On the mountainous frontier between British India and Afghanistan, circa 1860s, Zarak Khan kisses Salma, the youngest wife of his father, Haji Khan. Outraged, his father orders Zarak to be flogged to death but spares his life at the urging of an elderly Mullah. Zarak now leaves his village and becomes a notorious outlaw, prompting the British to assign a Major Ingram to capture him. Zarak and Ingram have several encounters, developing a grudging respect for each other. When Ingram is captured by Ahmad, one of Zarak’s rivals, Zarak risks his life to save the British officer. For the Harem Beauty…Mighty Zarak Fought Half a Continent!
Structurally, the film is a bit of a mess, stitching together a forbidden romance between star-crossed lovers, a stiff-upper-lip adventure about civilized British soldiers subduing pagan hordes, and a personal drama about the growing respect between two enemy combatants. While the plot is a mishmash, however, it’s never dull, it moves along at a merry clip, and it fills the CinemaScope screen with lively, colorful, filmed-in-Morocco images.
Michael Wilding and Patrick McGoohan are properly British, Anita Ekberg never looked more glamorous, and Victor Mature was born to play just this sort of thing. Lean back, set your brain at “Idle,” and enjoy!