Caravans (1978)

PG | 123 mins | Adventure | 1978

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HISTORY

Although James Michener’s novel takes place in Afghanistan, the location of the film adaptation was changed to the fictional Kashkan for political reasons, according to an article in the 5 Feb 1978 LAHExam.
       End credits include the following acknowledgement: "We are grateful for the technical assistance of The Iranian National Film Center without which it would have been impossible to make this film in Iran."
       Mohammad Poursattar, Hamid Lighvani and Djamshid Sadri were listed as cast members in publicity materials found at AMPAS library, but their names do not appear in the onscreen credits.
       Text following the end credits states: “We are grateful for the technical assistance of The Iranian National Film Center without which it would have been impossible to make this film in Iran.”
       LAHExam further reported that MGM purchased the rights to the book for $400,000 but after spending many years and thousands of dollars, the studio never successfully adapted the novel to film. Independent producer Elmo Williams expressed interest in buying the rights but he declined to pay the $1 million that MGM wanted to recoup its investment. At the Cannes Film Festival, Williams connected with producer Mehdi Boushehri, who wanted Williams’ help in propelling Iran onto the international film market. Together, the two men made a deal with MGM and secured the right to adapt Caravans into a movie for $100,000 and a share of the profits. While an article in the 15 Aug 1974 DV stated the movie would have a budget of $6 million, enough to secure four American movie stars, later reports placed the budget higher. According to ... More Less

Although James Michener’s novel takes place in Afghanistan, the location of the film adaptation was changed to the fictional Kashkan for political reasons, according to an article in the 5 Feb 1978 LAHExam.
       End credits include the following acknowledgement: "We are grateful for the technical assistance of The Iranian National Film Center without which it would have been impossible to make this film in Iran."
       Mohammad Poursattar, Hamid Lighvani and Djamshid Sadri were listed as cast members in publicity materials found at AMPAS library, but their names do not appear in the onscreen credits.
       Text following the end credits states: “We are grateful for the technical assistance of The Iranian National Film Center without which it would have been impossible to make this film in Iran.”
       LAHExam further reported that MGM purchased the rights to the book for $400,000 but after spending many years and thousands of dollars, the studio never successfully adapted the novel to film. Independent producer Elmo Williams expressed interest in buying the rights but he declined to pay the $1 million that MGM wanted to recoup its investment. At the Cannes Film Festival, Williams connected with producer Mehdi Boushehri, who wanted Williams’ help in propelling Iran onto the international film market. Together, the two men made a deal with MGM and secured the right to adapt Caravans into a movie for $100,000 and a share of the profits. While an article in the 15 Aug 1974 DV stated the movie would have a budget of $6 million, enough to secure four American movie stars, later reports placed the budget higher. According to a LAT article on 11 Oct 1976, Williams had envisioned an $8 million production; news items in the 11 Nov 1975 DV, the 11 Mar 1977 HR, the 18 Aug 1977 HR, the 10 Aug 1977 LAT, and the 7 Sep 1977 Var reported a budget of $10 million; and articles in LAHExam, the 26 Oct 1977 Var and the 8 Dec 1977 HR related a revised figure of $12 million. On 13 Sep 1978, Var revised its estimate again and announced that the film had been made for $10 million.
       Sources agreed that multiple investors underwrote the film’s cost, with the 28 Dec 1977 Var stating that Williams’ production company Ibex Films and Boushehri’s company, Film Industry Development Corp. of Iran (F.I.D.C.I.), provided twenty-five percent of the budget and Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Arts supplied another twenty-five percent of the budget as well as cameras, caravans and other equipment to support the production. According to an article in the 1 Mar 1978 DV, the remainder of the budget came from the Industrial Mining & Development Bank of Iran, a consortium that contributed $6 million to the production, $3 million of which was a loan.
       Reports vary as to the start of principal photography. A DV article announced a start in Sep 1975, but by late 1977 and early 1978, contemporary sources narrowed down the beginning of production to Aug or Sep 1977.
       According to Var, the bulk of filming took place in Isfahan, Iran. However, Var also reported additional Iranian locations, such as Yazd and Varzaneh, while an article in LAT on 8 Dec 1977 mentioned the production would also shoot in the village of Jozdan Kharabeh. Articles in HR in Dec 1977 noted the suitability of locations in Shiraz and on the Kor River, fifty miles away from Shiraz, for the filming of flood sequences. Press material for the film cited locations in Mehre Gerd, Quarry Valley, Chaleh Siah, Mehareza Hadj Hassan and the Shah Abbas Hotel. Several sources from Dec 1977, including HR and the 21 Dec 1977 Var, announced the completion of principal photography.
