Harem (1986)


Most famous for being the last movie in which Ava Gardner participated, this TV film tells the story of the fading days of the Ottoman Empire, which could be knocked down either by a feather or by Nancy Travis, a young English girl in love.

Most famous for being the last film in which Ava Gardner participated, and Omar Sharif’s last of five movies made in Spain.
The Ottoman Empire is slipping into decline, and a young English girl ends up in a harem. Julian Sands, her fiancé (not unexpectedly) would prefer to get her out and into a nicer room with a view.
When the British party arrive in what is supposed to be Constantinople, we find them staying at a luxurious hotel with ornate Arabic decoration, which is none other than the Alfonso XIII hotel in Sevilla, also used in Lawrence of Arabia.
Later, when Sands’ fiancée goes off on an adventure, during which she will be kidnapped while visiting some ruins, which were in fact the Bolonia ruins near Tarifa in the province of Cádiz; not exactly a castle, neither then nor now, but we’re getting there.
Sands searches for her and comes across Sarah Miles having tea in front of a palace, the Palacio Mudejar in the Plaza de America, another landmark of Sevilla. Ruins? A palace? Surely there’s a castle here somewhere!
And here it is! Filming took place at Almodovar del Rio, where the local VIII century castle served as the Sultan’s palace, and the River Guadalquivir as the Bosphorus, separating Europe from Asia, although the interiors and gardens were mostly shot at the Casa de Pilatos and Reales Alcázares in Sevilla.
Alfonso Luna, tour guide at the castle, told us that he worked as an electrician’s mate during the filming, and that many local people worked on the film.
Alfonso especially remembers a tiger that was brought to the town, which then escaped. Fortunately it didn’t eat anyone, and sat on a rock waiting for the dart to transport it into a well-earned sleep. The same tiger is shown in a cage as a contemplative Omar Sharif walks past the first time we see his castle.
The production team spent seven days in Cordoba province and Ava Gardner stayed at the Parador La Arruzafa. The employment of 200 local extras and the presence of 120 cast and crew made a great difference to Almodovar, which depended largely on the cultivation of cotton at the time.

The young English girl ends up in a harem and Julian Sands, her fiancé tries to get her out.

When the Sultan, played by Omar Shariff in the last of five films he made in Spain, visits the Dervishes to find out if he should rely on his conscience or his army, their home is the castle of La Calahorra.