» » Brennendes Indien (1959)

Short summary

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.

The old railway seen in this picture is now abandoned and no longer used. The railroad originally traversed the northern part of the Sierra Nevadas, the mountain range in the region of the Spanish provinces of both Granada and Almería.

"DVD Talk" said of this film that it " . . . has a lot in common with John Ford's Stagecoach (1939) in that it's essentially a tale of a motley mix of Anglos confined in a train car, racing across an Indian plain trying to evade 'bloodthirsty savages'. It may be a blatant reworking of Stagecoach (1939), as the original story was co-written by John Ford (I)'s son Patrick Ford and Maureen O'Hara's husband Will Price. The final screenplay was adapted from a script by screenwriter Frank S. Nugent, the writer of 11 Ford films."

The famous viaduct sequence in the movie was shot at Hacho Bridge which is situated between Guadahortuna and Alamedilla in Andalucía, Spain.

This picture's setting, the North-West Frontier Province of colonial British India in 1905, is now in modern-day Pakistan.

"Time Out" called this picture "the British equivalent of a Western".

The old railway seen in this film was also used in Soleil rouge (1971), The Long Duel (1967) and 7 pistole per i MacGregor (1966).

The name of the train in this movie was the "Empress of India".

"Variety" said that this movie was "reminiscent of the same director's Ice Cold in Alex (1958), with an ancient locomotive replacing the ambulance in that desert war story and with hordes of be-turbaned tribesmen substituting for the Nazi patrols."

Though set in India's northwest frontier, this movie was actually filmed in Guadix, Granada, in Andalucía, Spain.

This was the second of a handful of films the Rank Organization made in CinemaScope. Unlike the first, Ferry to Hong Kong (1959) released a few months earlier), this was a big domestic and European hit, although it failed to capture the vital American market. The next Rank film in CinemaScope was not until 1961.

This movie has also been released in a tighter-paced 90-minute version.

J Lee Thompson's tight direction of this film drew him to Carl Foreman (I)'s attention after he fired Alexander Mackendrick from The Guns of Navarone (1961) and needed a director quickly.

The book that Van Leyden (Herbert Lom) reads in the film was historian Edward Gibbon's "The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire" (1776), likely intended as his wishful thinking that the British Empire was approaching its end.

Average Shot Length = ~6.9 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~6 seconds.

Final film as a writer for Will Price.

Opening credits: All characters and events in this film are fictitious. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The song Capt Scott (Kenneth More) sings and which is used as an occasional theme, especially at the end, is the Eaton Boating Song, often heard in the Ealing comedies like "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "The Titfield Thunderbolt."

User reviews

  • comment
    • Author: Pipet
    J. Arthur Rank's NORTH WEST FRONTIER is a classy British adventure yarn that can stand proudly beside the best efforts that Hollywood could offer. Also known as "Flame Over India" it was produced in 1959 by Marcel Heilman for the Rank organization and was directed with great gusto by the underrated J. Lee Thomson. No expense was spared on this colourful production. Filmed on actual Indian locations it was photographed in Cinemascope and glowing colour by the late great Geoffrey Unsworth and was adapted from a screenplay by Frank Nugent by Robin Estridge which derived from a story by Patrick Ford. Curiously there is a marked similarity with the narrative of NORTH WEST FRONTIER to that of John Ford's classic 1939 western "Stagecoach".Since Patrick Ford was the son of the great director that similarity is hardly surprising. Both stories concern an assorted group of travellers trying to safely reach their respective destinations and running the gauntlet of attacks by hordes of fierce horsemen intent on stopping them. With mostly British players the cast in NORTH WEST FRONTIER had an international mix led by Kenneth More. From Hollywood there's Lauren Bacall, from India I.S. Johar and the rest of the personnel was fleshed out with the cream of British character actors such as the brilliant Herbert Lom as a shady newspaperman, the delightfully fussy Wilfrid Hyde White as a diplomat, Ian Hunter as the British Governor, the lovely Ursula Jeans as the Governor's wife and Eugene Deckers as an arms dealer who detests firearms ("I've never had one of those things in my hands in my life").

    It is 1905 and the feud is raging in India's Northwest territories between Moslims and Hindus and their British masters. Six year old Hindu Prince Kishen's life is in grave danger. As heir to the Hindu throne the Moslims must annihilate him at all costs and it falls to the British to protect the little prince. After rescuing him from the palace British Captain Scott (Kenneth More) must now secretly sneak the boy, his governess (Lauren Bacall) plus a motley collection of escapees out of the British Embassy at Hasarbad and make a dash by train to Kolapur three hundred miles away in Delhi. Almost from the moment they begin their journey under the cover of darkness the action never lets up. From then on there are well executed action scenes throughout the picture particularly exciting is the siege of the British compound by Moslim forces with hundreds storming the ramparts. Such scenes are as good if not better than anything Hollywood could conjure up.

    Performances are excellent from all concerned. Kenneth More - always an appealing actor - gives another personable portrayal just like he did playing legless pilot Douglas Bader in "Reach Fot Sky" three years earlier. Lauren Bacall though seems a little out of place in a British movie but was obviously cast to give some appeal to the American market (She has top billing on the American prints and the publicity). But the standout performance comes from the great Herbert Lom whose real name - you wont believe - happens to be ......wait for it... Herbert Angelo Kuchacevich Ze Schluderpacherm. Ouch! How about that? Thankfully his name in the picture is simply Van Layden. Also of interest is the splendid music score by Russian composer Mischa Spoliansky which boasts some great action cues, a nice love theme for the pictures softer moments and to point up the British presence in India good use is made of the rousing "Eton Boating Song" which is interpolated into the score and in one scene is vocalized by Mr. More.