       Although the 10 Aug 1977 article in LAT alluded to Jeff Bridges playing the role of the diplomat, Bridges neither appeared in the film nor received onscreen credit. On 23 Nov 1977, Var announced that Anthony Quinn’s real-life son, Duncan Quinn, was hired to play the son of his father’s character in the film. A review in the Sep 1979 Films & Filming noted that the Ghashaghai Tribe stood in for the Kochi people in the film.
       On 25 Aug 1977, HR reported that Ibex Film’s Kemal Zade and Hans Kunz would “figure prominently” in the production. However, their names are not listed in the onscreen credits and their participation in the film has not been confirmed. A news item in the 26 Oct 1977 Var stated that Ibex Films and F.I.D.C.I. hired Charles A Moses Co. to handle the film’s promotion.
       News items in LAT and Var from 1977 and 1978 reported the contemporary belief that Caravans was the first major film to shoot in Iran and the first Iranian-American co-production. Despite the difficulty in adapting the novel, Williams chose Caravans because the Iranian government agreed it would be good for the country’s first major film export. In several articles, including 8 Mar 1978 Var, 28 Dec 1977 Var, 5 Feb 1978 LAHExam and 1 Mar 1978 DV, producer Mehdi Boushehri expressed his hope that the movie would be a worldwide sensation, helping to establish a viable Iranian film industry that could compete in the international film market.
       In the middle of production, on 13 Oct 1977, DV reported that Williams received a letter from Britain’s Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians in which the union threatened to halt all processing of Caravans's dailies at Technicolor’s facility in London, UK unless the production paid a sickness benefit to a continuity girl who became ill while working on the film. Williams responded by withdrawing all of the movie’s processing and post-production work from England. According to articles in the 8 Dec 1977 LAT, the 2 Dec 1977 HR and the 5 Feb 1978 LAHExam, production was further plagued by a number of mishaps. A storm flattened tents, the producers had to buy camels that ended up getting worms, and people working on the film sustained a number of injuries and afflictions. Anthony Quinn had an ear infection that affected his balance; Jennifer O’Neill also suffered an ear infection and hurt her back dealing with a horse; Michael Sarrazin got a nearly-fatal wasp sting; producer Elmo Williams was sickened by an ailment called “Shah’s Revenge;” a stunt man broke his leg and another crew member went to jail for breaking an Iranian’s jaw. Furthermore, although the crew was largely British, the large-scale production utilized many local tribes, some of which were rivals in real life. An altercation between two such adversaries led to injuries among eighteen people. A 7 Dec 1977 Var news item elaborated on the clash, noting that by the end of the conflict between 200 Kashkai and 400 Baluchi hired as extras, there were nineteen people injured and 165 others, some cast and crew members, who were forced to take refuge.
       Problems continued after completion of principal photography. According to a news item in the 31 May 1978 Var, producer Williams slipped in the bath and broke two ribs while dubbing the film at Shepperton Studios in London.
       News items on 13 Sep 1978 in Var and 14 Sep 1978 in HR announced that Universal would distribute the film domestically and that the studio would release the film on 2 Nov 1978 in New York City at Radio City Music Hall. According to a 13 Nov 1978 article in HR and materials from the AMPAS library, the film opened in Los Angeles, CA, on 22 Dec 1978 at Plitt Century Plaza #2. On 27 Dec 1978 Var reported that American International Pictures would release Caravans on 19 Jan 1979 in its Golden Rainbow theaters.
       The most consistently positive critical observations were for Mike Batt’s score, as Box did on 3 Nov 1978, and for Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography, noted in DV on 2 Nov 1978. However, the movie's overall quality led other reviews, such as those in Films and Filming and in the 22 Dec 1978 LAT, to speculate that Caravans was likely to be the last co-production between the U.S. and Iran. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
3 Oct 1977.
---
Box Office
3 Nov 1978.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1974.
---
Daily Variety
11 Nov 1975.
---
Daily Variety
13 Oct 1977.
---
Daily Variety
1 Mar 1978
p. 6, 27.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1978.
