Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Drum

I have just been watching THE DRUM on Film 4. The film was made in 1938 by Alexander Korda (the year before he made THE FOUR FEATHERS) and stars Sabu, Raymond Massey, and Roger Livesey.

The story revolves around the assassination of the King of Tokot (an imaginary native kingdom on the North West frontier of India) and the usurpation of the throne by his brother, Prince Ghul. The rightful heir (Prince Azim) flees into British India where he hides, disguised as a commoner. Prince Azim is friendly to the British, and makes friends with a lowly British drummer boy as well as the newly appointed British Agent to Tokot (Major Carruthers) and his wife.



Major Carruthers attempts to negotiate a renewal of the treaty of friendship with Prince Ghul, but the latter is actually the mastermind behind a planned full-scale rebellion by all the tribes on the North West frontier. Prince Ghul plots to kill Carruthers and a detachment of the British garrison in Tokot on the last day of a festival, and he intends that this will be the signal to the other tribes to start the revolt. Prince Azim learns of the attack and risks his life to warn his friends. His warning to the British Governor of the North West frontier does not go unheeded, and sends four battalions of infantry and some mountain artillery to rescue the garrison in Tokot.


The attack by Prince Ghul's followers takes place ... but Major Carruthers is prepared and the British garrison withdraw into the Residency to await the arrival of a relief column. Major Carruthers is captured during that attack, and is threatened with torture if he does not write an order for the British garrison to withdraw ... but before anything else happens the sound of British artillery fire can be heard in the background. Prince Ghul attempts to escape, but is killed and Prince Azim is placed on the throne of the Kingdom of Tokot. The planned revolt stalls before it has even begun, and peace returns to the frontier.

This film is a great imperial romp, and was probably a bit jingoistic even by the standards of the late 1930s. Even so, it would make a great little colonial campaign!

"Do you get that Kelly?"

6 comments:

  1. Watched it myself today, Raymond Massey was great!

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  2. Francis Lee,

    He was very good at portraying urbane villains ... and was particularly good in this film.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Pat G,

    A complete copy of the film is available to watch on YouTube here.

    Watch and enjoy!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  4. That has actually been on my wishlist to watch, but I didn't know where to find it (and hadn't really looked). Thanks for the youtube link!
    I always liked Korda's "Four Feathers".

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  5. Fitz-Badger,

    One think I like about both films is the use of real soldiers in the battle scenes ... which appear to be quite realistic (I understand that some of the Sudanese taking part in THE FOUR FEATHERS were veterans of the real Battle of Omdurman!).

    THE DRUM also has a bit of humour in it, which I also enjoyed.

    Looking back, Alexander Korda made some excellent films, and three of them are amongst my favourites: THE DRUM, THE FOUR FEATHERS, and THINGS TO COME.

    All the best,

    Bob

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