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  Brigand of Kandahar, The The In-BetweenerBuy this film here.
Year: 1965
Director: John Gilling
Stars: Ronald Lewis, Oliver Reed, Duncan Lamont, Yvonne Romain, Katherine Woodville, Glyn Houston, Sean Lynch, Walter Brown, Inigo Jackson, Jeremy Burnham, Joe Powell, Henry Davies, Caron Gardner, John Southworth
Genre: Historical, Adventure
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Northwest Frontier, 1850, and at Fort Kandahar there is trouble afoot, for news has spread that one of the Captains has been cuckolded by his second-in-command, Lieutenant Robert Case (Ronald Lewis). The wife, Ratina (Yvonne Romain) is confronted about this by one of the other officers, and while she doesn't deny it she also doesn't think it's any of his business, but when Case returns from a field trip without her husband and claims that he was attacked and killed by the local bandits with Case powerless to save him, everyone - including his lover - turns against the lieutenant, leading to a court martial on a charge of cowardice...

One of the cheapest of Hammer's historical adventures, and that's saying something, most of the money appeared to have been spent on the costumes because not even the battle scenes were impressive when you knew they were lifted wholesale from an entirely different film, Zarak, which had been released nearly ten years before. These bits may liven things up, but otherwise even at that vintage they showed up the deficiencies, most notably for modern day audiences the habit of slathering white actors in brown makeup and pretending they were actually Indians. Lewis in particular looked embarrassed, playing a so-called (by the script) half-caste but not convincing even himself by all appearances.

When Case is facing a ten year jail term on the flimsiest of evidence, the sense of injustice should have fired up some excitement in the audience, and for a while it might be the case as he is saved by the local bandit king Ali Khan, played with unseemly gusto by Oliver Reed, also made up as an Indian and covering his own discomfort by essaying the role as broadly as possible - little wonder this was his final film for the studio which had given him his big break as a werewolf. But with sets no more authentic than the average alien planet on an episode of Star Trek (Katherine Woodville, as Ali Khan's sister, actually went on to experience that first hand on a last season instalment of that space opera), and everyone apart from Reed not, as they say, feeling their role, restlessness set in early.

This in spite of an interesting set up where Case found himself between a rock and a hard place, as if his mixed race bearing saw him experiencing the worst of both worlds: does he plump for the cruelty of the British Empire, or the savagery of the outlaws who oppose them? But while someone like Yojimbo would have played both sides against each other, Case stoically joins up with the bandits but does not endorse their excesses, which include torturing their captives. And who's that we see, but don't recognise because he lost a fight with a tiger? That's right, it's the Captain Case thought was dead, so as he's having such a bad time of it he puts him out of his misery with a well-aimed bullet, an example of the Hammer grit which marked out their historical adventures which The Brigand of Kandahar could have done with plenty more of. As it stood, if you could get past the impoverished circumstances there was an intriguing tension in the main character, but nothing here capitalised on it, and the way he found peace was defeatist to say the least. Music by Don Banks.

[Studio Canal's Region 2 DVD has a nice, digitally remastered print but no extras at all.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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