It is the second film adaptation of the 1900 novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad. The first was a silent film released in 1925 and directed by Victor Fleming.
The film received two BAFTA nominations, for best British art direction and best British cinematography.
The film had its world premiere on 15 February 1965 at the Odeon Leicester Square in the West End of London as the Royal Film Performance in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon and the Earl of Snowdon.
Jim (Peter O'Toole) is a promising young English merchant seaman who rises to first officer under Captain Marlow (Jack Hawkins). However, Jim is injured and left at Java. When he is fit again, he signs on with the first available ship, a dilapidated freighter called the S.S. Patna, crammed with hundreds of Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca. When a storm threatens the leaking ship, the crew panics and takes to the lifeboats without a thought for their passengers; Jim in a moment of weakness joins them.
When they reach port, the sailors are stunned to find an intact Patna already there before them. The rest of the crew disappears, but Jim insists on confessing his guilt at an official enquiry and is stripped of his sailing papers. Filled with self-loathing, Jim becomes a drifter.
One day, he saves a boatload of gunpowder from sabotage. Stein (Paul Lukas), the cargo's owner, offers him an extremely dangerous job: transporting it and some rifles by river to distant Patusan to help Stein's old friend, the town's chief, lead an uprising against bandits led by the General (Eli Wallach).
When Schomberg (Akim Tamiroff) is bribed to deny Stein the use of the motorboat he had promised, Jim takes a sailboat with two native crewmen, leaving the aged Stein behind. As they near their destination, one of the crewmen reveals himself to be working for the General. He kills the other sailor then flees to warn the warlord. Jim manages to hide the cargo before he is captured.
Though tortured, he refuses to divulge the location. This surprises Cornelius (Curt Jürgens), the drunken, cowardly agent of Stein's trading company, who in fact obeys the General. That night, the Girl (Daliah Lavi) leads Jim's rescue.
Jim distributes the arms and plans the attack on the General's stockade. He is assisted by Waris (Juzo Itami), the chief's son. After much bloody fighting, Jim delivers the crushing blow, pushing a barrel of gunpowder through a hail of bullets into the bandits' final stronghold, blowing it up along with the General. Only Cornelius survives, hidden in a secret underground room with the General's loot.
Jim is hailed as a hero. One of the grateful natives bestows the title tuan on him. The Girl translates it as "Lord".
While Jim is content to live in Patusan with the Girl, Cornelius and Schomberg recruit notorious cutthroat "Gentleman" Duncan Brown (James Mason) and his men to steal the treasure. However, they are detected and cornered. Brown offers to leave peacefully, but no one, with one exception, trusts him. Jim insists they be allowed to go, going so far as to offer his own life as forfeit if anybody is killed as a result. However, under cover of heavy fog, Brown and his men make one last attempt at the treasure, killing a sentry and fatally wounding Waris, before Waris and Jim dispatch them.
Afterward, Stein pleads with his grieving old friend to spare Jim; the chief agrees not to hinder Jim's departure, but if he is still in Patusan the next day, there will be no mercy. Despite Stein's urgings, Jim refuses to desert again. In broad daylight, he calmly walks up to the chief as the people are lined up for Waris's funeral procession, cocks the rifle he brought and places it near the chief, then awaits his fate. The bodies of Jim and Waris are cremated together.Peter O'Toole — Lord Jim
James Mason — "Gentleman" Brown
Curt Jürgens — Cornelius
Eli Wallach — The General
Jack Hawkins — Marlow
Paul Lukas — Stein
Daliah Lavi — The Girl (Jewel)
Akim Tamiroff — Schomberg
Juzo Itami — Waris
Tatsuo Saito — Du-Ramin
Andrew Keir — Brierly, head of the Patna enquiry
Jack MacGowran — Robinson, a Patna crewman
Eric Young — Malay
Noel Purcell — Captain Chester
Walter Gotell — Captain of Patna
Rafiq Anwar — Moslem Leader (as Rafik Anwar)
Brooks optioned the novel in 1957.
The film was made at Shepperton Studios, England, and on location in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Malacca, Malaysia. In a 1971 interview, O'Toole spoke of some of the difficulties of location filming:
The three months we spent in Cambodia were dreadful. Sheer hell. A nightmare. There we were, all of us, knee deep in lizards and all kinds of horrible insects. And everyone hating us. Awful.
It was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Freddie Young. The music score by Bronislaw Kaper featured the use of gamelan musicians. The crew and cast of the film were joined by Cambodian translator Dith Pran, who was a liaison between Cambodians and the filmmakers and cast. Later he left the country after the 1975 Communist takeover and his own imprisonment, which were told in the 1984 film The Killing Fields with Haing S. Ngor as Pran.
The film opened to bad reviews and to minimal box office returns. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called Lord Jim a "big, gaudy, clanging color film" that "misses at being either Conrad or sheer entertainment cinema." Nor was he satisfied with O'Toole's performance, characterising it as "so sullen, soggy and uncertain, especially toward the end, that it is difficult to find an area of recognisable sensitivity in which one can make contact with him." Variety was equally critical, stating, "Brooks has teetered between making it a fullblooded, no-holds-barred adventure yarn and the fascinating psychological study that Conrad wrote." O'Toole's performance was described as "self-indulgent and lacking in real depth." The consensus was that Brooks, who did good dramas about people, didn't have what it took to make a classic story. O'Toole, however, would later stand by the film: he said the role of Lord Jim was the finest role he ever did.
The film currently holds a 54% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.
2005: AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – Nominated
Gold Key: Lord Jim (September 1965)
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: