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Drama - Historic

North West Frontier (1959 in UK)

Duration2h 09m
RatingsUK: U, USA: Not Rates, Sweden 15
Source of storyAn original screenplay taking advantage of the antipathy between Muslims and Hindus in the Northwest at the time.
DirectorJ. Lee Thompson
WritersFrank S. Nugent, Robin Estridge
StarringKenneth More, Lauren Bacall, Herbert Lom, Wilfred Hyde-White, I.S. Johar,
RatingsIMDb: 7.1/10 by 2,800 people.  Rotten Tomatoes: 100% by 3 reviewers. Revier2view 7.5/10

Summary: It is 1905, and despite the presence of the British there is unrest on the North West Frontier, where rebels are trying to unseat a maharajah. As a consequence the ruler entrusts his very young son to a British army officer Captain Scott. They do not succeed in getting onto the main evacuation train, but together with the boy’s governess, some other Brits and a Dutch journalist they board a single carriage pulled by an old tank engine, and escape from the besieged city. As well as the Europeans they have two Indian soldiers with them who man a Maxim machine gun each, mostly keeping the rebels at bay. The little train has obstacles to overcome, including the remains of the previous train where they find that everyone aboard has been killed, a section of destroyed line, requiring them to lift a rail from behind them and relay it, and a partially damaged bridge. But so far they have succeeded – will they make it?

Content: No sex or nudity, some drinking and smoking, but no drug taking. The British are suitably gung-ho, the Indian engine driver is a sort of Peter Sellers parody and Lauren Bacall as the American governess, drifts about elegantly. The crises, when they occur are tense and the terrorists numerous and well armed. The Maxim machine guns, frequently required, are effective. And the journalist, found to be a Muslim, may threaten the young prince’s life.

A View: The north west frontier actually does have a stormy past with many wars fought along its borders , even up to the present day which see skirmishes between the Indian and Pakistani armies. So this film is a tiny microcosm of the on-going conflicts.  A critic said it was a nostalgic film from “the days before socialism and cynicism equated Britishness with unmitigated evil”.  It has stood the test of time well, particularly if you agree with this view and is still a fun watch.

The only other film I have critiqued which included Kenneth More was The Longest Day. More had served in the Royal Navy during WWII.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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