During the post-war period, Tyrone Power was often found in technicolour historical epics – The Captain from Castile, Prince of Foxes, The Black Rose, Untamed – managing to seem miscast in all of them. Come to think of it, he was Mr History throughout his career – Lloyds of London was his first film as a star, Solomon and Sheba his last.
Here he’s meant to be a Saxon noble in the 13th century who’s still bitter about Norman occupation and who, like many Power historical characters, has hang ups about his father. He goes off on a journey with fellow Saxon Jack Hawkins across Europe and winds up joining the army of a Mongol warlord… played by Orson Welles. They also wind up in China.
Welles looks silly in his hat and outfit, but he’s got plenty of humour, charisma and presence – his character has a bromance with Powers’ character (he likes the Englishman for his intelligence and bravery and, um… let’s face it, because he’s the star). His absence in the last half hour or so of the film is badly missed because the story isn’t that interesting. There’s lots of colour and adventure; not really enough action or compelling drama, regardless of it's unusual setting. It also needed better locations – something that looked more like China and Mongolia.
Power also has a bromance relationship with Hawkins, who is a devoted Englishman, a long-bow lover who wants to bring back benefits of Chinese civilisation (well, items of war, really – a compass and gunpowder). But just so we don’t think Power plays someone gay, there’s a French girl who’s dressed like a boy (Cecile Aubrey).
Power does his best, which was never that much in these sort of movies (he could act, as Razor’s Edge showed, but suffered when there wasn’t sword fighting, a decent script or gun play involved). Hawkins is imposing, as is a trusty English support cast: James Robertson Justice, Felix Alymer, and Michael Rennie (as Edward I, easily the most sympathetic depiction of that character ever – one of England’s most ruthless monarchs is turned into a kindly man who just wants Saxons and Normans get along). Aubrey is truly dreadful, you’ll cringe every time she opens her mouth – the bloke who plays the oriental servant is bad, too. Herbert Lom gives good value as a dodgy Muslim (a part he was destined to play for the rest of the decade); Bobby Blake turns up as a servant boy and Laurence Harvey as a small role as Power’s half-brother.