Freshly arrived Sandhurst-trained Captain Alan King, better versed in Pashtun then any of the veterans and born locally as army brat, survives an attack on his escort to his Northwest Frontier province garrison near the Khyber pass because of Ahmed, a native Afridi deserter from the Muslim fanatic rebel Karram Khan's forces. As soon as his fellow officers learn his mother was a native Muslim which got his parents disowned even by their own families, he falls prey to stubborn prejudiced discrimination, Lieutenant Geoffrey Heath even moves out of their quarters, except from half-Irish Lt. Ben Baird. Brigadier general J. R. Maitland, whose policy is full equality among whites, learns King knew Kurrum Khan as a boy and charges him with training and commanding native cavalry, which comes along fine. The general's egalitarian daughter Susan Maitland takes a fancy to King, even falls in love but the general decides to send her safely home to England after a kidnapped attempt when King saved ... Written by
Director Henry King and star Tyrone Power teamed up for their ninth film, almost 20 years after King helped Power shoot to stardom when he chose him as Jonathan in "Lloyds of London." Why do I think Power was somewhat less ebullient this time around. By 1953, he was surely in a mad rush to finish his contract with Fox, as he had already formed his own production company.
"King of the Khyber Rifles" gets the full major picture treatment, in CinemaScope, and it is a film filled with battles, adventure, panaromas, and a little romance thrown in. You can't have Tyrone Power in a movie without some of that! He plays a half-caste who is put in charge of the Khyber Rifles. Eventually, he is given the assignment of putting down a rebellion led by a childhood friend, Karram Khan, menacingly played by Guy Rolfe. Terry Moore plays the British daughter of the brigadier general (Michael Rennie) who falls in love with Power, and that's a forbidden love. In real life, when she first saw the actor, she was so staggered that she developed a facial tic. Power asked King if they could sit quietly and run lines before shooting the scene, which allowed her to calm down. She's fairly vapid in the role.
The last part of the movie is very exciting and beautifully photographed. The film definitely hold's one's interest.
Power looks great - handsome and tanned, as Lieutenant King, but it's really not much of a role. The romantic scenes are marvelous, and he does display a lot of physical prowess. He was unfortunately one of the huge stars of the golden era who did not do a lot of great pictures. Ironically, some of his films not highly thought of at the time have found appreciative audiences today, 47 years after his death. Too bad he's not here to see it.
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