    NORTH WEST FRONTIER is the quintessential British adventure story. Its high production values puts it that bit above others of the genre. It's hard to go wrong when you have a well told story well directed beautifully photographed and well played out by a good cast.

    Yes indeed NORTH WEST FRONTIER is a jolly good show!
  • comment
    • Author: Larosa
    As someone else said - they certainly don't make them like this any more! A strong script brought to life by some of the best character actors of the period. Full of excitement with strong moments of pathos and uncringeworthy moments of sentiment.

    I have to comment on those who feel this is an imperialist romp. It is far more intelligent than that. The British characters may express imperialist sentiments but Van Leyden is allowed to refute them. That Van Leyden is revealed as the villain does not negate his arguments - he is not presented as a fanatic, just as a man on the other side for every bit as good reasons as the British are on theirs. Remember that whatever its setting this film is very much POST-Raj. Scott is also made hopelessly sexist (as his character would be) while Bacall's character is allowed to refute him. Its a subtle script - and shouldn't be under-estimated! Several reviews have referred to I.S.Johar as Gupta. It is a very fine performance. His character may be 'cringing' but forelock-tugging hadn't got a colour bar at the time when this movie is set. When roused Gupta is quite ready to stand up to Scott or most anyone else! It is also perfectly apparent that without his skills all on the train are doomed - his comments on the massacre are poignant especially when one recalls that the actor was born in what is now Pakistan. Train massacres were a terrible feature of the partition period with all religious groups suffering terribly.

    Oh and what a cast. One expects top notch performances from the likes of More, Bacall, Lom and Hyde-White and we aren't let down. Eugene Deckers is very fine as the cynical arms merchant and Ursula Jeans (a child of the Raj herself) is a second strong female character to complement Bacall.

    Oh and it has a happy ending too...
  • comment
    • Author: RuTGamer
    We are in British India, Moslem rebels want to kill a young Hindu prince and thus killing his family blood line. The British army are charged with the task of ensuring the prince is safely escorted from the troubled provinces. The duty falls to one intrepid Captain Scott, the only chance to achieve the aim is by train, with his allies on board being a rather unique group of individuals, can Scott achieve the mission against the mounting odds?

    North West Frontier has everything a great action adventure should have, action, tension, drama and an array of wonderfully colourful characters. The opening to the film is pulsating, as Scott has to fight off the rebels whilst smuggling the prince and his governess out to safety. From then on we are on a train journey that is rich with enjoyment, the tension mounts among the passengers, not least because of the class differences, and perhaps motives are not in alignment? But they must club together if they are to survive this journey.

    Kenneth Moore, Lauren Bacall, Herbert Lom and Wilfrid Hyde-White (comedy gold when under attack) are all pulling together to make a cracking yarn. Directing duties falls to J. Lee Thompson, whose CV boasts Ice Cold In Alex, The Guns Of Navarone and Cape Fear, so this material was thankfully in very safe hands. The photography from Geoffrey Unsworth is top notch, barren and desolate landscapes beautifully realising the peril of the passengers' journey, whilst the music from Mischa Spoliansky leaves a lasting impression.

    This train may well be crammed full of genre stereotypes, and sure enough the patronising nature of the piece is dated at the edges, but this remains a gloriously enjoyable film that the whole family can readily digest. 9/10
  • comment
    • Author: Whitestone
    I first saw North West Frontier when I was rather young and is one of those movies which you tend to never forget.

    Captain Scott is assigned to take a young Indian prince to safety across India to Kolapor. Having just missed the last refugee train, he manages to secure an ageing steam loco, Empress of India plus a coach and wagon for the coal. He was lucky there. Scott and the prince are joined by a motley collection of people for the dangerous journey including an American woman who would become Scott's lover, a reporter who wants the prince dead and a pair of upper class Britains and two soldiers. Plenty of dangers along the way: attacking tribes, blown up railway tracks, a blown up bridge and more attacking tribes. At the first station, we learn the refugee train was ambushed and everyone on board killed, apart from a baby which is rescued by the American woman, Catherine Wyatt. After crossing the bombed bridge and the reporter's attempts to kill the prince, they reach Kolapor safely, without the reporter, who was pushed off the train roof.

    North West Frontier has to be one of my favourite adventure movies and contains some good scenery. It also has some excellent background music, especially the Henley Regatta song, Swing, Swing Together.

    Now to the excellent cast: Kenneth More as Scott, Lauren Bacall as Catherine Wyatt, Herbert Lom as the reporter, Wilfred Hyde-White, I S Johar as the train driver Gupta and Ursula Jeans. Also, Eugene Deckers and Ian Hunter.

    North West Frontier is a must for all fans of this type of movie and will also appeal to railway enthusiasts too (like myself). Fantastic.

    Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
  • comment
    • Author: Flathan
    This film was screened last night on PBS. The title "Flame over India" caught my attention. Noting that the movie was made in 1959, I thought this would be one of the slow paced older movies. Surprise! The movie keeps you on the edge of your couch all the time. Some salient features:

    1) The hero is more credible like the heroes and leaders you see in real-life - not huge and invincible like Arnold. Puts his own life at risk to save a young Hindu prince's life from Muslim rebels all the while knowing that the kid will be coerced to fight against him should the British not cease the occupation of India. Nevertheless, his actions are based on his duty as a soldier and as a compassionate human being.

