The Long Duel Superintendent Stafford of the United Provinces Police, has his men arrest an entire tribe on vague allegations of poaching and theft in British India. Their leader, Sultan, father of a young boy, Munnu, whose wife, Tara, is expecting their second child, is also arrested and held in a cell with criminals in Fort Najibabad. Sultan, Tara, and many others manage to break out, but Tara and the newborn both pass away. Sultan, with the help of his men, decides to revolt against the oppressive British – who create a mobile unit, led by Freddy Young, to counter this revolt as well as announce a reward of Rs.500.00 – but Sultan manages to elude them. Then amidst clashes between Freddy and Stafford, and the entry of Jane Stafford, it is made known that Sultan’s tribe will be transported by train to a compound in Delhi. This news reaches Sultan and he prepares to attack the train and free his people – little knowing the trap he and his men will soon be walking in to.
Yul Brynner as freedom fighter against impossible odds of the colonial military authorities of Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews.
The Long Duel This has simply been unfairly misunderstood. It’s a great romantic adventure story exposing conflicting mentalities in the last days of the Indian Raj, when some British already started to doubt their presence there. Harry Andrews is the hopeless imperialist who knows only one way to govern and that by force, while Trevor Howard tries the other way: dialogue and understanding. Yul Brynner is the freedom fighter with a just cause who knows he is right and struggles against opposition in his own camp to achieve it with tragic results, due to the hardcore inflexibility of the British military authorities (Harry Andrews). Charlotte Rampling plays an unusual part as a female diplomatic intermediary, and her character is the only one who is not quite convincing, which unfavourable impression is worsened by her horrible hair style – utterly impossible in India.
Additional merits of the film is the overwhelming sweeping landscape scenes catching the wilderness of the Himalayas, and the music, which underlines and augments the romantic character of the film. Yul Brynner is always interesting and makes memorable characters, and also Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews are well up to their ordinary excellent standard, while the story and its lesson of experience, wisdom and humanity is the main importance of this very underrated film.
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