---
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1978
p. 3, 6.
Daily Variety
16 May 1979.
---
Daily Variety
31 Dec 1979.
---
Film World
Dec 1978.
---
Films and Filming
Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Aug 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Oct 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Jan 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1978
p. 3, 29.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1978
p. 1, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Nov 1980.
---
LAHExam
2 Sep 1977.
---
LAHExam
5 Feb 1978
Section E, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
11 Oct 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1977
Section IV, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1977.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Dec 1977
Section IV, p. 30-31.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1978
Section IV, p. 16.
Motion Picture Product Digest
15 Nov 1978
p. 46.
New York
20 Nov 1978.
---
New York Times
6 Nov 1978.
---
Newsweek
16 Feb 1978.
---
Sunday Tribune
12 Dec 1978
Section G, p. 1.
Time
17 Oct 1977.
---
Variety
7 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
13 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
20 Sep 1977.
---
Variety
26 Oct 1977.
---
Variety
23 Nov 1977.
---
Variety
7 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
16 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
21 Dec 1977.
---
Variety
28 Dec 1977
pp. 5-6.
Variety
25 Jan 1978.
---
Variety
8 Feb 1978.
---
Variety
8 Mar 1978
p. 4, 45.
Variety
31 May 1978.
---
Variety
13 Sep 1978.
---
Variety
8 Nov 1978
p. 18.
Variety
27 Dec 1978
p. 3, 30.
Village Voice
13 Nov 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXT
Ibex Films and F. I. D. C. I. Presents
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit mgr
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
1st asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cam op
Cam asst
Clapper/Loader
2d unit cam
2d unit cam asst
Stills photog
Chief elec
Key grip
Processed by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward master
Ward master
Asst to cost des
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Set and tech supv
Loc auditor
Coord, London
Scr supv
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Caravans by James A. Michener (New York, 1963).
MUSIC
Original music copyright © 1978 by ibex films, inc.
SONGS
"'Caravans Song," sung by Barbara Dickson.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
1978
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 2 November 1978
Los Angeles opening: 22 December 1978 at Plitt Century Plaza #2
Production Date:
fall 1977 in Iran
Copyright Claimant:
Ibex Films, Inc.
Copyright Date:
15 March 1979
Copyright Number:
PA26481
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Lenses by Todd-AO®; Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Iran, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

In 1948, at the U.S. embassy in Kashkhan, Zadestan, the ambassador assigns diplomat Mark Miller the task of finding Ellen Jasper, the daughter of an influential American senator. Ellen was last seen in Bandahar ten months earlier. Before he departs, Miller must get permission to travel to the Bandahar area from Sardar Khan, the local leader. Miller visits Khan and learns that Ellen crossed the Khyber Pass to marry Khan’s nephew, Colonel Nazrullah. Khan explains he can give Miller permission to travel but according to his country’s laws, only a husband can grant Miller an interview with his wife. Upon arriving in Bandahar, Miller blunders into a fight and injures his hand before Nazrullah’s men rescue him and take him to the Colonel. The two discuss the difference between Western and Middle Eastern ideas of justice, and Nazrullah explains he has an uphill battle bringing modern, progressive ideas to his country. When Miller inquires after Ellen, Nazrullah angrily insists she doesn’t want to talk to him, and as Ellen’s husband, Nazrullah decides whether to allow an interview and has decided against it. When Miller finds a doctor to examine his hand, the doctor inadvertently reveals that Ellen is missing and Nazrullah has been looking for her for the last ten months. She vanished while accompanying the doctor on a health inspection of local villages. Miller drives toward the village where the doctor last saw Ellen, but is stranded when his Jeep is damaged. Nomads known as the Kochi capture him at gunpoint and take him to their leader, Zulfiqar. There, Miller explains that he’s looking for a ... +