    2) Effective portrayal of opposing views - the gullible British lady, Mrs. Wyndham commenting that peoples not under the British Empire were uncivilized and the extremely polarized view of the cynical Indian journalist who opposes killing in theory. The movie brings out the sentiments from both sides. Also well done was the scene of a train massacre in showing the courage of Ms Wyatt to walk among the slain and save a young child that was still alive.

    3) Several thrilling moments and some moments of suspense. The ambushes feel very real.

    4) The movie was shot in India and it gives a very realistic look - especially the trains and the rural stations. Contrary to what many in the Western Hemisphere believe, the movie shows that not all Indians in that time were illiterate (Gupta speaks reasonably good English).

    All in all a great movie. I would love to watch it again.
  • comment
    • Author: Shakagul
    Just one heck of a fun film with a nice bit of writing in the script. The theme of the British being stuck between two fighting groups of people, Hindus and Islamic is so right for the times now (Feb 2003). Then give Miss Bacall a decent part, with Wilfred Hyde Write and Herbert Lom and the rest of a wonderful group of character actors made my train ride across the Northwest frontier a most moving experience.
  • comment
    • Author: Gianni_Giant
    Yes this is British Cinema at it`s best, a rousing Northwest Frontier picture with all the right ingredients, lots of 'goodies', a real 'baddie', and a dashing hero, with a fiesty female lead in the form of Lauren Bacall.

    Things do pile up on the characters in the old train as it goes from place to place in an effort to save a young Prince, but things never go over the top, and the acting is first rate, as well as the direction.

    Do try and see the full version, some TV companies show a cut down version and you do loose important points.

    Kenneth More is as always top rate, also note worthy is I.S.Johor as the train driver, Wilfred Hyde White as the British Diplomat, and Herbert Lom as as bad a baddie as l have ever seen him....
  • comment
    • Author: Painbrand
    I taped this movie simply because it co-starred Lauren Bacall, and while I expected the movie to be good, it far exceeded my expectations. North West Frontier, is a terrifically paced, exciting adventure. Bacall co-stars as a governess who must escort a young heir to the Hindu throne through a cross country Indian battlefield. Helping her to do this is a British solider and a random assortment of civilians along for the ride. Herbert Lom is wonderfully creepy - but I won't say why. Definately a movie to check out.
  • comment
    • Author: SmEsH
    J. Lee Thompson's enjoyably imperialist if dated adventure appeared, from a creative point of view, at the most successful period of his variable 40-year career. Between 1957 and 1962 he directed such striking films as Woman In A Dressing Gown, Ice Cold In Alex and Tiger Bay, before concluding a continuous good run with The Guns Of Navarone and Cape Fear. Squeezed between Alex and Navarone, North West Frontier (aka: Flame Over India) shows many of the same characteristics of bravery and derring-do - the present film only differing in that it wears its old fashioned politics most conspicuously on its sleeve, and sets its adventure amidst the conflicts of an earlier generation, that of 1905 in India.

    A stolid Kenneth More plays Captain Scott, charged with escorting a young Indian prince 300 miles to safety through rebel held territory, the principal journey of which is aboard a train filled with a compliment of contrasting passengers. There's a feisty American woman Catherine Wyatt (Lauren Bacall); a suspicious half-caste called Van Leyden (Herbert Lom); Bridie, a stereotypical British gent (Wilfred Hyde-White); the arms dealer Peters (Eugene Dickers), as well as Lady Windham, (Ursula Jeans). Outside of this circle of principals is the amiably compliant engine driver Gupta, played by veteran Asian actor-director I.S. Johar. Johar appeared in relatively few British films, but was to pop up again in another British classic a few years down the line, Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). It was rare for Asian personalities to appear with any great consequence in British cinema at that time, and it is a tribute to Johar that he brings a modicum of dignity to a role otherwise written full of typical obsequiousness.

    It's the driver who fills the vacuum between the rebellious natives, their sympathisers and the humane smugness of the British ("Half the world mocks us, and half the world is only civilised because of us," says Lady Windham). Despite his subservience Gupta declines to do more to further his own cause or join in the Hindu Muslim strife fomenting around him: "Guns for Gupta? Oh no sir... other man has different religion, why should Gupta mind?" By constantly referring to himself in the third person, 'Gupta' assumes a greater significance than a single personality - perhaps even more than Little India the train also carries safely or the fleeing prince, Gupta is a symbol of his country, a moderate whose survival is paramount if the British are to be justified.

    As gorgeously photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth, the setting in Thompson's film is a dusty, treacherous environment, the hills and plains home to bloodthirsty rebels, ruthless hordes seeking to destroy civilisation. A decade later, Unsworth was to work on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. In North West Frontier we are confronted with another hostile environment, much of which is equally inscrutable to the Europeans who travel through it. As previously noted, much of the action takes places in the environs of the train; its engine nicknamed 'Victoria' which soon assumes the worthiness of England itself. As Van Leyden acidly observes: "Our little train is like our little world, trundling through space." Surrounded by revolting locals, facing a series of physical obstacles to progress, the 'little world' has to fall back on itself, sustaining itself with bravery and improvisation to some how 'make it'.

    Like Hauptmann Otto Lutz in Thompson's Ice Cold In Alex of two years before, Van Leyden is an outsider, brought within the bosom of a small, travelling, British orientated community. Similarly, he provokes an ethical debate that provides the most interesting dialogue of the film. Unlike Hauptmann however, he eventually proves a rotten egg - but not without first providing some lines which to the modern ear seem far less threatening and radical than the original writers intended them to be. With ironical relish Van Leyden reads Gibbons' Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, and along the way loses few chances to snipe sarcastically at those around him: "You think God is only on the side of the British?" he jibes, "See what happens when the British are not around to keep order?" all the while arguing that those who oppose them are "not children (but) grown men… fighting for the freedom of their own country." Van Leyden is also a key player in many of the most memorable scenes of the film - inncluding the one that most remember, as he stands menacingly just behind the young prince who's playing close to the dangerous, whirling spokes of a pump wheel.

