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This little adventure yarn is set in India, which was also one of the settings for star Jon Hall's subsequent TV series, "Ramar of the Jungle." The actor who plays the crooked bartender in this movie would later play Ramar's British sidekick. In a more literary vein, I wonder if this picture was inspired by the novel "Bhowani Junction," which came out the same year. Like the novel, this movie is about terrorism in post-independence India, with a train being the engine of the plot (so to speak). And the main male character in the novel had the last name "Savage," while in this movie Hall plays an American diplomat named "Viking." Coincidence? (Anyway, as movie fans know, "Bhowani Junction" went on to become an Ava Gardner/Stewart Granger movie in 1956.) "Last Train from Bombay" is no epic, but it's full of action, thanks to the inept terrorists who are continually capturing Viking. They never tie him up or even lock him up, and he makes them pay dearly every time. He punches them and runs, and they wince with frustration as he gets away to fight another round. Their failure to learn from their mistakes is no doubt what saved India.
This is a film that has resurfaced after 40 years of being stored
somewhere. Unless one is a devoted film buff one will likely recognize
no-one in the film. Even Jon Hall who made a big splash in 1937 in
"Hurricane" is not easily recognized in this 1952 film.
It is a story of an American diplomat who uncovers a plot to kill an important Indian prince (when Indian princes mattered!) by blowing up his train. There are a couple of killings for which the diplomat is blamed, thus preventing him from approaching the police for help. There are a few twists and turns but the film is rather standard.
There are a number of incongruities in the film which will be noticed by many viewers - the film was quite obviously done inexpensively and it shows in the script and much of the scenery. It fits with Ronald Reagan's comment: "They didn't want it good. They wanted it Tuesday." Don't make a point of trying to see it, but if it's on and you want to pass 75 minutes it is probably entertaining enough.
"Last Train from Bombay" is an adventure/thriller that looks good in black and white but is very uneven. At times, we get into the story and believe it, but then we are jarred out of being engaged by various negatives of the film, such as an implausible escape, stilted dialog, Indians who don't look or talk like Indians, and doubles in fight scenes who don't look like the principal, Jon Hall. It's a Hitchcock-tinged story in which Hall is wrongly being pursued by police for a murder while he has a mission of stopping a train carrying an Indian potentate before terrorists blow it up. Along the way, he has fights and narrow escapes, and he's involved in somewhat unexpected ways with two females. Director Fred Sears does what he can. The plot is not bad but the story and production clearly needed more work. Columbia Pictures was always a studio, especially nearer its inception, that did lesser pictures than the other major studios. This shows quite often in one way or another as in this film, although certainly Columbia made many fine films. Producer Sam Katzman managed to get some feeling of India into the sets, but the overall impact is uneven, making this a below-par production. A film like this is totally unlike today's action, adventure and thriller films, so that today's audiences are unlikely to see much merit in a film like this. However, those of us who saw this kind of film when we were young are more used to its inadequacies and willing to overlook them, while getting into the spirit of the thing. The IMDb rating of 5.6 is actually an accurate appraisal.
Some nasty Thuggees have some plans for the Last Train From Bombay,
it's going to be blown up because a prominent Indian nawab is on the
train and the terrorists are hoping to get a nice civil war going. If
you're expecting Bhowani Junction from this Grade C foreign adventure
film that never got closer to India than the studio back lot, you will
be gravely disappointed.
After having seen Gunga Din and other such films about the British Raj, I thought the strangling cult of the Thuggees had been dealt with. Silly me.
Jon Hall is an American Foreign Service officer going to report for assignment in India to be a consul when he gets taken off the train after meeting up with Christine Larsen. She's the daughter of a British brigadier traveling with dear old dad in the places where he once ran things and now they're just tourists. She doesn't make the slightest attempt at a British accent.
After he leaves the train he goes to a hotel to meet up with an old OSS buddy from the late war, Douglas Kennedy who's now a mercenary for hire. Kennedy fakes his own death a la Harry Lime in The Third Man and meets up with Hall. The old demolition man from the OSS has been hired to blow up a train and he had to get his old buddy off the train when he heard he would be on it.
But then Kennedy is really killed and Hall becomes a suspect and he's on the run from the Indian police and the terrorists as he tries to stop the Last Train From Bombay before it reaches the place where the track is mined.
