Genghis Khan (1965)




Director:    Henry Levin.

Starring:    Omar Sharif (Genghis Khan), Stephen Boyd, (Jamuga)  James Mason (Kam Ling), Eli Wallach (The Shah of Khwarezm), Francoise Dorleac (Bortei), Telly Savalas (Shan), Robert Morely (The Emperor of China), Yvonne Mitchell (Katke), Woody Strode (Sengal)..

Only loosely based on the life of Genghis, this story has little to recommend it except the action sequences.




Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.


"Almost 800 years ago a military genius came out of Mongolia to conquer half the world. He was the son of Yesugai, leader of a small nomad tribe. This man of destiny, riding beside me as a young boy, was called Temujin, born to rule as the prince of conquerors. Genghis Khan."

Timujin's tribe is moving across the plains when they are attacked by men on horses coming over a small ridge. Temujin is kept out of the battle by his guardian. They kill the men and take the women, cattle and horses.

The leader of the hostile tribe, Jamuga of the Merkits, has Yesugai brought to him. Jamuga says that Yesugai and his people were trespassing on his land. "I wanted you alive, Yesugai. I wanted the chieftains of the other tribes to learn how Jamuga of the Merkits punishes those who trespass on his grazing lands." Jamuga slaps Yesugai across the face, knocking him to the ground.

Temujin breaks away from his handlers and jumps on the back of Jamuga, who has little trouble getting Temujin off his back. He then starts choking the boy. The boy's guardian, named Geen, shouts out: "Stay your hand!" Geen is invited to come closer. Geen starts talking immediately: "It's written in the stars that the man who takes the life of Yesugai's son will die and die quickly and by his own sword." Geen shows Jumuga the palm of the boy's right hand which carries the mark of blood.  Jumuga says he will spare the boy, but will make him watch the killing of his father. Four horses, each one tied to a limb of the older man, are commanded to go in four different directions. The body of Yesugai is ripped in half at the waist.

Jumjuga now tells Temujin that he will be forced to wear a collar with a bell around his neck.  Temujin has to wear a wooden circle around his neck and is forced to do hard labor. And yet a black man called Sengal teaches him how to sword fight.

Temujin is now grown up, but he is still carrying the wooden circle around his neck. He still has his mother and Geen with him.

Sengal and Temujin come down by the river. There some rich young people are busy throwing around a ball. One throw is too high and the ball lands in the water. A pretty young woman cries for someone to retrieve her ball. No one speaks up, so Tamujin goes over close to the young woman and goes in the water after the ball. He throws it back to the woman and she catches it. The young woman's brother warns his sister that she must stay away from this man because he is of a people who are the enemies of the Merkits and their own people. The woman ignores her brother and extends her hand out to help get Temujin out of the river. The woman's name is Bortei.

Jamuga comes riding up to Temujin and knocks the young man down on the ground. He then tells the princess that she is to return to the camp with her brothers. Bortei says she takes no orders from Jamuga.

Jamuga grabs the fishing pole from Sengal's hands. He is going to use it on Temujin in order for him to learn to stay in his proper place. He keeps striking Temujin on his legs until Temujin has to kneel in order to lessen the pain. He says that Jamuga is a big man as long as his opponent is tied to a wooden stock.

So Sengal releases the two sections of the wooden stock. Tamujin uses the wood as a weapon to help him knock out Jamuga. He then grabs the fishing pole and starts knocking Jamuga's guards down off their horses. He then starts running to escape. He makes his way down to the river. He gets away from his pursuers by jumping off a high cliff into the water below.

Temujin rests by the river. He hears the voice of Geen calling for him. The two reunite happily. Geen says that Sengal told him where to find his young master. Poor Sengal cannot talk. He kneels before Temujin and puts one of the master's feet on top of his head. Geen says that Temujin may be only the leader of the smallest tribe, but at least it's a start.

