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This lavish, impudent, adult fairy tale takes the viewer from 18th-century Braunschweig to St. Petersburg, Constantinople, Venice, and then to the moon using ingenious special effects, stunning location shooting.
Josef von Báky
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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. Written by
George S. Davis <email@example.com>
This movie has also been released in a tighter-paced 90-minute version. See more »
As Captain Scott and Van Leyden talk beside the trainload of massacred refugees, one of the dead men, wearing a yellow turban and hanging out a train window behind Van Leyden, visibly raises his head, turns his face away in the opposite direction, then resettles his head in a more comfortable position, all while Scott and Van Leyden are talking. See more »
The American release, entitled "Flame Over India", gives Lauren Bacall top billing. The British release, which is entitled "North West Frontier" and is the one on DVD, gives Kenneth More, a popular star in England, top billing. See more »
First rate adventure movie with cliffhanger moments.
Kenneth More is of my favourite British film heroes. Unassuming, modest and with a great deal of charm his own service in the Royal Navy in World War Two always gave a patina of authenticity to his characters.
Here Ken is in a pickle worse hotter than a vindaloo curry as he takes charge of an ancient train carrying a motley crew of first rate character actors across a landscape where wild Pathan tribesmen rather than Apache Indians menace the party at every turn.
The film runs from one cliffhanger moment to another and one sees in it very much the post war British spirit of muddling through in difficult circumstances. Not surprisingly, Lauren Bacall is excellent as the governess of the young Indian prince - a strong willed and intelligent woman at times overwhelming in her verbal sparring with More, who keeps his cool as much when faced by her verbal sallies as he does when battling the hostile tribesmen.
Herbert Lom, the reliable baddie of scores of British movies, is first rate as the cynical journalist at odds with his fellow passengers.
At times the movie seems to uncomfortably mirror 21st century concerns (in 2001 a train load of Muslims were massacred in India in a scene reminiscent of that shown in the film - in the film the victims are Hindu); and the arguments between Lom and his fellow passengers give his character a resonance (and perhaps a dimension of sympathy) unintended at the time.
One criticism of the film is its patronising portrayal of Indians, in particular the train driver, Gupta, and you may cringe at times at its implication of British civilization knowing better than a set of uneducated natives.
Taken as a straightforward adventure film however, it is a superior example of the genre. In the 21st century we have to suffer all manner of superfit, invulnerable movie heroes - some of them (Costner and Cage in particular) in my opinion utterly unconvincing.
More, on the other hand, has the true stamp of a hero - an ordinary, decent man doing his duty to the best of his ability. When he goes in for heroics the viewer gets the impression that it really is out of necessity and because there is no one else to do the job if he doesn't. Physically a small man and not a star until middle age his very vulnerability to harm puts the viewer more readily in a position where they can identify with him - a secret modern film makers seem to have forgotten but one that was known to a generation who had real experience of warfare.
Stand to attention and salute this rattling good adventure - 7 out of 10
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