It's interesting, but not even remotely historically accurate because the various Indian princes in both India and what later became Pakistan were bought off one by one by Lord Mountbatten as part of the eventual British departure from India. With one exception, the guy running Kashmir and that's been a sore subject between both countries for decades now. In 1952 no one would care if some rich nawab got blown up in a train accident, he's just another rich guy and Hindu, Moslem, Parsee, Sikh, and Christian really couldn't have cared. Not to mention that the Thuggees are as relevant on the scene as our Ku Klux Klan.
But American ignorance about places that we had little or no dealing with in our past like India is what producers counted on in putting out films like Last Train From Bombay.
Poor Jon Hall though, he went on from this to Ramar of the Jungle and even acted with James Fairfax who played his South African guide in several episodes in this film. Fairfax has a brief role as a club bartender.
I've only one question, is this what our Secretary of State at the time who was Dean Acheson expect from our diplomatic and consular service?
This last gasp effort to resurrect Jon Hall's career has him as an
American diplomat in India caught up in the usual web of intrigue and
overwrought screen music. The script itself is a bit of a hodge podge
of spy movies, ranging from KIM to SABOTEUR, filled with hearty Irish
spies, Indians who wear turbans and so forth: very primitive visual
clues, because this movie was not going to play the big houses in major
Director Fred Sears can't really do that much with the entire proceedings. DP Henry Freulich takes a shot at doing something by shooting the exterior scenes to obtain a documentary movie look, but the result is frequently blurry, rather than immediate. All in all, a waste of everyone's time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** An unusually large, looking like a sumo wrestler in street
clothes, John Hall is US diplomat Martin Viking who's on the run from
both the local Indian police and a gang of Junipur Terrorists in the
exciting suspense action thriller "Last Train from Bomay". Martin is
trying to prevent the murder of the Newob of Junipur and his daughter
the Princess by the gang of Junipur nationalist terrorists. It's the
Junipur terrorists who had planted explosive charges on the rails of
the train the two are traveling on: The Gundar to Luckow Special.
It was almost by accident that Martin found out what the terrorists planned to do when his friend and army buddy British Cammando Kevin O'Hara, Douglas Kennedy, tried to recruit him into that very terrorist gang! Since the end of WWII O'Hara has gotten bored with civilian life that took all the fun, for him, out of living. With O'Hara looking for some action he decides to help his friends in the Junipur Terrorist movement to start up a civil war that will give him all the action that he could possibly handle!
It was just too bad that O'Hara never lived to see his dream come true with him getting a dagger in his chest as him and Martin, who was both shocked and against O'Hara's crazy plan, had it out with the lights turned off in Martin's hotel room. The unknown and unseen killer of O'Hara was sent by his fellow Junipur Terrorists to shut him up because he was becoming a liability to the movement in him being such a loose cannon!
Facing imprisonment by the Indian Police in him being suspected in O'Hara's murder Martin's only hope is to get to the rail crossing where O'Hara planted the explosives and prevent the derailing the Gundar to Luckow Special, and killing everyone on board, in order to clear himself. This has Martin hounded all across the Indian subcontinent ending up beaten drugged and almost strangled by local police hoodlums and Junipur Terrorists.
Being the "hunk" that he is, looking like he weighs up to 300 pounds, Martin is not only surprisingly agile and acrobatic, with his movie double doing all the stunt work for him, he's also a big hit with the ladies in the movie who just can't get-in spite of how big he is- enough of him! The husky and bursting out of his clothes Martin later gets involved with American tourist Mary Anne Palmer, Christine Larson, as well as local bar girl Charlene, Lisa Farraday, who are key in his attempt in preventing the terrorists in succeeding in their bloody mission.
***SPOILERS*** There's still a number of surprises coming Martins as well as the audiences' way especially who's really behind the plot to murder the Newob and his daughter! That all has to do with what size shoe the terrorist leader is wearing! Still Martin ends up saving the day the nation-India-and the royal family of the Newob of Junipur by him stopping the terrorist from carrying out their plan in just the nick of time. That's by Martin getting to and detonating the explosive charge meant for the Gundar to Luckow Special before the train could get to it first!
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