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Zarak (movie poster).jpg
Original film poster
Directed by Terence Young
Produced by Irving Allen
Albert R. Broccoli
Written by Richard Maibaum
Starring Victor Mature
Michael Wilding
Anita Ekberg
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Ted Moore
Edited by Clarence Kolster
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
10 January 1957 (World Premiere, London)
Running time
99 min.
Country UK
Language English
Box office $1.4 million (US rentals)[1]
For other meanings, see Zarak (disambiguation).

Zarak is a 1957 British Warwick Films CinemaScope action film based on the 1949 book The Story of Zarak Khan by A.J. Bevan. It was directed by Terence Young with assistance from John Gilling and Yakima Canutt. Set in the Northwest Frontier and Afghanistan (though filmed in Morocco), the film starred Victor Mature, Michael Wilding, Anita Ekberg, and featured Patrick McGoohan in a supporting role.


Zarak Khan (Mature) is the son of a chief who is caught embracing one his father's wives Salma (Ekberg). Zarak's father sentenced both to torture and death but they are saved by an Imam (Finlay Currie). The exiled Zarak becomes a bandit chief and an enemy of the British Empire.


Often classified as a minor piece of "escapism", this 99-minute film nevertheless boasted a surprising amount of emerging film talent. Ted Moore, who handled some of the Technicolor/CinemaScope photography, later performed similar work on the early James Bond films, and art director John Box and costume designer Phyllis Dalton later won Oscars for their work on Doctor Zhivago. Richard Maibaum, who adapted A.J. Bevan's novel, went on to adapt such Ian Fleming novels as Dr. No, From Russia, with Love, and Goldfinger. Similarly, the Director, Terence Young and the Producer, Albert R. Broccoli went on to create the Bond movies.

The film version was announced in 1953. The producers initially wanted Errol Flynn for the lead but Victor Mature was cast instead.[2]

Stuntman Bob Simmons who performed and doubled several stars in the film noted that Victor Mature refused to ride a horse. When his stunt double Jack Keely was killed in a horse accident on the set Mature insisted on personally paying for his funeral.[3]

Patrick McGoohan portrays Moor Larkin, an Adjutant to Michael Wilding's character who has a penchant for billiards, as well as offering sensible, albeit ignored, advice. This role was commented on in the British cinema magazine, Picturegoer. The critic Margaret Hinxman made Patrick McGoohan her "Talent Spot". She assured readers that this new face would be "really something", given a "half-decent" part. She completely slated the film, however, describing it as "absurd".

The popular chanteuse Yana sang her hit song Climb Up the Wall in the film.[4]

Studio work was done at Elstree.[5]

The original film poster was criticised by the House of Lords for "bordering on the obscene" and banned in the United Kingdom.[6]

The action sequences reappeared in John Gilling's The Bandit of Zhobe (1958) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965).


Climb Up the Wall
Music by Auyar Hosseini
Lyrics by Norman Gimbel
Sung by Yana

The real Zarak Khan[edit]

The book, written by A.J. Bevan, contained a foreword by Field Marshal William Slim. According to Bevan, the real Zarak Khan was an Afghan who spent most of his life fighting the British in the northwest frontier in the 1920s and 1930s. Among his crimes was the murder of a holy man. He eventually gave himself up and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Andaman Islands. However when the Japanese occupied the islands he stayed in his cell.

Khan was eventually given a suspended sentence and decided to work for the British in Burma. In 1943 he was leading a patrol when its British officer was killed in an ambush. He watched another British patrol be attacked by the Japanese and sent messengers to summon a Gurkha force. To stop the Japanese from escaping with their prisoners before the Gurkhas arrived, he attacked them single-handed, and killed or wounded six soldiers before being overpowered. He refused to be beheaded and insisted on being flayed alive to buy time to enable the Gurkhas to arrive.[7]

Producer Irving Allen decided to make a fictional account set in the 19th Century.[8]


  1. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  2. ^ WARWICK ACQUIRES BEVAN SPY NOVEL: Irving Allen Plans Production of 'Zarak Khan' – Seeking Errol Flynn for Title Role By THOMAS M. PRYORSpecial to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923–Current file) [New York, N.Y] 14 May 1953: 33
  3. ^ Simmons, Bob & Passingham, Kenneth Nobody Does It Better: My 25 Years of Stunts With James Bond and Other Stories Sterling Pub Co Inc (October 1987)
  4. ^ "Yana Biography - Yana". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  5. ^ "These Are the Facts", Kinematograph Weekly, 31 May 1956 p 14
  6. ^ p.129 Harper, Sue & Porter, Vincent British Cinéma of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference 2002 Oxford University Press
  7. ^ "BRAVEST OF THEM ALL!.". Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954) (Launceston, Tas.: National Library of Australia). 16 December 1950. p. 1 Section: The Examiner MAGAZINE SECTION. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  8. ^ "Zarak (1956) - Overview". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 

External links[edit]