The three men start heading up and over some mountains. They camp for the night. Geen uses the opportunity to tell Temujin that rich Persia lies to the west and rich China lies to the east. He describes the area of the Mongols as a barren, empty land. The Mongol peoples are not rich because they cannot unite together to form a powerful society and economy.

From the rocks of the mountains Temujin sees the Merkits bring their prisoners of war onto a large plain. At night Temujin distracts a guard and Sengal slits the man's throat. Then the two men untie the prisoners. Temujin first unties the Selig leader Shan. Now they kill the other guards. Once everyone has a weapon and a horse, they attack the camp and steal all the horses.

Timujin now leads a large force of men. They stop a slave caravan and release all the slaves, many of whom go back to the camp of Timujin.

At night Temujin and Sengal kidnap the lovely Bortei. They take her back to the camp. She is shocked when she realizes that it is Temujin who has stolen her.

Bortei is highly resistant to Temujin at first. At first she tells him off and then she throws a dish and then a knife at him.

Jamuga is furious when he realizes that Princess Bortei was stolen away by Temujin. He yells at everyone, including Bortei's three brothers: Subodai, Jebai and Kassar. One night the three brother make an escape attempt. In the forest they meet up with Geen who takes them to Temujin's camp where there are reunited with their sister. She introduces Temujin to them as her lord and her husband.

Jamuga sees Bortei washing her hair near the waterfall. He sneaks up behind her and grabs her. In the struggle her robe that was placed on the ground is knocked into the water. Sengal is out fishing and he sees the robe floating by. He picks it up and takes it to Temujin.

Jamuga starts to kiss Bortei. She pushes him over and starts to run out of the tent. He stops her and then begins to rape her. She grabs a set of bear claws and scratches the left side of Jamuga's face with it. He starts ripping off more of her clothes as he throws her onto a bear rug. Jamuga now throws her onto his bed.

Temujin and his men arrive at Jamuga's camp. Jamuga comes out of his tent with his sword. All of Jamuga's horses are chased away. Temujin rushes into the center of the camp and calls for Bortei. She yells to him and rushes out of the tent. Temujin swoops her up and off they go.

Temujin and his people move east. As they move farther toward China they run into a group of men whose wagon got busted up. The man named Kam Ling is an ambassador for the emperor of China to the Indias, returning to their court at Peking.  The Mongols fix the wagon for the ambassador. Temujin tells the man that the Mongols will serve as his escort. So they will all go east together. Temujin introduces Bortei to the ambassador and he helps Bortei into the wagon to rest as she is very noticeably pregnant.

On the move still, Bortei gives birth to a son. Temujin is ecstatic over the birth of his son. The boy's name is Jochi.

Temujin reaches the Great Wall of China. The Chinese send out an escort to lead the way through the great wall. The Mongols are amazed at the sights that they see. There are large beautiful buildings all around a central circle.

The Mongols close to Temujin and Bortei get in a huge circular tub to be cleaned by some beautiful Chinese women. Both Temujin and Bortei are worried that their men will become soft and fat while in China. So Temujin has his men do physical exercise and sword fighting practice every morning.

The Emperor receives news that the Manchurians have captured the city of Topei. Timujin offers to build a Mongol army for the Emperor. And he is willing to leave his wife and child in China while he raises such an army. The Emperor agrees.

The three brothers are given a lot of gold and told to go out and get the best Mongol men for the Mongol army. The brothers are in a competition. The one that performs the best will get a handsome award and can also marry the Emperor's beautiful daughter, Chin Yu.

Subodai wins the contest. He gives out a yell of happiness and rides his horse over to Chin Yu. He grabs her and takes her over to Bortei, saying teach Chin Yu to be a good wife while he is gone.

Jamuga's troops are advancing. Timujin is informed of Jamuga's movements. Temujin sets up a trap for Jamuga. A force goes out to fight Jamuga, but then turns and runs away. Jamuga follows the forces until he is in the ambush zone and the archers open up on Jamuga's men. Then the cavalry pounces on Jamuga's forces.