    If Van Leyden eventually oversteps the mark of a reasoned (and reasonable) response to British occupation, then he finds a suitable opponent in Captain Scott. As played by the More, the bluff and unimaginative soldier has some explaining to do himself, principally to Wyatt, who is less than impressed by his rigid adherence to his martial calling. Despite her growing romantic interest in him she is not entirely convinced by his protestation that soldiers "are not machines... we're humans like anyone else." Van Leyden's bitter comment on British-led civil order in mind, it is she who leads the most striking sequence in the film, as the Empress of India encounters the massacre of the refugees at Bihvandi Pura. In these post-Rwandan, post-Reverend Jim Jones days, the massacred innocents in North West Frontier can still shock, if now sickeningly familiar. Thompson's viewers would probably have had to cast their minds back to Second World War atrocities to gain a context and the sight almost jolts matters to radical attention.

    But this is a jolly old adventure; the British can clearly not be implicated in what is a native tragedy, wrought by natives, and so the audience is not permitted to stay at Massacre Halt too long. By the time the train reaches the end of its journey there's been time to sing the boating song from the Henley Regatta without a trace of irony, to outsmart the attacking insurgents and finally see off Van Leyden's dastardly sort. Despite the last minute appearance of caricatured British officer, Thompson's film ends aptly enough on a Kipling quote, and once again all seems so clear cut and right in the world... some will miss the cynicism of a modern film. Others will revel in it.
  • comment
    • Author: Ann
    The movie opens in a way Hollywood could never do, just more dramatic and colourful than Hollywood does. This movie gave more back than I expected. It is a breathtaking, breathholding, exciting little movie. You feel like you are really there in India, on the rickety old train. I love that they used old machinery instead of making it unrealistic the way Hollywood might.

    I was not expecting much from Lauren Bacall but she also gave back more than was required. Her scenes with the young Indian boy are touching. She obviously has a way with children in real life as well. The song Swing, Swing Together could make me weep, it's so wonderful. The movie is not well known but so well done. It's just a very well done one that everyone can enjoy. There are some questionable characters on the train, you are left wondering why this one is so twitchy, what is that one's secret?
  • comment
    • Author: bass
    Based on a story by Patrick Ford, the son of the legendary John, 'North West Frontier' clearly owes a debt to Ford seniors classic 'Stagecoach' as a mixed group of travellers set out on a perilous journey. In its own way, 'North West Frontier' matches that Hollywood classic in quality. After a stunning opening twenty minutes where barely a line of dialogue is spoken, the movie lives up to the old cliché of "offering a roller-coaster ride of excitement", something which is much promised but seldom delivered.

    Kenneth More is one of my favourite actors and he is wonderful in this. Perhaps his character lacks the neurotic edge that the late Sir John Mills brought to the directors earlier movie 'Ice Cold In Alex' (a movie which shares plot elements with this one), but instead More brings an air of honest decency to the part. The evocatively named "Captain Scott" is no super-hero, but simply an honest man trying to do a difficult job.

    Lauren Bacall also gives a fine performance, in a role which could easily have been the film's weakest link as a token Hollywood 'big name' for the American market. While the likes of Lom and Hyde White fill their roles with practised ease as I. S Gupta steals every scene he is in.

    At over two hours it is a long movie, yet the 129 minutes seem to fly by and I was genuinely sad to bid farewell to the passengers and crew of the 'Empress of India', while the 'Eaton Boating Song' played in my head for day afterwards.
  • comment
    • Author: Dianaghma
    1905 India , riots try to overthrow the Maharaja from Norhwest frontier on a rebel-held county . The film portrays a British group on a stronghold being besieged by Indian rebel tribes, banded together against the Brits and they're led by Muslim leaders. The English people are surrounded by Moslems army which spent time in the siege . The governor( Ian Hunter) assigns captain Scott (one of Kenneth More's best) as responsible of protection the young prince , undertaking a dangerous escape . Scott has to save the Maharaja's son , attempting to get the heir to safety and getaway by commandeering a steam train . Along the way they encounter bandits , attackers , treason and sabotage . The Brits contra-attack displaying on the train a machine-gun , making a brutal slaughter . Scott takes the action by aiding the passengers (Lauren Bacall, Herbert Lom, Ursula Jeans ,Deckers, Wilfred Hyde White) throughout four hundred miles of risked travel .

    This is a British attempt to match the US adventure's spectacles of the mid-sixties, containing derring-do, romance , old-fashioned action set mostly aboard a train, spectacular battles, gorgeous outdoors and resulting to be quite entertaining . It's a fiery early 20th-century adventure yarn with political connotations that some moments makes little sense but bulges with emotion that keeps coming at you, as action and adventures is maintained throughout . It's one of several adventures-action pictures made in Britain in the sixties that starred such Hollywood stars as Lauren Bacall and previously in the fifties as Victor Mature and Robert Taylor. There are strong performances from Herbert Lom as suspicious journalist and Wilfred Hyde White as feisty old man , who have made few bad films . Lauren Bacall as understanding governess, plays with some of sensitivity , and still successfully acting . Personable interpretation by I.S. Johar who steals the show as likable driver. Latterly, as very secondaries appear Ian Hunter , Alan Cuthbertson and Jack Gwillin, among others . But the main protagonist is the old machine called Empress of India Victoria . Luminous cinematography in rich Eastmancolor by Oscar-winning Geoffrey Unsworth, though with abuse of transparency . The movie was glamorously shot in Guadix , Granada , Andalucia , Spain and interior filmed in Pinewood studios. Emotive and atmospheric musical score by Spoliansky and conducted by the habitual Muir Matheson.

