60 years after first hitting the big screen, “Lawrence of Arabia” stands as one of cinema’s crowning achievements. From Peter O’Toole’s star-making performance to the breathtaking desert landscapes filmed in glorious Super Panavision 70mm, David Lean’s masterpiece has influenced filmmakers ranging from Steven Spielberg to Andrew Stanton. You would assume “Lawrence of Arabia” would be a sacred text no one would want to even attempt to touch ever again. You would be wrong, because in 1992, people could turn on their televisions to see an unofficial sequel to Lean’s epic with “A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia.”
Produced in 1990 to capitalize on a re-release of “Lawrence of Arabia,” the television film marked the screen debut of Ralph Fiennes as T.E. Lawrence, starring alongside Alexander Siddig (credited as Siddig El Fadil) as Emir Faisal, originally played by Alec Guinness. The film was helmed by veteran British television director Charles Menaul and received generally favorable reviews at the time, with the New York Times’ John J. O’Connor praising it as a “remarkably fine film” and A.O. “Tony” Scott calling the film a “Handsome, high-quality production” for Variety, though both remark on how knowledge of the politics of the time are quite necessary to really appreciate it.
How Can There Be A Sequel To Lawrence Of Arabia?
“Lawrence of Arabia” opens with the motorcycle accident that killed T.E. Lawrence, and the events of his life are told in flashback. Of course, that film only covers a small portion of his life. “A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia” picks up with the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. Faisal looks to claim Syria for Arab rule, and the British and French are not too keen on that happening, considering the vast amounts of oil both countries want to control. Lawrence decides to stand alongside Faisal in his quest, using his celebrity to curry favor.
The sequel strips away the grandeur from “Lawrence of Arabia” and hunkers down with many scenes of British character actors sitting across tables from one another and talking about policy details. Its 104-minute running time is also a far cry from the nearly four-hour original. For as much as it is the handsome production A.O. Scott describes, it’s still a television film from the early ’90s, which comes with its own set of limitations.
Steven Spielberg Cast Ralph Fiennes Because Of This Movie
If you would want anyone to be impressed by your first leading role on camera, Steven Spielberg is probably at the top of that list. Impressed by his performance as T.E. Lawrence, Spielberg brought in Ralph Fiennes to audition for the role of the vile Nazi commandant Amon Göth in “Schindler’s List.” Fiennes won the part, earned his first Academy Award, and was propelled into stardom, quickly becoming a major leading man in films like “Quiz Show,” “The English Patient,” and “The End of the Affair.” Sometimes it’s not about how many people watch something, but who watches it that’s important. It certainly was for Fiennes.
He wasn’t the only one to grab Hollywood’s attention. Alexander Siddig’s performance caught the eye of producer Rick Berman, who brought him in to audition for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” where Siddig would play Dr. Julian Bashir for seven seasons.
Where Can You See It?
Thankfully, “A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia” is available to rent on Prime Video, though only in SD. Unless a program was a major cultural touchpoint, much of television history is incredibly hard to find. The only hope of seeing a lot of TV shows and films will be on YouTube somewhere, and if it is somehow available, it is usually not in the best condition. Such is the case with this unofficial “Lawrence of Arabia” sequel, but if you feel so compelled, throw it a couple of bucks to see something you probably didn’t even know existed.
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