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Lawrence of Arabia

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Based on the memoirs of one of the most remarkable men of the twentieth century, Lawrence of Arabia tells the tale of TE Lawrence (Peter O'Toole), an obscure Oxford scholar who transformed himself into a fierce desert warrior and charismatic leader. He took on the might of the Ottoman empire with a rag-tag army of Arab tribesmen, and beat them!

On the way, Lawrence negotiates the treacherous intrigues of both Arab diplomacy and British military politics to achieve his end - the liberation of Arabia from the Turks. Blowing up trains or rustling up gold and armoured cars to fuel the Arab revolt, Peter O'Toole is masterful in his portrayal of this enigmatic hero.

Along the way, he encounters remarkable men of all types, from Prince Faisal (Alec Guiness), Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif), Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn) and General Allenby (Jack Hawkins) - all of who produce some of the best performances of their careers in depicting these widely differing but crucial identities.

Persons of interest

  • Peter O'Toole .... T.E. Lawrence
  • Alec Guinness .... Prince Feisal
  • Anthony Quinn .... Auda abu Tayi
  • Jack Hawkins .... General Allenby
  • Omar Sharif .... Sherif Ali
  • José Ferrer .... Turkish Bey
  • Anthony Quayle .... Colonel Brighton
  • Claude Rains .... Mr Dryden
  • Arthur Kennedy .... Jackson Bentley
  • Donald Wolfit .... General Murray
  • IS Johar .... Gasim
  • Gamil Ratib .... Majid
  • Michel Ray .... Farraj
  • John Dimech .... Daud
  • Zia Mohyeddin .... Tafas
  • TE Lawrence .... Storywriter
  • Robert Bolt .... Screenwriter
  • David Lean .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

No prisoners.

Lawrence of Arabia has been hailed as a classic film since it was first screened 40 years ago. When you watch it, as you should, you will understand why. It has the all grandeur of the romantic age in which it's set, which will find it's ultimate moment in the concurrent mud-filled, blood-soaked trenches of Flanders and France (see also The mummy for a tale set in the same era). The British call the desert war a mere side-show but in the scheme of things it has turned out to be just the opposite. Two generations later the old boundaries of Europe are all the same but Arabia has become the world's oil barrel. Wars are fought to maintain the supply, dictators have risen and are yet to fall, despite the best efforts of Europe and its allies.

In every age there are people who are born with the genes of their parents but the hearts and souls of another land. When they find that land they become something more than they ever were back in the old country. With typical British Imperial racism, they are said to have "gone native", an intended insult but actually more of a compliment than the speaker realises. TE strides across the desert sands and finds that he is no longer an Englishman, was never an Englishman. He is an Arab and the arabs by birth have no trouble seeing this. The wonder is that the English never did. Peter O'Toole became famous from this portrayal with good reason: he's overwhelmingly good. Likewise, Omar Sharif hit the big time in Hollywood because of his equally passionate performance. It's a perfect piece of casting. One blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned Englishman seeking the simplicity of the desert and one raven-haired, dark-eyed, dark-skinned Arab seeking the complexity of politics. They play off each other like night and day, two sides of the same coin. Two men, set both with and against each other.

Everyone else is good, too. The DVD features are better than the average Behind-the-scenes quickie, too. You really get to know how this film was made and how the people of the day were teased into seeing it. They're as informative as they are entertaining.

If you've just come from the outback to the big city you might not feel like heading straight back to the burning sands but you'd enjoy it if you did.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Digitally remastered 5.1
  • Disc: 2 x single side, dual layer discs
  • Picture: Digitally remastered Widescreen (16:9 enhanced)
  • Languages: English, German, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Hindi, Turkish, Danish, Arabic, Bulgarian, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek, Hebrew
  • Dpecial edition two-disc set in limited edition cloth box with gold embossing and collector's booklet
  • 62-minute making of documentary
  • Movie trailer
  • Talent profiles
  • Photo gallery and maps - Journey with Lawrence
  • Featurettes:
    • The marketing campaigns
    • Romance of Arabia
    • New York première
    • In search of Lawrence
    • The camels are cast
    • Conversation with Spielberg
    • Making of a classic

Security censorship classification

PG (Occasional low level violence)

Surveillance time

218 minutes (3:38 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD retail: 21 March 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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