Khartoum Deluxe Soundtrack Review


Desert Songs

by Aaron Kent


Tarantino’s recent tour-de-force, The Hateful Eight, not only gave the world an outstanding score – for which Ennio Morricone was finally awarded the Oscar he has deserved for so long – but it also brought back a style of filming not used for 49 years. Filmed in 70mm Ultra Panavision, the last film to film in the same style prior to Tarantino’s western was 1966’s Khartoum starring Charlton Heston.

Now Stylotone Records have gone about bringing the film’s score back to a modern audience, using a traditional style with its new deluxe edition of Khartoum on vinyl. Featuring two ‘Sandstorm’ coloured records of Frank Cordell’s masterful score, and packaged with a CD (for the car), a download (for the phone) and a 30” by 40” British Quad poster (for the wall). This set is a wonderful collection, much like the previous Twisted Nerve set released by the label.

The film itself, set in Sudan 1883, tells the story of an army of under-prepared Egyptian soldiers who are massacred after being lured into the desert by Laurence Olivier’s army. Heston’s Major General Charles George Gordon is tasked with restoring pride to the military, and is sent to salvage the battle. The film was well-received at the time, and was Academy Award nominated, yet watching it today seems like an example of how not to make a film. Olivier’s blackface is a thing of staggering racism, and a look at the Hollywood system of past years – where minorities were cast aside in hopes of getting ‘bankable’ white stars to portray non-white characters. Things only get worse when Olivier opens his mouth, and shows that the discrimination does not end at a visual level, but instead proceeds to offend at an auditory level as well. Ignoring the British Imperialism, the rewriting of history, and the baffling decisions in editing, this is not a film to rewatch.

Frank Cordell’s score, however, is one positive to take. It is a sweeping idea of how the film could have been, and as such suggests an accurate and well-intentioned version may have been worth a viewing. It is to Cordell’s credit that his work can exist just as efficiently, and actually it is better off without the film. There is no hint at the overt idiocy on display in the film’s decision-making process. And it is through Stylotone’s lovingly crafted set that the soundtrack can be enjoyed. Although, it would have been better if they had scrubbed any instance to the film.

The Music: 4/5

The Package: 2/5

FIW Rating: 3/5

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