Original film poster
Directed byTerence Young
Written byRichard Maibaum
Based onThe Story of Zarak Khan
1949 novel
by A. J. Bevan
Produced byIrving Allen
Albert R. Broccoli
StarringVictor Mature
Michael Wilding
Anita Ekberg
CinematographyTed Moore
John Wilcox
Edited byClarence Kolster
Music byWilliam Alwyn
Color processTechnicolor
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 26 December 1956 (1956-12-26) (New York City)
  • January 1957 (1957-01) (United States)
  • 10 January 1957 (1957-01-10) (London)
Running time
96 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States[1]
Box office$1.4 million (US rentals)[2]

Zarak is a 1957 CinemaScope adventure 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 (though filmed in Morocco), the film stars Victor Mature, Michael Wilding and Anita Ekberg and features Patrick McGoohan in a supporting role.


Zarak Khan is the son of a chief who is caught embracing one of his father's wives, Salma. Zarak's father sentences both to torture and death but they are saved by an imam. The exiled Zarak becomes a bandit chief and an enemy of the British Empire.



The film is based on a 1950 book written by A. J. Bevan that contained a foreword by field marshal William Slim.[3] 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 surrendered and was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Andaman Islands. However, when the Japanese occupied the islands, he remained in his cell.

Khan was eventually dealt a suspended sentence and worked 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 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 singlehandedly 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.[4]

Warwick Films bought the film rights in 1953. Producer Irving Allen said he was more interested in the character of Zarak Khan than in the events described in the book. He was contemplating changing Khan's nationality in order to offer the role to Errol Flynn,[5] but he eventually decided to make the film a fictional account set in the 19th century.[6] Regular Warwick writer Richard Maibaum wrote the script.[7]


Filming begin Morocco on 1 November 1955 with Yakima Canutt in charge of the second unit. Victor Mature, under a two-picture deal with Warwick,[8] joined the production on 19 November.[9]

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. Director Terence Young and coproducer Albert R. Broccoli went on to perform the same roles for the early Bond films.

Stuntman Bob Simmons, who performed and doubled several stars in the film, noted that 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.[10]

The popular chanteuse Yana sang her hit song "Climb Up the Wall" in the film.[11]

Studio work took place at Elstree Studios.[12]


The original film poster was criticised by the House of Lords for "bordering on the obscene" and was banned in the United Kingdom.[13]


The action sequences reappeared in John Gilling's The Bandit of Zhobe (1958) and The Brigand of Kandahar (1965). The film was remade in India as Zarak Khan (1963), starring Paidi Jairaj and Chitra.[14]


See also


  1. ^ "Zarak (1956)". imdb. Archived from the original on 23 November 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  2. ^ "Top Grosses of 1957". Variety. 8 January 1958. p. 30.
  3. ^ Jennings, C O; Bentwich, Norman; Bevan, A J. (20 July 1950). "War-Time Enterprises and Escapes: AN OCEAN WITHOUT SHORES". The Scotsman. Edinburgh, Scotland. p. 9.((cite news)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Taylor, Don (16 December 1950). "Bravest of them all!". The Examiner. Launceston, Tasmania. p. 1, Magazine section. Retrieved 10 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  5. ^ Pryor, Thomas (14 May 1953). "Warwick acquires Bevan spy novel: Irving Allen Plans Production of 'Zarak Khan' —-Seeking Errol Flynn for Title Role". The New York Times. p. 33.
  6. ^ "Zarak (1956)—Overview". TCM. 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  7. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (23 May 1954). "HOPEFUL HOLLYWOOD: Production Step-Up Augurs Industry's Return to Former Activity -- Addenda". The New York Times. p. X5.
  8. ^ THOMAS M. PRYOR (9 May 1955). "TV PACT IS SIGNED BY SCREEN GUILD: Agreement by Du Mont and Union Includes Use of New Video Filming Method". The New York Times. p. 28.
  9. ^ SCHALLERT, EDWIN (1 November 1955). "Drama: 'Time for Love' Bought; Gregory Sets Play, Film; 'Powder Keg' Purchased". Los Angeles Times. p. B9.
  10. ^ 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)
  11. ^ "Yana Biography – Yana". Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  12. ^ "These Are the Facts", Kinematograph Weekly, 31 May 1956 p 14
  13. ^ p.129 Harper, Sue & Porter, Vincent British Cinéma of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference 2002 Oxford University Press
  14. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (1999). Encyclopaedia of Indian cinema. British Film Institute. Retrieved 12 August 2012.