The Horsemen (1971)

GP | 105 or 109-110 mins | Drama | June 1971

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HISTORY

Although onscreen credits list the film’s process as Panavision, several contemporary sources state that The Horsemen was shot in Super Panavision. The actor listed onscreen as Srinanda De is identified in some contemporary sources as David De. The actor credited in some sources as Sy Selvaratnam is identified in other sources as Sy Temple.
       In Nov 1968, Publishers Weekly announced that Joseph Kessel’s novel The Horsemen had been sold to Columbia Pictures for $150,000. By Apr 1969, as noted in DV , director John Frankenheimer and producer Edward Lewis planned to begin shooting the film in the late spring as one of four films to be produced for Columbia. DV reported in Jun 1969 that the production would have a split schedule to accommodate star Omar Sharif’s previous commitment to the 1971 film The Last Valley (see below).
       As a result, Frankenheimer shot all of the Afghanistan footage, as well as some in Spain, during Jun--Sep 1969, then finished filming in Spain from Apr--Jul 1970. During the hiatus, Frankenheimer and Edwards worked on the 1970 picture I Walk the Line (see below). Location sites for The Horsemen listed in contemporary news items included Kabul and Kunduz, Afghanistan, and Madrid, Granada, Gaudix and Almeria in Spain. According to a 15 Apr 1970 Var news item, some interiors were shot at the Seville Studios in Madrid. The item added that some Afghanistan footage was shot by James Wong Howe, but only Claude Renoir receives onscreen credit for photography.
       Although a Mar 1970 NYT news item declared that Frank Langella would “costar” in ... More Less

Although onscreen credits list the film’s process as Panavision, several contemporary sources state that The Horsemen was shot in Super Panavision. The actor listed onscreen as Srinanda De is identified in some contemporary sources as David De. The actor credited in some sources as Sy Selvaratnam is identified in other sources as Sy Temple.
       In Nov 1968, Publishers Weekly announced that Joseph Kessel’s novel The Horsemen had been sold to Columbia Pictures for $150,000. By Apr 1969, as noted in DV , director John Frankenheimer and producer Edward Lewis planned to begin shooting the film in the late spring as one of four films to be produced for Columbia. DV reported in Jun 1969 that the production would have a split schedule to accommodate star Omar Sharif’s previous commitment to the 1971 film The Last Valley (see below).
       As a result, Frankenheimer shot all of the Afghanistan footage, as well as some in Spain, during Jun--Sep 1969, then finished filming in Spain from Apr--Jul 1970. During the hiatus, Frankenheimer and Edwards worked on the 1970 picture I Walk the Line (see below). Location sites for The Horsemen listed in contemporary news items included Kabul and Kunduz, Afghanistan, and Madrid, Granada, Gaudix and Almeria in Spain. According to a 15 Apr 1970 Var news item, some interiors were shot at the Seville Studios in Madrid. The item added that some Afghanistan footage was shot by James Wong Howe, but only Claude Renoir receives onscreen credit for photography.
       Although a Mar 1970 NYT news item declared that Frank Langella would “costar” in the film, he did not appear in The Horsemen . Actor Alan Webb is included in HR production charts cast lists and a modern source, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. A modern source adds Tom Tryon to the cast. In a modern interview, Frankenheimer noted the difficulties of shooting in Afghanistan, including the extreme heat, the threat of military intervention and the language barriers. Because of religious injunctions against filming female nomads, the director stated that he cast his wife, Evans Evans, as an Afghani woman. He also remarked that he organized a car raffle to attract 5,000 extras for a crowd scene, but when 300,000 people showed up, the army had to be called to disperse them.
       As shown in the film, buzkashi is an ancient Afghani sport requiring an individual on horseback to transport a dead calf over a goal line while being whipped by the other competitors. Each game, which is often brutally violent, can last up to one week and requires specially trained horses.