In 1948, at the U.S. embassy in Kashkhan, Zadestan, the ambassador assigns diplomat Mark Miller the task of finding Ellen Jasper, the daughter of an influential American senator. Ellen was last seen in Bandahar ten months earlier. Before he departs, Miller must get permission to travel to the Bandahar area from Sardar Khan, the local leader. Miller visits Khan and learns that Ellen crossed the Khyber Pass to marry Khan’s nephew, Colonel Nazrullah. Khan explains he can give Miller permission to travel but according to his country’s laws, only a husband can grant Miller an interview with his wife. Upon arriving in Bandahar, Miller blunders into a fight and injures his hand before Nazrullah’s men rescue him and take him to the Colonel. The two discuss the difference between Western and Middle Eastern ideas of justice, and Nazrullah explains he has an uphill battle bringing modern, progressive ideas to his country. When Miller inquires after Ellen, Nazrullah angrily insists she doesn’t want to talk to him, and as Ellen’s husband, Nazrullah decides whether to allow an interview and has decided against it. When Miller finds a doctor to examine his hand, the doctor inadvertently reveals that Ellen is missing and Nazrullah has been looking for her for the last ten months. She vanished while accompanying the doctor on a health inspection of local villages. Miller drives toward the village where the doctor last saw Ellen, but is stranded when his Jeep is damaged. Nomads known as the Kochi capture him at gunpoint and take him to their leader, Zulfiqar. There, Miller explains that he’s looking for a woman named Ellen Jasper. Zulfiqar disappears inside a tent and relays the message to Ellen. The next morning, Ellen assures Miller she is traveling with the Kochi voluntarily, so he’s free to leave. Instead, when the nomads pack up and leave, Miller joins the caravan in order to learn more about Ellen’s situation. Ellen tells Miller that she left Nazrullah because he traded their dream for power. Ellen has found her purpose traveling with Zulfiqar and the Kochi and she doesn’t miss her life in America. Back at the colonel’s compound, Nazrullah and Khan learn that Miller is traveling with the nomads. While Nazrullah wants to know why Miller is with them, Khan is more concerned that the nomads are running guns. The next day, Zulfiqar and his son, Moheb, look at land the government has offered them to settle down on. While Zulfiqar swears he’ll never give up the nomadic lifestyle, Moheb thinks it’s inevitable. Moheb worries the Kochi will never be safe from Nazrullah as long as the colonel’s wife travels with them. When the caravan stops in a village for supplies, Zulfiqar meets with his friend, Shakkur, who wants Zulfiqar to transport guns. Later, Nazrullah’s soldiers show up to search the caravan and Miller covers for Zulfiqar, but the men catch a glimpse of Ellen as they depart. When Ellen asks Miller why he didn’t leave with them, Miller says he can’t go back without proof that she’s safe. Miller settles into Kochi life as the caravan continues to a bazaar, which is the site of Zulfiqar’s next meeting with Shakkur. Shakkur arranges for Zulfiqar to meet the gun buyers in an abandoned city in three days. That night, Miller saves Ellen from an attacker in her tent. Though Ellen tries to intervene on the assailant’s behalf, she and Miller are forced to watch helplessly as Zulfiqar’s men burn his face. The next day, Nazrullah’s men find the burned man and take him with them. Later, Miller discovers the guns in Zulfiqar's possession and urges Zulfiqar to get rid of them. Zulfiqar proceeds to his meeting in the abandoned village. There, Nazrullah shows up instead and informs Zulfiqar that he has detained the buyers. Nazrullah has orders to take Miller back to his embassy. Miller prepares to comply when the burned man suddenly accuses the Kochi of transporting guns. Nazrullah tries to search the caravan’s cargo but the Kochi surround the colonel’s men and take their guns. Nazrullah urges Zulfiqar to reconsider the government’s land offer but Zulfiqar has too much pride to accept such a demeaning change of lifestyle. Nazrullah warns Zulfiqar he’ll regret this decision. When Nazrullah insists on seeing Ellen, she speaks with him but refuses to return to her old life with him. As Miller prepares to leave with Nazrullah, Ellen reassures him that she is happy. Ellen hands him a note proving her well-being as the caravan gets ready to leave. Just then, Nazrullah calls in reinforcements. As tanks and soldiers open fire on the caravan, Miller accuses the colonel of slaughtering the Kochi to punish them for Ellen’s decision to leave him. Nazrullah orders a ceasefire and demands that Zulfiqar surrender. Zulfiqar agrees to relinquish the cargo in exchange for his people’s freedom and Nazrullah concurs. In the distance, Zulfiqar notices Ellen’s prostrate body. He acknowledges the colonel got his wife back as Nazrullah carries Ellen’s dead body away. As Miller and Nazrullah drive off, Zulfiqar resumes leading his caravan. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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