Jamuga is captured and the fighting is stopped. Temujin is victorious. The heads of the Manchurian rebellion have their heads loped off. Jamuga now has to carry around his neck a large circular wooden stock like the one Temujin had to wear, but heavier.

The ambassador to India reads a proclamation declaring that Temujin will now be known as the Prince of Conquerors, Genghis Khan. The celebration is cut short when there is a huge explosion behind the crowd. Genghis goes over to check on the explosion. Two old men set off the explosion, but they used too much black powder and the explosion was much bigger than what was planned. Genghis is very interested in the making of the explosion, so he has the two men come to him at night and show him how they make the explosions. Genghis now wants to use the explosions in various military ways.

Bortei tells Genghis that he must either kill Jamuga or have Jamuga fight alongside him. This idea infuriates Genghis, but Bortei says it's the only way to bring the Merkits into the great Mongolian empire. Genghis likes the idea of having Jamuga and the Merkits with him.

Genghis tells Jamuga about his ideas of building a greater Mongolian army and empire. Jamuga will not cooperate, so Genghis has Jamuga put back in his cage.

Genghis tells the Emperor that he and his men want to return to Mongolia. The Emperor says no. He bought the Mongol army and Genghis is one of his generals. Genghis says that he and his men are prisoners in China. This makes the Emperor furious and he tells Genghis that he wants no more talk of their leaving China.

The Emperor now tells the ambassador to India to bring Jamuga to him in secret.  The ambassador tells Genghis that he himself may leave China, but he wants his people to remain behind in China. He also says there might be an assassination of Genghis. With this said, Genghis tells two of Borte's brothers to go get Jamuga and bring him to their quarters.

When they release Jamuga from his cage, Jamuga knocks over the two brothers with the large wood circle around his neck. He then grabs a key off the brothers and removes the wooden circle.

Jamuga hides himself in the city. Genghis learns that Jamuga got away and they have had no luck in locating him. The ambassador is now a prisoner of Genghis Khan.

Genghis now puts on a farewell show using the gun powder in different ways. The Emperor is very impressed by the fire works display. There is a special display after the fireworks. The Emperor is given the honor of lighting up the last display of the night. As part of this last display the powder is used to bust open the gates. The Mongols now ride through the gates and out to freedom.

The Mongols set up a camp. Genghis tells the Chinese ambassador to India that he will now be one of his closet advisers.

Genghis talks with his staff and leaders. He says they are moving westward. China will be in the hands of Jebai. Subodai will move north into Russia. Kassar will bring India to her knees. Eventually, Persia will be theirs for the taking.

But what about Jamuga? What should they do about him?

The Mongols seized all of China north of the Yellow River. They crossed over the Ural Mountains into Russia. They then went after India.

Now his targets are Samarkand and Bakal. He then went after the great empire of the Persians, known as Khwarezm. [Khwarezmian Empire 1190 - 1220 AD.]

Jamuga wants the monarch of Persia [Shah Ala ad-Din Muhammad] to combine their military forces together and defeat the Great Khan and his army. The monarch agrees to the idea.

A messenger comes to the Khan to tell him that Jamuga and the monarch of Persia have joined forces and are headed towards the Mongols.

Jamuga thinks he has gotten the best of the Khan because his forces will have the high ground. But when Jamuga and the Shah arrive at the site, they find that the Mongols under the Khan already have the high ground. The Shah is very disappointed.

The Chinese ambassador comes out to tell Jamuga that the Great Khan wants to speak with him. At first, Jamuga refuses, but the ambassador teases him about being afraid of the spoken word and he agrees to the meeting. The Khan tells Jamuga that his hope was not to have to spill Mongol blood. Jamuga says he will speak to the Shah.

