Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

1935, 108m, Spencer Tracy
We have here a look at the British Indian army on the NW Frontier (filmed in California), through Hollywood eyes (and American accents). It represents the colonialist viewpoint, the colonized painted in less than glowing terms. It is a boyish adventure yarn with historical overtones, a tale of chivalry, honor, comradeship and allegiance (to the Union Jack, of course). It's plus side is as a historical brush stroke and a view of the military organisation and dedication that made the sad reality of colonization of a vast subcontinent possible, which, from their perspective, reads the glory of empire. Perhaps its the the not so rare phenomenon of what a small group of committed individuals can achieve, for good or for bad.
"German dictator Adolf Hitler told British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax in 1937 that "one of his favorite films was Lives of a Bengal Lancer, which he saw three times. He liked this film because it depicted a handful of Britons holding a continent in thrall. That was how a superior race must behave and the film was a compulsory viewing for the S.S."
NY Times:
"With an adventurous delight which is tempered by a grim respect for the fighting qualities of the Afridi, it plunges into the dashing stuff of border patrols, guerilla warfare, Afghan torture methods and the honor of the regiment. "

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