Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves.Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves.Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves.
The British didn't take over India in a classical war of armed conquest. During the 17th and 18th centuries they were among a whole series of European powers who were looking for trading rights and who gradually made deals with several of the local rulers like the ones you see portrayed in this film. A guy named Robert Clive finally defeated the French and the British were the only ones left on the subcontinent except for two Portugese enclaves on the Indian west coast.
Great Britain ruled very little of India directly. They only could run it with a LOT of collaboration which they had. They were seen as occupiers however, even by those who collaborated.
Having said that the British Army over its period in India established a great military tradition. In fact their army in India was viewed as almost a wholly separate entity.
The Lives of the Bengal Lancers is part of that tradition. True to Hollywood in order to have Americans star in a British location we make them Canadians. Well, Gary Cooper was from Montana and that's close enough to Canada. Franchot Tone with his clipped and professionally stage trained speech patterns I guess Paramount figured could pass for British. And Richard Cromwell was given an American mother.
Cooper is a frontier officer who is sent to meet two new arrivals, Tone from another regiment and Cromwell straight from Sandhurst. Cromwell is the son of the post commander a real spit and polish type played by Sir Guy Standing. Their clash is what sets off the events of this film.
Douglass Dumbrille plays a very smooth and deadly villain as bandit leader Mohammed Khan. And C. Aubrey Smith is fine as the fort's second in command.
The later and more comic Gunga Din had a lot of the same plot in it. The final battle between the British lancers and Dumbrille's forces is pretty exciting though the heroics of our three officers today's audience might find a bit much.
Still The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is a good action adventure saga and a fine tribute to the men who served in the lancers.
- Sep 14, 2006