    The motion picture is well and blazingly directed by J. Lee Thompson, he's a skill and successfully craftsman . He has directed numerous films ,British comedies, drama , suspense but his most successful films are the fresh and diverting adventures . Lee Thompson directed good Western ( McKenna gold , White Buffalo) and all king of genres as Sci-Fi (Conquest and Battle of planet of apes), terror (reincarnation of Peter Proud, Eye of the devil), adventures (King of the sun, Taras Bulba, and Northwest frontier also titled Fire over India) and Warlike ( Guns of Navarone, Von Braun). J. Lee Thomson working from the 50s in England, finished his career making Chuck Norris (Firewalker) and Charles Bronson vehicles (Evil that men do, Messenger of death, Death Wish 4 : Crackdown, Caboblanco, St Ives) and a string of TV movies until his demise at 2002 . Watchable results for this good adventure movie .
  • comment
    • Author: Porgisk
    I like this film not only for the excellent acting by its stars but for its robust, no-nonsense stance on sensitive issues like imperialism and religious conflict. Kenneth More plays the likeable, plucky brit whose stiff upper lip and business-like approach to solving problems is an example to us all. Lauren Bacall is her usual enchanting self, but my highest praise for character acting goes to I S Johar (Gupta). He brings copious helpings of humour to the film as an antidote to Lom's dark and sombre broodings. 10 out of 10.
  • comment
    • Author: Kazimi
    North West Frontier (1959)

    Also known as "Flame Over India."

    For starters, you have to ignore that rather boring first few minutes, and the awful acting in it, including the routine battle scenes quickly thrown at you. It's all set up for the main themes of this movie set in an India still under British control, circa 1905. The real historical import of all this is that it's set in that part of India that was largely Muslim and is now modern Pakistan. But part of what happens here is to show the brutality of the Muslims toward the Hindu minority, all in an effort for self-determination.

    There are lots of conventions at work here--Hollywood ones. Like the train being chased not by American Indians but by rebel Muslims on horseback, and they are picked off by the men on the train like, well, Indians. It's a weird deja vu moment in an otherwise very British film (not Hollywood after all).

    The British are a target here, actually, to some of the writing, as are men in general, all from the sharp tongue of Lauren Bacall, who is perfectly the strong American woman. Next to her is an understated, convincing British soldier played by Kenneth More.

    This is actually an ambitious movie, for all its relative obscurity now. There are harrowing scenes of a city under siege, and of a massacre of hundreds of bodies very elaborately staged (Bacall walks through the corpses in shot after shot), and a sequence high atop a railroad bridge. Of course, it's more than politics and warfare and adventure. That is, there's the slowly simmering love story, and it's not an overly sentimental one.

    It might seem an odd thing to mention here but the filming--the photography--is really really good, interesting and subtle. It's widescreen color (though not Technicolor) and the camera refuses to be static, even in simple scenes with a group of people chatting on the train. It pans and rolls forward and back with fluid, tactile sensitivity. The sets and scenery are wonderful--shot in the deserts of Spain (not India, except a couple establishing shots), with a vintage train car on the old rails. The interior stuff (in the cars) are partly done in a studio in England with back projection of scenery out the window, but it's all very convincing stuff.

    The cameraman is the under-appreciated British cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, who became one of the industry experts at back projection (and the revolutionary "front projection" of 1968--he was key to the filming "2001," with Kubrick, and its fabulous visuals). He made a whole slew of films in the same sensitive style seen here, finally winning Oscars toward the end of his life (including "Tess" posthumously). I'd recommend this film on the photography alone.

    You might say this is a perfectly realized film, and what holds it back for modern audiences is its relative ease and calm, and perhaps a history now forgotten. It's a careful film with great nuance. The acting is first rate, though some of the characters are "types" in the same way Ford's "Stagecoach" played with types caught together in a confined space. This film has its expansive moments for sure, but in a way it's a ship of fools situation. What it also lacks is perhaps complexity to the plot, which sounds weird with all the complicated sets and filming, but there is a linear process of the main group of characters trying to escape to their safety, obstacle after obstacle. There are some more archetypal moments straight from an American Western (a fight on the roof of the train, a woman with a gun to the rescue) but it's all part of the excitement. The "Stagecoach" echo appears in the form of a baby, too, halfway through.

    In case you are unsure of the British sentiment embedded here, and the foreshadowing of the future that was known at the 1958 filming (a decade after the Brits were booted out of India), watch the last scene carefully. And remember the train is called "Victoria." And check out the photography even on the last gorgeous shot, turning and pulling up and back and turning again. Nice stuff!
  • comment
    • Author: Vudogal
    India in 1905 was a country in transition and turmoil, the Moslems and Hindus were warring on each other and on other minority groups and everybody wanted the British out. The Congress Party was a going concern at that point and was still a vehicle for both Moslem and Hindu to work within.

    If every single man at arms that the British Empire could command had been stationed in India at any time, they could never have ruled such a vast area in land and population. They did it with a lot of collaboration, some of it willing, some of it a matter of convenience. Very little of what is now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh was ruled outright by the British. They worked in collaboration with the various rulers of the many provinces, some Hindu, some Moslem.

