The Lives of a Bengal Lancer is loosely based of Francis Yeats-Brown’s memoir about British soldiers protecting the boarders of India from rebellious natives. In the Northwest Frontier, Colonel Stone (Guy Standing) runs a cold and efficient camp, allowing little ceremony or grieving for those lost in battles. Lieutenant Alan McGregor (Gary Cooper) does not mind speaking his mind to Stone, making him look insubordinate.
When Lieutenant Forsythe (Franchot Tone) and Lieutenant Donald Stone (Richard Cromwell), the Colonel’s son, arrive they are befriended and taken under the wing of the experienced McGregor. Colonel Stone treats his son coldly for the sake of business and avoiding any favoritism. This causes the young Stone to act out and he becomes captured by the notorious Mohammed Khan (Douglass Dumbrille). Colonel Stone decides not to send any men after his son, realizing that it is probably a trap. This infuriates McGregor, so he and Forsythe disguise themselves as Indian peddlers in an attempt to rescue young Stone.
Honestly, this film is kinda boring. It feels like the plot just jumps to little misadventures that don’t really matter in the main plot for a while, before it settles far too close to the end. It was almost fun to see the guys fight over the only pretty girl within miles, but she had no purpose as a character. Of course there has to be a snake charming gag, but it carries no merit. Most of this film just feels like filler material that does not really drive the plot or develop these characters.
All day, I’ve been trying to put a finger on why I just did not like this film. Perhaps it was too cold. Had I turned the sound off, there would be hardly any way to tell any friendship between the men, much less any affection between the father and son. Maybe there was just too much military business going on without much explanation as to the relationships between India and England. Then I opened up this film’s Trivia page on IMDB and saw this right at the top: Reported to be Adolf Hitler’s favorite film. Whatever he saw in this, I did not. And I find that very reassuring for my morality and sanity.
“We have ways to make men talk.”