       The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) made an hour-long documentary about the making of The Horsemen that, as noted in a Sep 1970 HR article, was shown first in Britain and then in America. Frankenheimer remarked in a Jul 1971 HR article that he spent two and a half years on the film, which cost $4.5 million, and stated his intention “to do my very best for [Columbia].” However, modern sources point out that the studio drastically cut the director’s planned 3 1/2–hour epic and canceled plans for roadshow exhibition, resulting in a severely edited and restructured final version of the picture. Some of the footage that was excised from the original version featured actress Despo, who was still listed in most reviews’ cast lists. Frankenheimer discussed in a modern interview his disappointment with the film, stating that Norm Jackter, head of Columbia’s distribution arm, disliked the picture.
       Despite mixed reviews in America, The Horsemen was successful in France and Frankenheimer won France’s 1971 Triomphe Award for Best Director. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
19 Jul 1971.
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Daily Variety
1 Apr 1969.
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Daily Variety
27 Jun 1969.
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Daily Variety
4 Sep 1969.
---
Daily Variety
23 Jun 1971.
---
Daily Variety
24 Jun 1971.
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Filmfacts
1971
pp. 453-55.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Jul 1969.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1970
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1970
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jun 1971
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1971.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Dec 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
23 Sep 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Sep 1971.
---
New York Times
1 Mar 1970.
---
New York Times
22 Jul 1971.
---
Publishers Weekly
18 Nov 1968.
---
Time
16 Aug 1971.
---
Variety
15 Apr 1970.
---
Variety
23 Jun 1971.
---
Variety
9 Jul 1971.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A John Frankenheimer Film
A John Frankenheimer Film; with the cooperation of Afghan Films
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Prop master
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hair styles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Animal trainer
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Les cavaliers by Joseph Kessel (Paris, 1967).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
June 1971
Premiere Information:
World premiere in San Francisco: 25 June 1971
Production Date:
June--September 1969 in Afghanistan and Spain
early April-- early July 1970 in Spain
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
1 June 1971
Copyright Number:
LP39193
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
105 or 109-110
MPAA Rating:
GP
Countries:
Spain, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In rural Afghanistan, the venerable Tursen reigns as the finest chapandaz ever to play buzkashi , a brutal competition requiring a man on horseback to transport a headless calf over a goal line while the other players whip him in an attempt to overtake him. Tursen, now a wealthy stable owner, names five chapandaz , including Salih, to compete in the king’s royal buzkashi competition in Kabul. Tursen then admires his beautiful purebred stallion, Jahil, and praises the horse’s trainer, Mukhi. Meanwhile, Tursen's son Uraz is watching camel fights in town, where he enters into a bet with a nomad, Hayatal, impressing Hayatal with his nonchalance and keen eye for which animal will win. Tursen interrupts his son to announce to the townsmen that he has chosen Uraz to ride Jahil in the royal buzkashi , and will deed the horse to his son if he wins. Believing that his father cares for and trusts the horse more than him, Uraz responds with pride and displeasure. In the bustling city of Kabul, with Mukhi as his syce , or manservant, Uraz enters the tournament, featuring dozens of fierce men. Uraz pulls ahead of the competition, suffering vicious whip blows to grab the calf. Over the next long minutes, he maintains his lead despite ferocious opposition, but cannot reach the goal. At one point, the riders rush headlong into the spectator stands, trampling competitors and audience members. Although Uraz is pulled from his horse, he remounts and is ... +


