North West Frontier 1959

This was a good Boys Own Type British Adventure film  set in India


This is British Cinema at it`s best, a rousing Northwest Frontier picture with all the right ingredients, lots of ‘goodies’, a real ‘baddie’, and a dashing hero, with a fiesty female lead in the form of Lauren Bacall.
Things do pile up on the characters in the old train as it goes from place to place in an effort to save a young Prince, but things never go over the top, and the acting is first rate, as well as the direction.

Kenneth More, as always, is top rate, also note worthy is I.S.Johor as the train driver, Wilfred Hyde White as the British Diplomat, and Herbert Lom as as bad a baddie as l have ever seen him….

                                                                                                                 Herbert  Lom

The  Story –

A young prince who is the sole survivor of a massacre that includes his family escapes a revolution with the help of Kenneth More and a band of supporters – at least we think so.  Their means is an old steam engine and a short train of wagons and carriage. With this, they run a blockade and must escape from the ‘Northwest Frontier’.
Set at the turn of the (20th) century, Kenneth More is, as usual cast as the thoroughly decent and honourable Brit. The cast in a shrewd mix of popular characters. Lauren Bacall provides an unlikely American love interest for More as the boy-prince’s governess. Wilfred Hyde-White does a great dithery bachelor inclining to old-age. Herbert Lom is a mixed-race reporter and Eugene Deckers does well as an arms dealer.   Ursula Jeans is the modestly authoritative MemSab.

I always remember the first time I ever saw the film at the cinema on the big wide Cinemascope screen, the scene where the main characters  are very high up on a broken bridge and have to walk along a single rail line which is still intact – and the prince has to do this with that enormous drop below – and waiting to catch him is Herbert Lom, who we just know by that stage is not exactly a force for good.

I S Johar turns out to be the most appealing character playing  ‘Gupta’ the Indian engine driver, with humorous and sympathetic panache.
Along the way, there are adventures. But no less entertaining is the spirited dialogue between the passengers, each of which has a conflicting or complementary viewpoint as the conversation waxes.
Although a tongue-in-cheek adventure movie, it doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of human nature. These are explored in the intelligent dialogue, but exposed in the circumstances too. At one point, they encounter an earlier train which has been intercepted by bandits. Everyone aboard has been slaughtered. It is very simply but grimly presented. No needless gore; just a sad pensive silence broken by the buzzing flies and caw of vultures. Herbert Lom’s character isn’t the impartial observer he pretends to be because he sympathises with the insurgents, and means to murder the boy himself if he can.

The movie is beautifully filmed, with great vistas of wilderness and excellent colour. Train-spotters will enjoy the railway details.
This is highly recommended family viewing that – like so many of those 50’s adventure tales – it  is great fun !!!
Great actors, good script, fine views, bags of excitement, a villain in the party and moral messages. What more do we need from a movie?

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