    In this story, a Hindu maharajah's state is being overrun by Moslem rebels. Kenneth More as a British captain is charged with getting the small son out of the kingdom and to safety along with the child's nurse, an American played by Lauren Bacall.

    On a train of one coach, More, Bacall, and the child Gorinda Raja Ross flee the kingdom. Other passengers on the train are arms dealer Eugene Decker, newspaper correspondent Herbert Lom, the wife of the provincial governor Ursula Jeans, and the governor's secretary Wilfrid Hyde-White. The train is driven by Indian actor I.S. Johar and more has a small group of Sepoy troops to help out.

    The journey to safety is the bulk of the story of Northwest Frontier and on that journey all the people show their character. One of them will betray the others. All of them have flaws of a sort. The British really do believe in Kipling's white man's burden about keeping order among the people of India. To a greater or lesser degree they have a racial prejudice about the place. Only Bacall as an American and an outsider is seemingly free of it.

    Not to say that most of them aren't a brave bunch because in the crunch most step up to the plate.

    The story was written by Patrick Ford, John's son and others have pointed out that he borrowed liberally from his dad's masterpiece Stagecoach. The final attack on the train by the Moslem rebels is as exciting as that attack by other kinds of Indians in Stagecoach.

    Kenneth More as the hero of the piece is not the Ringo Kid however. John Wayne was on his own mission when he became part of the Stagecoach ensemble, More is a British officer with a mission.

    The various maharajahs and nawabs were all pensioned off as per the Mountbatten settlement in 1947. I'd like to think the young prince grew up and inherited his kingdom and got pensioned out of it along with a few hundred others of his class. One kingdom missed the settlement, that of Kashmir which is today the sore point between India and Pakistan.

    Director J. Lee Thompson was at the beginning of a great career directing some fine action films. Northwest Frontier is a fine action film and you can learn a great deal about the Indian subcontinent in the viewing of it.
  • comment
    • Author: Jube
    In this age of remakes and plundering classics to create mega mall blockbusters, here is one film that not only deserves major adventure status all on it's exciting and superb own, it is ripe for a 're-imagining' as perhaps an Indiana Jones film. NORTHWEST FRONTIER is a train chase movie, something movie audiences love. Always a thrilling and spectacular way to offer a microcosm of a society and analyze it through the behavior of the characters as they weave their way through trouble. Read other comments for the story. With a stellar cast, a panavision location of the Indian desert and mountains, visually thrilling 'rattly old train in peril' stunts, some startling political dramas, ambush and shootouts, punch-ups on a speeding carriage and a truly terrifying upsetting 'walk' through the aftermath of a massacre...etc this is the one adventure film of the past 50 years that is both British to its bootstraps and a big screen audience pleaser. It is a crime that the DVD release is NOT in panavision (what is wrong with these DVD companies?) ...almost as much a social crime that NORTHWEST FRONTIER is not a famous classic of International cinema. If it is on TV anytime of the day or night, watch it and be as thrilled as anyone like me who champions it. Sometimes listed as FLAME OF India, it was directed by J Lee Thompson who later made the visually thrilling chase adventure BITE THE BULLET in 1975 (also with great train scenes) ...if NORTHWEST FRONTIER was made in 2006 exactly the same as it appears already, it would gross $100 million and be a big fat hit. If you ever get to see the wonderful Republic film from 1953 called FAIR WIND TO JAVA it too is a unappreciated adventure spectacular, also a source of 'Indiana Jones" antics and a seagoing companion piece to this great train chase.
  • comment
    • Author: Insanity
    I first saw 'Northwest Frontier' as a small boy at the cinema in the early 70s,this was possibly the best age to see the film as it is an adventure straight out of the pages of a boy's own comic. There are so many memorable scenes that had me on the edge of my seat (the pump house,balancing on the rails on the blown bridge,basically any scenes where the villain tried to kill the Prince,who was about my age!) that stayed fresh in my memory until I finally saw the film again this year when I bought the DVD (I don't know if the film is ever shown on telly,it's probably not politically correct nowadays).

    My 7 year old daughter loved it too!
  • comment
    • Author: Xwnaydan
    Over the years this movie, along with Shane, The Great Escape and Casablanca, has remained one of my favorites and never disappoints on repeated viewings. Kenneth More represents the quintessential decent Englishman determined to do his duty to king and country, a role in which he always excelled.

    All the cast are magnificent, including Lauren Bacall, Wilfred Hyde-White. Herbert Lom, and (stealing every scene he was in) the Indian actor I.S. Johar as Gupta.

    J Lee Thompson keeps the scenes moving at a galloping pace and provides a textbook example of how to keep viewers on the edges of their seats and get them involved in the lives and characters at the centerof the drama.

    I cannot understand why this movie is not among the top 250 IMDb movies of all time. It has few equals, and is far superior (in terms of story line, acting and directing) than "The Shawshank Redemption" (which, while absorbing and well acted, has a ridiculous storyline)
  • comment
    • Author: Vobei
    Rebellion is breaking out in India and all that stands in the way of religious and political chaos, not to mention British control, is a six-year-old Hindu prince and the unflagging confidence of Captain Scott (Kenneth More). Charged with bringing the boy safely from a small, fortified hill station to the British base at Kalapur 300 miles away, Captain Scott will need every bit of his resourcefulness, energy, ingenuity and pluck.