In rural Afghanistan, the venerable Tursen reigns as the finest chapandaz ever to play buzkashi , a brutal competition requiring a man on horseback to transport a headless calf over a goal line while the other players whip him in an attempt to overtake him. Tursen, now a wealthy stable owner, names five chapandaz , including Salih, to compete in the king’s royal buzkashi competition in Kabul. Tursen then admires his beautiful purebred stallion, Jahil, and praises the horse’s trainer, Mukhi. Meanwhile, Tursen's son Uraz is watching camel fights in town, where he enters into a bet with a nomad, Hayatal, impressing Hayatal with his nonchalance and keen eye for which animal will win. Tursen interrupts his son to announce to the townsmen that he has chosen Uraz to ride Jahil in the royal buzkashi , and will deed the horse to his son if he wins. Believing that his father cares for and trusts the horse more than him, Uraz responds with pride and displeasure. In the bustling city of Kabul, with Mukhi as his syce , or manservant, Uraz enters the tournament, featuring dozens of fierce men. Uraz pulls ahead of the competition, suffering vicious whip blows to grab the calf. Over the next long minutes, he maintains his lead despite ferocious opposition, but cannot reach the goal. At one point, the riders rush headlong into the spectator stands, trampling competitors and audience members. Although Uraz is pulled from his horse, he remounts and is near victory when he falls and is dragged by Jahil, after which the other players close in on him. He awakens in a local hospital and is crushed to learn that his leg is broken and that Salih leapt onto Jahil’s back at the last minute to win the tournament. Although he has won Jahil, Uraz is inconsolable and orders Mukhi to help him flee the hospital that evening. On the trail home, he cuts off the cast so the sun, air and pages of the Koran can heal his leg. That night at a roadside inn, Uraz overhears a man discussing the old days of contest, and proclaiming Tursen the greatest of all chapandaz . Remembering playing buzkashi with his father, whose prowess was exhilarating to the young man, Uraz determines to head home right away, despite his pain and lack of sleep. As penance for losing the game and in the hopes of avoiding hearing any further comparisons to his father, he chooses the most difficult route home. After setting out, they rest at the first village they come to where Mukhi, who has heard the road ahead called a dead man’s road, informs Uraz that he will not go with him. To convince him to stay, Uraz bequeaths Jahil to the boy, then orders a scribe to set the bequest in writing. Upon hearing the demand, the scribe describes how his master once left him in charge of his fortune, then blinded him after he used some of the gold to pay for prayers for his dying wife. After the scribe concludes that his master committed the greatest sin by putting such a temptation in hands of a poor man, Uraz determines to carry the will himself. Immediately, he and Mukhi’s relationship becomes strained and wary under the pressure of the bequest. By the time they reach the next town, Uraz’ leg is infected and he collapses with fever. The beautiful Zereh, an untouchable, tends to him and within days he regains consciousness. Upon reviving, Uraz realizes Zereh’s status and insults her by ordering her away. Furious, she turns to Mukhi, who treats her kindly. When Uraz and Mukhi leave the town, Zereh begs Uraz to take her along, and he disdainfully “gives” her to Mukhi. Meanwhile, Tursen hears that Jahil has won, bringing great honor to their town, and that Uraz has broken his leg. Realizing that Uraz’ stallion has not been exercised, Tursen takes the horse into the buzkashi fields, but finding himself unable to perform as he did years earlier, falls to the ground, despondent. On the trail, Zereh prevails on Mukhi to win Jahil by killing Uraz, reasoning that he will soon die of his wound anyway. Soon after, they reach a town in which Uraz watches the ram fights. When the town’s prince names one of the animals the champion, one man challenges the claim, asserting that his ram is superior. Recognizing the man as Hayatal, Uraz is intrigued, and to Mukhi and Zereh’s horror, bets Jahil against the champion ram. Hayatal’s ram is revealed to be scrawny and one-horned, inspiring the townsmen to bet against it, but the scrappy fighter wins easily. As Hayatal leaves, he announces to Uraz that “what a one-horned ram can do, a one-legged chapandaz can do better.” Back on the mountain road, the route turns snowy and treacherous. When the pack mule fails, Uraz refuses to allow Mukhi to help Zereh, fearing for his syce ’s safety. During one cruel storm, Uraz collapses, prompting Zereh to approach him with her knife drawn. Realizing that the pair plans to kill him, Uraz begins throwing his cash to the wind, threatening to destroy it all unless they desist, and Zereh gives up. By the next day he is barely conscious when he sees a town over the mountain pass. Jahil carries him to the chief shepherd, who nurses him and keeps him safe from Mukhi and Zereh. When Uraz revives enough to talk, the shepherd informs him that his leg must be amputated if he is to survive. Reluctantly, Uraz agrees, cautioning the man to keep the operation a secret, and stoically endures the primitive and painful procedure. Later, he covers the stump with his stuffed boot and calls in Mukhi and Zereh. In his tent, he overcomes the pair and ties them up, then forces Zereh, to whom the cash represents a lifetime of labor, to burn the money as punishment. Uraz soon reaches home with his two prisoners. After greeting his son happily, Tursen questions Uraz about why Mukhi tried to kill him, then chastises his son for tempting the boy. Uraz responds with disdain, prompting Tursen to inform him that they share the same “darkness of the heart,” as men bred to pursue death. When Tursen urges his son to pass judgment on Mukhi, a chastened Uraz exonerates the young man and frees Zereh. Tursen then gives Jahil to Mukhi. Zereh visits Uraz, and when she accidentally sees his stump, he demands her secrecy, then makes love to her. Afterward, she informs him that she has slept with him only for money, and reminds him that burning the cash meant destroying in a moment what she worked all her life for. Soon after, Uraz notifies Tursen that Mukhi plans to sell Jahil, and Tursen agrees to lend him the money to buy the horse. In thanks, Uraz reveals his amputation to his father. Two weeks later there is a feast in honor of Salih. Tursen is disturbed to find Uraz absent, but as the celebratory demonstrations begin, Uraz rides up on Jahil and performs daring equestrian acrobatics, thrilling the crowd with his new accomplishments. As Tursen applauds with great pride, Uraz removes his boot to show one and all his handicap. Tursen follows Uraz to the outskirts of the town, where Uraz bids his father goodbye, explaining that he will join Hayatal in forming a traveling buzkashi team. As they bid a fond farewell, Tursen hopes that Allah one day may grant his son peace. +

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

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