Two horsemen ride up near the Mongol formation. They pull behind them the dead body of Kam Ling. So the Khan has his answer. Jamuga and the Shah rush forward on their horses. The Khan has the ends of his long formation come around to get behind Jamuga and the Shah's forces. When they move, Jamuga sees that he now faces a string of mortars ready to fire at him and his forces.

When the mortars are fired, the Shah quickly issues the command to withdraw to his men. Jamuga yells at the Shah to stop the retreat, but the Shah says he has no appetite for his own slaughter. So Jamuga slashes the Shah with his saber and the royal fellow falls off his horse.

Jamuga attacks but quickly finds himself surround by the forces of the Khan. Jamuga himself falls off his horse. So now Jamuga challenges the Khan to a battle of one on one. The Khan says that after Jamuga is dead, his own people will ride with the unified Mongol tribes.

The two men fight with spears. Jamuga hits the Khan's horse with the broadside of the spear on its front legs, making it crash to the ground with the Khan. Jamuga waits while the Khan gets back on his horse. Now they attack each other with their sabers. That ends with no victor, so now they fight each other with their fists. They come across their sabers and grab them up. The Khan comes out the victor. He kills Jamuga with his saber.

The Khan now gives the Merkits the chance to leave now if they are going to leave. The Merkits bow to their superior. The Khan tells Bortei: "I've lived to see it." All the Mongolian tribes have now united.

The Khan has been very bloodied. He appoints his successors. He then dies in his chair. [Actually he died after defeating the Tangut people of causes unknown. These people became identified with the state of Western Xia and were traditionally thought of as a Qiangic-speaking people who moved to northwestern China sometime before the 10th century CE.]

The sons of Khan rolled westward onto the Hungarian plains, came to the borders of Egypt, founded the Monghul Dynasty of India, while Kublai Khan took charge of China.



I enjoyed the film, but this is a Hollywood movie and it does not follow actual events. The film is based on a true character and that's about all you can say.

The Jamuga character is a major player all the way through the film. [In truth he was at one time blood brothers with Timujin. When Temujin's wife Bortei was abducted by the Three Mergits, Wang Khan, Jamuga and Temujin together got the wife back.]

[In 1201, the thirteen remaining tribes and Mongol tribes not allied with Temujin came together for a khurultai and and elected Jamukha as universal ruler. This was the final breach between Temüjin and Jamukha. They met in battle at the Ergune Valley in the Battle of the Thirteen Sides. Temujin was the decisive victor.]

[Temujin did not die until 1227, but Jamuga was executed by Temujin in 1206. Jamuga was dead before Temujin conquered China starting around 1209.]

So the film is very far from accurate, but it's still very watchable.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Ethno-geography of 13th century Mongolia Peoples:


                Lake Baykal        Buryats


                                              Mongols                Tartars

Naimans                                 Inner Mongolian Plateau




Historical Background:




206B.C. - A.D. 220 Han Dynasty

220-263 Three Kingdoms Period

263-589 Northern and Southern Dynasties (period of Disunion)

589-618 Sui Dynasty

618-907 Tang Dynasty  (The last vestiges of real aristocratic power in China vanished in the wars of dynastic succession that followed the fall of the Tang Dynasty.)

907-960 Five Dynasties

960-1125 Song Dynasty (960-1127 Northern Song; 947-1125 Liao Dynasty; 1127-1279 Southern Song)

1125-1234 Jin Dynasty

1234-1279  Transitional Period of Growing Mongolian Control

1279-1368 Yuan Dynasty  (Mongolian Control)

Genghis Khan (1167?-1227), Mongol conqueror and founder of the Mongol Empire, which spanned the continent of Asia by the time of his death.

1125-1234 --  Jin Dynasty in China.

1161  -- the Mongols are an important force in eastern Mongolia, but they lose their supremacy to a rival tribe, the Tatar, in alliance with the Jin (Chin) rulers of North China. (The name Tartar, or Tatar, was later used by Europeans to refer to the Mongol invaders of Europe in general.)