    The year is 1905 and Muslim tribes in India's north west territories are rising up against the Hindu princes and their British masters. Young prince Kishan is seen as a symbol of order and justice. If the rebels can kill him, there will be uprisings against the British which they may not be able to control. But how to get the prince to Kalapur? The last refugee trains have left and attempting the journey by horseback through enemy territory would be madness. But then Captain Scott remembers there was an old, derelict steam locomotive, The Empress of India, in the train sheds. Could it be put back into service? He calls upon his friend, Gupta (I. S. Johar), who assures him in broken English that his locomotive will not fail Captain Scott and that Gupta, himself, will run it. In a trice Gupta brings needed maintenance to The Empress and Scott finds himself loading an assorted group of passengers onto the one passenger car. There is Lady Wyndham (Ursula Jeans), the governor's wife; Peters (Eugene Deckers), an arms dealer whose weapons now most likely arm the rebels; Mr. Bridie (Wilfred Hyde-White), a diplomat and old India hand; and Van Layden (Herbert Lom), a reporter who has no love for the British. Most importantly, there is the prince and his American governess, Catherine Wyatt (Lauren Bacall). On this desperate journey, Captain Scott and this group of passengers will encounter massacres, the old steam engine's urgent need for water, the hard work of replacing rails, the tense clamber over a blown bridge with only the rails remaining, then the careful driving of the engine across those shifting, sagging rails, and the mass attacks of Muslims on horseback racing to capture the train and the prince. More troubling, Scott discovers that his group harbors a traitor, someone determined to either kill the prince or see that the boy is killed. Only the best traditions of British military leadership, exemplified by the publicly confident but privately worried Captain Scott, plus the vital assistance he receives from a number of the passengers, enable North West Frontier to have a happy ending. For Captain Scott, the ending is even happier. Not only has he fulfilled his mission, it appears that he and Catherine Wyatt will have a future together.

    This film is a throwback to the classic movies about the British Empire and the quality of the brave men who made the Empire possible. It's all fiction, of course, but it's greatly entertaining. Films like Drums and The Four Feathers reassured many that the British Empire would always be around and that the men who made it work were...well, gentlemen; that is, dedicated to bringing order, opportunity and justice to the natives as only British gentlemen could, and who always dressed for dinner. While this movie arrived in the theaters as the underside of empire was becoming known, it still tells a cracking good yarn. There is a bit too much exposition, in my opinion, offering justification for and against the Empire's rule in India (and the pro side wins the argument most of the time). It also seemed to me that the villain of the movie is far too easily identified. One final weakness is that the pairing of More and Bacall doesn't really work; they have such different personalities that their attraction for each other and their eventually pairing just doesn't strike any sparks for me. Still, the movie offers some grand adventures, great scenery, a journey on a steam train, brave derring-do, a typically forceful and optimistic performance by Kenneth More, and a nice reminder of why adventure stories are so much fun.
  • comment
    • Author: Adoranin
    Except for some unusually exciting moments, "Northwest Frontier" is a standard British Western (in this case Northwestern). This is a truly exciting tale of Nineteenth Century India with Kenneth More playing a British captain delivering a young Hindu prince to safety. Lauren Bacall co-stars as the young prince's English governess.

    This film is paced like a Saturday Matinee serial. More and his cohorts go from one hair-raising experience to another. They must dodge broken rails, an almost missing bridge over a yawning chasm, a spy and the usual hostile tribesman. The movie is worth watching for the scene in which the little party crosses an almost destroyed bridge. I knew how it would turn out and I still couldn't help cringing.

    More brings his usual British humor to his role as the captain charged with an impossible mission. The script is sparing on the dialogue, which contributes to the serial-like character of the film. Who needs dialogue when the characters are dodging one death-defying situation after another. Bacall plays a somewhat Anglophobic American woman who finds More interesting anyway. She and More make an excellent team, but their relationship would have been worth developing further. Veteran character Herbert Lom is on board for more than the train ride.

    Watch this one either under this title or "Flame Over India", which is the name under which it usually appears on the Late Show. You'll be glad you did.
  • comment
    • Author: SadLendy
    Younger film viewers may never have encountered Kenneth More, and so may no idea of how important a film star he was in post-war England, nor of what part he played. I think it is fair to say that he almost always played the same sort of character - a stolid, decent, hearty, English everyman, the sort who would always stand up and be counted when the chips were down, a no-fuss, unassuming hero.

    In North West Frontier he plays a British Army captain tasked with escorting a young Indian prince to his parents across bandit country on a small train with a motley handful of others, one of whom (fairly obviously Herbert Lom) may have an alternate agenda.

    More plays his usual character in this small epic, greatly enhanced by the bleak landscapes of Spain standing in for India, by the small and antiquated steam engine (the real hero of the film), and a winning turn from I.S. Johar as engineer Gupta.
  • comment
    • Author: Voodoosida
    All that you expect from an adventure yarn is present in this absorbing film,often filmed on location in the splendid landscapes of India.A top-notch cast ,with extremely great actors who survive their sometimes cardboard characters and make them endearing:K.Moore,the military man with a good dose of humanity ,L.Bacall,the widow of a physician who tries to carry on her late husband's task in her way,W.H.White ,more British than ever,Herbert Lom,the baddie you love to hate,Ursula Jeans,the chic lady who displays courage and compassion.Plus IS Johar,as Gupta,whom the children will adore.

    A railroad track movie ,as there are plenty of road movies.Never a dull moment,plenty of suspense and good directing by Jack Lee Thompson.

    Best scenes -there are plenty of them but this is my favorite-:the travelers stop in a station where a train full of dead bodies is waiting for them.The flies and the vultures are here too.The governess finds a survivor: a little baby ;they will use a glove as a feeding bottle.

