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The Lives of a Bengal Lancer
IMDB Rating: 7.4/10 from NOT RATED votes
Release: 01 Feb 1935 /

The Lives of a Bengal Lancer

Genre: Adventure, Drama
Director: Henry Hathaway,
Stars: ,
Synopsis: Three British soldiers on the Northwest Frontier of India struggle against the enemy - and themselves.

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Critic Reviews


You are unlikely to have heard of "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer." It has long been overshadowed by it's more popular contemporaries "Beau Geste" and "Gunga Din", though it is, in my humble opinion, a finer film then either of them. But I'm getting ahead of myself, let's start at the beginning.

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" is the story of a regiment of British soldiers in Imperial India. It's an adventure film first and foremost, but it is also an intimate drama about the life of a soldier in an age of Victorian honor, chivalry, and stiff upper lip stoicism. The characters are all interesting and complex and the dialogue is witty and literate.

The film holds up very well for a movie made in 1935, largely due to the lack of any melodramatic romantic subplots, which have permanently marred other adventure films of the period. This is a man's film about men in desperate situations, it's about being willing to die for your country or your friends at a moments notice. It's about a concept that most people consider outdated, honor. How many films have you seen recently about honor, loyalty, and true courage? Probably not many. The action scenes are exhilarating, and the film really does a wonderful job of establishing it's Indian setting.

The performances are all first rate, Gary Cooper stars as Lt. McGregor. I've always imagined Cooper as the quiet, serious, everyman characters he played later in his career. Here he gets to try his hand at comedy and complexity and gives arguably the most layered performance of his career. Franchot Tone is also perfectly cast, he won on Oscar the same year for his performance in Mutiny on the Bounty, but his performance in this film is equally deserving of acclaim. Tone was one of the best actors of the 1930's, though he never really hit it big as a leading man. He's wonderful here, his character exudes charm and wit, and he and Cooper bounce off each other wonderfully. Richard Cromwell is a little over the top, but he makes sense for the character. British stage actor Guy Standing plays Colonel Stone as being emotionless on the outside, and yet torn apart on the inside, having to make the impossible choice between loyalty to one's family and loyalty to one's country. It's a great performance for which he should have received an Oscar nomination. As for C. Aubrey Smith, he is wonderful as usual, the quintessential British officer, often imitated but never equaled, there is no one like the man himself. Douglas Dumbrille also gives a fine performance as the evil Muhammad Khan.

"The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" is a great film, that has been unfairly denied the classic status it so deserves. For years the only way to see it was on Turner Classic Movies, but recently it was released as one of the five films on the $25 "Gary Cooper Collection". Don't miss it.

10 out of 10

Also, though most people don't know it, this is the film in which the now famous line "We have ways of making men talk" is first uttered.

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