1167?  --   Originally named Temujin, Genghis was born on the banks of the Onon River, near the present-day border between northern Mongolia and southeastern Russia. His father, Yesugei, was a local chieftain and nephew of the former khan (ruler) of the Mongol tribe.

When Temujin was nine years old his father betrothed him to ten year old Borte, daughter of the chieftain of his mother's people, the Konkirat.

Yesugei was poisoned by the Tatars. He survived long enough to reach his own encampment and send someone to bring Temujin back home.  Yesugei's wife and young children were deserted by his followers under the influence of the Taichi'ut, a rival clan. 

When Temujin had grown into a young man, he was taken captive by the Taichi'ut. They made him wear a wooden collar around his neck. He was befriended by a benefactor who helped him escape from his captors.

Temujin was taken under the wing of  Toghril, later known as Ong-Khan, the powerful ruler of the Kereit, a tribe in central Mongolia. Toghril and Jamuka, a young Mongol chieftain, helped Temujin defeat the Merkit and rescue Borte from them.

During a time of political instability, the Mongol leaders declare Temujin their ruler with the title of Genghis Khan ("universal monarch").  But he was still primarily a protégé of Toghril.

1198 --  the two rulers took part, as allies of the Jin, in a successful campaign against the Tatar. Toghril was rewarded for his share in the victory with the Chinese title of wang ("prince"), and thereafter he was known as Ong-Khan ("Ong" is a corruption of wang).

1200-1202  --  the two rulers defeated a coalition of tribes headed by Genghis Khan's former friend Jamuka.

1202 --  Genghis Khan manages to totally exterminate the Tatar people.

1203  -- fights with Ong-Khan in an indecisive battle after which Genghis Khan withdraws into the extreme northeast of Mongolia.  After recovering his strength, he overwhelming defeats Ong-Khan, thereby becoming master of eastern and central Mongolia.

1206 --  his old rival, Jamuka, dies and Genghis Khan comes to possess all of Mongolia as he is proclaimed Great Khan.

1211  --  Mongols overrun northern China.

1214 --  all China north of the Yellow River is in Mongolian hands.

1215  --  Beijing besieged and sacked. (Full conquest of North China not complete until 1234).

1216 --  Genghis Khan returns to Mongolia.

1219  -- war with the empire of Khwarizm, ruled by Sultan Muhammad (covering the present-day countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and most of Iran). Reaches Otrar. His forces lay siege and capture the town.

1220  --   attacks and seizes Bukhara. Captures Samarqand.  Finds and kills Sultan Muhammad. Crosses Caucasus mountains and defeats an army of Russians and Kipchak Turks in the Crimea.

1221 --  crosses the Oxus into northern Afghanistan. His youngest son sacks towns in Persia. Sultan Jalal al-Din, the son of Sultan Muhammad, wins a battle at Parvan, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, but is then defeated on the banks of the Indus River. Genghis Khan starts back home. 

1226 --  war with the Chinese Tangut tribal confederation, his last campaign.

1227  -- he dies in Gansu, China.

Genghis Khan had many wives and concubines, but it was Borte, his first and chief wife, who gave birth to his four most famous sons: Jochi, whose son Batu founded the Golden Horde and ruled in Russia and Eastern Europe; Jagatai who gave his name to a state in Central Asia; Ögödei who succeeded his father and ruled Mongolia and northern China; and Tolui.  Tolui was the father of Mangu Khan, ruler of the unified Mongol Empire from 1251 to 1259; Kublai Khan, who founded the Yuan dynasty in China; and Hulagu, who founded the il-Khanid dynasty of Persia.

The Great Khan's grandsons founded dynasties in China, Persia, and Russia, and his descendants ruled in Central Asia for centuries.

1227 -- Khan killed in battle in a campaign to put down a Tangut rebellion.

1231 -- Mongols conquer Korea.

1234 --  Mongols wipe out the remainder of the Jin Dynasty giving them control over all of northern China.


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