An ambitious adventure film that takes us to the Far East, with plenty of magnificent sets and stunning natural locations
A cast of international stars that includes Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif, with Orson Welles in a cameo role
At the time, the film was the subject of a lot of talk, with many thinking it would be a catastrophe. The production was a very ambitious project that aimed to impress audiences in search of visual stimulation, with huge sets, hordes of extras, an expensive reconstruction of a fabled Orient, and breathtaking exteriors shot in India, Afghanistan and Iran. The never-ending production difficulties (for example, Alain Delon dropping out of the main role) made things worse for a film that was already too big to carry its own weight and recoup its huge budget. Looking back, it has the attraction of a luxury object fallen into disuse, of a suicidal enterprise touched by mad extravagance. The cast is full of surprises: Anthony Quinn is nearly unrecognisable as Kublai Khan, Omar Sharif plays an emir, and Orson Welles has a short but memorable cameo as Marco Polo’s tutor.