Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:          

THE GOLDEN HORDE. Universal International, 1951. Ann Blyth, David Farrar, George Macready, Henry Brandon, Henry Petrie, Richard Egan, Marvin Miller, Poodles Hanneford, Peggy Castle. Screenplay Gerald Drayson Adams, based on a story by Harold Lamb (a two-part serial in Adventure, 15 May & June 1933). Directed by George Sherman.

   This handsome Technicolor outing from Universal has many virtues in terms of production value, cast, and credits, but none more important than the contribution of Harold Lamb whose bestselling non-fiction covering the Far and Middle East was preceded by decades of entertaining fiction often appearing in the legendary pulp Adventure, and inspiring young Robert E. Howard among others.

   Lamb also wrote numerous screenplays, often for the historical epics of Cecil B. de Mille. This is based on the story of the same name, the last Lamb published in Adventure, and features crusader Nial O’Gordon who here becomes a quite different Sir Guy of Devon. You may find this and the other O’Gordon story (“Keeper of the Gate”) reprinted in Bison Books Swords of the West edited by Howard Andrew Jones (whose Desert of Souls I reviewed here recently) and see how many liberties Lamb took with his own story.

   The time is the early 13th century, and a trio of Crusaders (David Farrar, Richard Egan, and Poodles Hanneford as Friar John) have arrived in Samarkand determined to stop the advance of the Golden Horde led by Genghis Khan (Marvin Miller) and run afoul of their own sexism when they conflict with Princess Shalimar (Ann Blyth) who has altogether more subtle plans to save her city than combat with the greatest warrior and the greatest army in history.

   Further complicating things are the envoys of the great Khan including his son Juchi (Henry Brandon) who are just as stupid and sexist as the Crusaders when it comes to Shalimar’s plan which seems unlikely to work even with the help of shaman Raven (George Macready) pouring oil on the waters. Being Hollywood it is only natural that Shalimar and Sir Guy of Devon (Farrar) are going to clash and fall in love. Complain if you choose about this old cliche, but you had to expect that one.

   There is more than enough action in this relatively short film, but the emphasis on the story of one wise sexy woman outwitting all the men around her, including Genghis Khan, which makes for an unusual plot for the period. And rather than force of arms, Genghis Khan is defeated by a prophecy that he will die if he sets foot in the city. He bypasses Samarkand and poor Shalimar is left with her brave but more than a little thick headed Crusader (maybe it was the helmets) hero for a no doubt rocky happily ever-after, at least until Temujin, aka Timur the Lame, aka Tammerlane, the Khan’s great grandson, shows up.

   This is quick, attractive, fun, and nowhere near as boneheaded as Sir Guy or Juchi, neither of whom can understand why the men of Samarkand would be led by a woman in the first place. The story is more complex and more interesting than the usual restoring the throne from the usurper uncle or whatever in most of these, thanks to Lamb, and Adams. For once the woman in the story is there far more than eye candy and rescue from a fate worse than death.

   It could easily be argued that Princess Shalimar rescues everyone from their own stupidity in this one.