The North West Frontier

DirectorJ. Lee Thompson
StarringKenneth More
Lauren Bacall
Herbert Lom
Also known asFlame Over India (US)

Set on the North West Frontier at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, this film is really a Western that just happens to be set in Imperial India. You could easily transport the entire plot and the increasingly dangerous escapades to the American Wild West with the greatest of ease. To call it a Western is not to denigrate this film in any way whatsoever. It is a thoroughly enjoyable romp from start to finish of the old-style adventure genre. Basically, an English officer is asked to escort a young Indian prince out of a besieged city and through the surrounding hostile countryside to the relative safety of civilisation. The only means of transportation available is a rickety old train that had seen better days. A cast of suitably diverse passengers is thrown in for added depth and tension throughout the film.

The rickety train is put through its paces with rails being torn up, ambushes laid and a particularly large bridge being all but destroyed. Of course, this is grist for the mill for the unpretentious hero played by Kenneth More. He just gets on with his job whatever it may throw at him. Rather interestingly, this particular part of the film tells us more about the attitude of Britain towards the Empire in the 1950s . His get-your-hands-dirty and just do your job mentality is remarkably similar to that of 1950s imperial technocrats being sent out to Africa. It would have been quite different from that of the 1910s. Still, this is only an aside. North West Frontier is a very exciting film that barely shows its age for a film that is in its forties!

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by Stephen Luscombe