🎥 North West Frontier – 1959

The Story …

In 1905 on the North West Frontier of British India, a maharajah asks British Army Captain Scott to take his young son, Prince Kishan, to Haserabad and then send him to Delhi to protect him from an uprising.

Accompanying them is the prince’s governess, an American widow named Mrs. Wyatt. They leave as the rebels storm the palace and kill the prince’s father. This makes his six-year-old son the leader of the Hindu population in the region.

On arrival at Haserabad, Captain Scott sees that many local Hindus and Europeans are leaving on the last train to Kalapur. The Muslim rebels soon close in and take control of the outer wall and gate beside the railway yard. The British governor tells Scott that he must take the young prince to Kalapur for his safety.

In the railyard, the British captain discovers the “Empress of India”, an old railway engine cared for by its driver Gupta, affectionately known as Victoria. They calculate that it will manage the journey if limited to pulling a single carriage …

Early the next morning, Captain Scott quietly loads the passengers onto the old train.

They include Mrs. Wyatt, Prince Kishan, arms dealer Mr. Peters, British expatriate Mr. Bridie, Lady Windham (the governor’s wife), two British Indian Army NCOs, and Dutch journalist Mr. Peter van Leyden (Herbert Lom). Victoria quietly freewheels down a gradient and out of the yard, but when her whistle is accidentally sounded, Gupta fires the engine and crashes her through the outer gate.

The enemy fire on them and chase them but cannot keep up with the train.

Later that morning, the train encounters an abandoned train at a remote station. This is the refugee train which preceded them out of Haserabad. Everyone on board has been massacred (presumably by the rebels).

Despite being told not to by Captain Scott, Mrs. Wyatt leaves the carriage and finds one survivor, a baby concealed by his mother’s body.

The next morning, the train must stop because a portion of the track has been blown up. Mrs. Wyatt spots the signaling flashes of a heliograph atop a mountain summit, and everyone quickly realises that the Muslim rebels are sitting in ambush in the surrounding hills.

With track repairs barely finished by Captain Scott, the train gets away under a hail of gunfire. Gupta is wounded but survives.

Later that day, while stopping to refill the engine’s water tank, Scott walks into the pump house to find Van Leyden allowing Prince Kishan to stand dangerously close to the pump’s rapidly spinning flywheel. In the evening Van Leyden refuses alcohol and the group correctly deduce he is Muslim.

He explains this by saying he is half Indian. During the night, Mr. Van Leyden again approaches the prince, only to notice Lady Windham watching him.

The train reaches a bomb-damaged bridge. There is nothing under one section of rail except the ground far below. Scott has the others carefully cross that section one by one to lighten the train that will follow them.

Finally, only Van Leyden and the prince remain behind. Van Leyden seems to deliberately hold the boy back and endanger his life. He falls and Scott grabs his hand, pulling him back to safety. Afterward, Scott accuses Van Leyden of trying to kill the prince, and he places the reporter under arrest. After that, Captain Scott, under Gupta’s guidance, carefully maneuvers the train across.

Later, while going through a tunnel, Van Leyden uses the opportunity to overpower his guard. He uses a Maxim machine gun to threaten the passengers and now declares his loyalty to the Muslim cause.

He is unable to kill Prince Kishnan because the boy is with Captain Scott in the locomotive’s cab. Scott returns to the carriage with the young prince after spotting more rebel heliograph signals, but they are saved when the machine gun is knocked off balance by a kick from Mr. Bridie. Scott crawls up the carriage and starts to fight him.

The two men end on the roof  where at the climax of the fight. a shot rings out: Mrs. Wyatt has shot Van Leyden with one of the rifles. He falls off and dies as the Muslim rebels ride up on horses.

The Muslim rebels chase the train on horseback but are thwarted when Victoria enters a two-mile-long hillside tunnel. On the other side, the train reaches the safety of Kalapur to strains of The Eton Boating Song. At the station, young Prince Kishan is met by his Hindu entourage, while Gupta is taken to hospital, and Lady Windham is informed that her husband, the governor, is safe.

On learning Prince Kishan may yet fight the British, as his father instructed him, Scott quotes Kipling (“Be thankful you’re livin’, and trust to your luck, And march to your front like a soldier”) before he and Mrs. Wyatt leave together carrying the infant she had saved earlier.
The Story unfolds …

“A great performance by Douglas …”

Credits :

  • Directed by : J. Lee Thompson
  • Written by : Robin Estridge and Frank S. Nugent
  • Story by : Patrick Ford and Will Price
  • Produced by : Marcel Hellman
  • Cinematography : Geoffrey Unsworth
  • Edited by : Frederick Wilson
  • Music by : Mischa Spoliansky
  • Production Company : Rank Organisation Film Productions
  • Distributed by : The Rank Organisation
  • Release Date : 25 October 1959

Cast :

  • Kenneth More as Capt. William Charles Willoughby Scott
  • Lauren Bacall as Catherine Wyatt
  • Herbert Lom as Peter van Leyden
  • Wilfrid Hyde-White as Mr. Bridie I. S. Johar as Gupta, the driver
  • Ursula Jeans as Lady Windham
  • Eugene Deckers as Peters
  • Ian Hunter as Sir John Windham
  • Jack Gwillim as Brigadier Ames
  • Govind Raja Ross as Prince Kishan
  • Basil Hoskins as A.D.C.
  • S. M. Asgaralli as Havildar (1st Indian Soldier)
  • S. S. Chowdhary as 2nd Indian Soldier
  • Moultrie Kelsall as British Correspondent
  • Lionel Murton as American Correspondent
  • Jaron Yalton as Indian Correspondent
  • Homi Bode as Indian Correspondent
  • Frank Olegario as Rajah
  • Ronald Cardew as Staff Colonel at Kalapur Station

Film Information :


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