In 1900 China, an American major (Charlton Heston) tries to protect Westerners from the violence of Chinese nationalists in Peking during the infamous Boxer Rebellion.
As the film unfolds, the foreign embassies in Peking are being held in a grip of terror as the Boxers set about massacring Christians in an anti-Christian nationalistic fever.
Inside the besieged compound, the finicky British ambassador (David Niven) gathers the beleaguered ambassadors into a defensive formation.
Included in the group of high-level dignitaries is a sultry Russian Baroness (Ava Gardner) who takes a shine to Lewis upon his arrival at the embassy compound with his group of soldiers.
As Lewis and the group conserve food and water and try to save some hungry children, they await the arrival of expected reinforcements, but the tricky Chinese Empress Tzu Hsi (Flora Robson) is, in the meantime, plotting with the Boxers to break the siege at the compound with the aid of Chinese recruits
Nominally directed by Nicholas Ray (who makes a brief appearance as the US ambassador), Ray was taken off the film and replaced by Andrew Marton.
Major Matt Lewis
Sir Arthur Robinson
Empress Tsu Hzi
Father de Bearn
Nicholas Ray (1)
Andrew Marton (2)