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The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)

 





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The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935)

In director Henry Hathaway's sweeping, escapist adventure tale of three British officers of the 41st Regiment of the Bengal Lancers stationed in the frontier of northwest India (later Pakistan), who defended their headquarters at Bengal against the rebellious natives during the days of the British India (aka the Raj):

  • the characterization of stubborn, strict, by-the-book, and high-ranking commanding officer Colonel Tom Stone (Sir Guy Standing) (nicknamed "Old Ramrod") and his coldness toward his young naive son Lt. Donald Stone (Richard Cromwell) serving as a Bengal Lancer in his regiment
  • the scene of arrogant and insolent replacement Bengal Lancer (from "the Blues" regiment), the experienced Lt. Forsythe (Franchot Tone) playing a snake charmer's pipe to deliberately irritate fellow lancer, Scottish-Canadian Lt. Alan "Mac" McGregor (Gary Cooper) as part of their ongoing friendly rivalry - and inadvertently attracting a swaying cobra to his side
  • the seductive trap of Tania Volkanskaya (Kathleen Burke), Khan's seductive mistress, who tricked Lt. Stone into being captured - and brought to evil warring chieftain and rebel leader Mohammed Khan's (Douglas Dumbrille) remote retreat high in the mountains beyond the Khyber, where he was leading an uprising against the British
  • disregarding orders, McGregor and Forsythe (without support from Col. Stone to rescue his son) dressed up as Pashto rug peddlers-merchants (with darkened skin) to infiltrate Khan's stronghold to free Stone, but Tania recognized them and their plan failed - and they were imprisoned
  • the polite words of Khan that provided a warning to the three captive lancers after they were taken prisoner: ("Well, gentlemen. We have ways to make men talk")
  • the subsequent scene of torture ("unpleasant extremes") in which a prisoner's hands were held down, and bamboo slivers were driven beneath the finger-nails, and the sensitive skin underneath was set afire by burning the slivers; under duress, Lt. Stone eventually confessed about the location of an ammunition shipment (with two million rounds of ammunition) in a convoy-caravan
Torture with Bamboo Slivers Under Fingernails
  • the prisoners' cure for boredom by betting millions of non-existent rupees on cockroach races within their makeshift dungeon cell (the insects were named after their enemies, "Khan" and "Tania")
  • their suspenseful, almost-suicidal scheme to escape and heroically defeat Khan during the climactic battle (McGregor sacrificed his life by blowing up the armory stocked with the stolen ammunition, while Lt. Stone redeemed himself by stabbing Khan in the back) - resulting in the surrender of the remaining rebels
Armory Blown Up, Killing McGregor
Khan Stabbed in the Back with Dagger Held By Lt. Stone
  • the final scene on the parade ground when the Lancers (Forsythe and Stone) were honored for distinguished service with Distinguished Service Order medals - a third medal (the Victoria Cross) was given posthumously to McGregor (represented by a riderless horse)

Commanders of the Bengal Lancer Regiment

Forsythe: Snake Charmer Joke

Seductress Tania Volkanskaya (Kathleen Burke)

Forsythe and McGregor Disguised

Khan: "Well, gentlemen. We have ways to make men talk"



Lt. Stone Honored By Father During Ceremony

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