    Thoroughly enjoyable.
  • comment
    • Author: Longitude Temporary
    Looked up this film doing some quick research on Kenneth More who played the Titanic's Second Officer Charles H. Lightoller , in "A Night to Remember." At the end of that film, Morre's character said something like, we can never be sure of anything again. That comment came to mind in connection with a brief piece I'm writing for my website on plans to develop Ground Zero. The sense of responsibility, reliability and steadfastness that More displayed in Northwest Frontier makes this movie worth seeing if only to remind us that once upon a time the qualities displayed by More in his films were considered not only praiseworthy, but an expression of simple decency to be emulated.

    The Google listing for Charles H. Lightoller includes a website (see third listing) that has a long article on Lightoller and the Titanic that concludes with the words on the face of a bronze plaque said to rest near the tragic ships' stern:"The fifteen hundred souls lost here still speak, reminding us always that the unthinkable can happen, but for vigilance, humility and compassion." My hunch is Kenneth More would agree these words are also appropriate to the souls lost on 9-11.
  • comment
    • Author: Tehn
    It's been said before, but this is one of those 'Boys Own' rollicking adventure yarns that they did so well in the 1950's. And I, for one, love 'em.

    The natives are revolting. It's left to a British Army Captain and a mixed group of other bravehearts to rescue and escape with a young princeling who is the sole survivor of a massacre that includes his family. Their means is an old steam engine and a short train of wagons and carriage. With this, they run a blockade and must escape from the 'Northwest Frontier'.

    Set at the turn of the (20th) century, Kenneth More is, as usual, perfectly cast as the thoroughly decent and honourable Brit. He's Second-Officer Lightoller but on rails instead of the sea. The cast in a shrewd mix of popular characters. Lauren Bacall provides an unlikely American love interest for More as the boy-prince's governess (it'd never work out!). Wilfred Hyde-white does a great dithery bachelor inclining to old-age. Herbert Lom is a scathing mixed-race reporter, and something else besides. Eugene Deckers does well as an arms dealer. Ursula Jeans is the modestly authoritative MemSab with a bottomless Dorothy bag. She's everyone's ideal grannie, full of matronly wisdom with an answer to everything in her handbag. I S Johar plays 'Gupta' the Indian engine driver, with humorous and sympathetic panache.

    Along the way, there are adventures. But no less entertaining is the spirited dialogue between the passengers, each of which has a conflicting or complementary viewpoint as the conversation waxes.

    Although a tongue-in-cheek adventure movie, it doesn't shy away from the darker elements of human nature. These are explored in the intelligent dialogue, but exposed in the circumstances too. At one point, they encounter an earlier train which has been intercepted by bandits. Everyone aboard has been slaughtered. It is very simply but grimly presented. No needless gore; just a sad pensive silence broken by the buzzing flies and caw of vultures. Lom's character isn't the impartial observer he pretends. As a Muslim, he sympathises with the insurgents, and means to murder the boy himself if he can.

    As high adventure movies go, this is a class act. Easily a match for 'Journey To The Centre Of The Earth' or 'The Pride & The Passion'. We get to spend a lot of time with the small ensemble; their weaknesses and strengths and now-outdated foibles, as well as their good manners and consideration become very endearing. These are characters we can really care about. And THAT is STORY.

    The movie is beautifully filmed, with great vistas of wilderness and excellent colour. Train-spotters will enjoy the railway details.

    This is highly recommended family viewing that - like so many of those 50's adventure tales - can stand muster with most anything being produced today.

    Great actors, good script, fine views, bags of excitement, a villain in the party and moral messages. What more do we need from a movie?
  • comment
    • Author: Leyl
    An excellent adventure film set in early 20th century India with a faultless cast, exciting scenes beautifully filmed in Cinemascope and Eastman colour, lots of extras and real (non-CGI that is!) explosions and a well written script. What more can you want? After the opening narration it picks up steam and never lets up until the end. There are some superbly staged scenes; the first fifteen minutes with no dialogue but lots of crowd action, the emotional finding of the train massacre, the arduous mending of the broken rail and the nerve-wracking crossing of the damaged bridge.

    Amid all the action there is strong characterisation so you get to understand where the members of the group on the fleeing train are coming from and the political and social dimensions are not shoehorned in but develop naturally in the story. It is a chase movie in essence but in that formula is has deeper resonances. Captain Scott may be a soldier and cog in the prevailing British empire but he is also a brave and resourceful man. Van Leyden may want to kill the prince but he is doing it for his people and not himself.

    They don't make them like this any more. A rich film full of flavour.
  • Cast overview, first billed only:
    Kenneth More Kenneth More - Capt. Scott
    Lauren Bacall Lauren Bacall - Catherine Wyatt
    Herbert Lom Herbert Lom - Van Leyden
    Wilfrid Hyde-White Wilfrid Hyde-White - Bridie (as Wilfrid Hyde White)
    I.S. Johar I.S. Johar - Gupta
    Ursula Jeans Ursula Jeans - Lady Windham
    Eugene Deckers Eugene Deckers - Peters
    Ian Hunter Ian Hunter - Sir John Windham
    Jack Gwillim Jack Gwillim - Brigadier Ames
    Govind Raja Ross Govind Raja Ross - Prince Kishan
    Basil Hoskins Basil Hoskins - A.D.C.
    S.M. Asgaralli S.M. Asgaralli - Havildar - 1st. Indian Soldier
    Sam Chowdhary Sam Chowdhary - 2nd. Indian Soldier (as S.S. Chowdhary)
    Moultrie Kelsall Moultrie Kelsall - British Correspondent
    Lionel Murton Lionel Murton - American Correspondent
    All rights reserved © 2017-2019