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North West Frontier

North West Frontier

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Flame Over India aka North West Frontier In northwestern India soon after the turn of the 20th Century, Moslem rebels seek to kill a six-year-old Hindu prince to end his family line. Captain Scott of the British Army is ordered to get the prince out of the region safely. Adventure ensues as Scott sneaks the child away, through Moslem-held territory, by train. Also on board are the boy’s American governess, an arms merchant, a cynical reporter, and two upper class Britons.

STARS: Kenneth More, Lauren Bacall, Herbert Lom

129 min | Adventure, Drama | 1959 | Color


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An ignored masterpiece
As someone else said - they certainly don't make them like this any more! A strong script brought to life by some of the best character actors of the period. Full of excitement with strong moments of pathos and uncringeworthy moments of sentiment.
I have to comment on those who feel this is an imperialist romp. It is far more intelligent than that. The British characters may express imperialist sentiments but Van Leyden is allowed to refute them. That Van Leyden is revealed as the villain does not negate his arguments - he is not presented as a fanatic, just as a man on the other side for every bit as good reasons as the British are on theirs. Remember that whatever its setting this film is very much POST-Raj. Scott is also made hopelessly sexist (as his character would be) while Bacall's character is allowed to refute him. Its a subtle script - and shouldn't be under-estimated! Several reviews have referred to I.S.Johar as Gupta. It is a very fine performance. His character may be 'cringing' but forelock-tugging hadn't got a colour bar at the time when this movie is set. When roused Gupta is quite ready to stand up to Scott or most anyone else! It is also perfectly apparent that without his skills all on the train are doomed - his comments on the massacre are poignant especially when one recalls that the actor was born in what is now Pakistan. Train massacres were a terrible feature of the partition period with all religious groups suffering terribly.
Oh and what a cast. One expects top notch performances from the likes of More, Bacall, Lom and Hyde-White and we aren't let down. Eugene Deckers is very fine as the cynical arms merchant and Ursula Jeans (a child of the Raj herself) is a second strong female character to complement Bacall.
Oh and it has a happy ending too...

This is the road to Kolapor
I first saw North West Frontier when I was rather young and is one of those movies which you tend to never forget.
Captain Scott is assigned to take a young Indian prince to safety across India to Kolapor. Having just missed the last refugee train, he manages to secure an ageing steam loco, Empress of India plus a coach and wagon for the coal. He was lucky there. Scott and the prince are joined by a motley collection of people for the dangerous journey including an American woman who would become Scott's lover, a reporter who wants the prince dead and a pair of upper class Britains and two soldiers. Plenty of dangers along the way: attacking tribes, blown up railway tracks, a blown up bridge and more attacking tribes. At the first station, we learn the refugee train was ambushed and everyone on board killed, apart from a baby which is rescued by the American woman, Catherine Wyatt. After crossing the bombed bridge and the reporter's attempts to kill the prince, they reach Kolapor safely, without the reporter, who was pushed off the train roof.
North West Frontier has to be one of my favourite adventure movies and contains some good scenery. It also has some excellent background music, especially the Henley Regatta song, Swing, Swing Together.
Now to the excellent cast: Kenneth More as Scott, Lauren Bacall as Catherine Wyatt, Herbert Lom as the reporter, Wilfred Hyde-White, I S Johar as the train driver Gupta and Ursula Jeans. Also, Eugene Deckers and Ian Hunter.
North West Frontier is a must for all fans of this type of movie and will also appeal to railway enthusiasts too (like myself). Fantastic.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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