Horsemen [1971]

The Horsemen is a startling and robust adventure story--almost a fable, actually--that opens a window onto a brutal but exotic part of the world. Set in mountainous Afghanistan, the film (written for the screen by Dalton Trumbo of Spartacus fame) concerns the devastating and near-impossible efforts of a great horseman, Uraz (Omar Sharif), to establish a reputation equal to that of his famous father, the chieftain Tursen (Jack Palance). Parts of The Horsemen have a semi-documentary feel, and those sections can be astonishing to watch, particularly footage of a shockingly brutal sport called Bozkeshi, in which men and horses die by the score. Director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate) literally whips up a sprawling and highly physical movie here, embroidered with a fascinating subplot about the treachery of a beautiful slave (Leigh Taylor-Young). Released in 1971, The Horsemen provides a startling glimpse of a pre-war, pre-Taliban Afghanistan. --Tom Keogh

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