, guards the American Embassy. Matt is attracted to the beautiful Baroness Natalie Ivanoff (AVA GARDNER) and takes her to the Queen Victoria Birthday Ball given by the British envoy to China, Sir Arthur Robertson (DAVID NIVEN). The siege of Peking officially begins at 5 p.m. on June 20, and Matt and Natalie are thrown still closer together. Faced with an ultimatum from the Empress to surrender, Sir Arthur recommends that the Powers launch an offensive instead. Matt and Sir Arthur gain proximity to the Forbidden City through an abandoned sewer and succeed in blowing up the Chinese arsenal. Throughout the actual siege a small garrison of heroic men, women and children of eleven foreign legations withstand for fifty-five days the savage and unrelenting assaults of the Chinese. In a perilous mission, Matt attempts to get through to warn the Allied commanders. Natalie, meanwhile, is wounded but bargains her precious necklace for food and supplies. The Chinese launch giant rockets to set the Compound on fire, but the brave defenders retaliate with a make-shift catapult of blazing canvas sacks which ignite the enemy's rocket supply spreading flaming death. On the morning of August 14. soldiers from the Allied forces reach Peking. It is the end of the Manchu Dynasty as the siege is lifted....
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