Brigand of Kandahar (1965)




Director:     John Gilling.  

Starring:     Ronald Lewis (Lt. Case),  Oliver Reed (Ali Khan),  Duncan Lamont (Col. Drewe),  Yvonne Romain (Ratina),  Katherine Woodville (Elsa),  Glyn Houston (Marriott),  Sean Lynch (Rattu),  Walter Brown (Hitala),  Inigo Jackson (Capt. Boyd),  Jeremy Burnham (Capt. Connelly),  Joe Powell (Colour Sergeant),  Henry Davies (2nd Lt. Crowe),  Caron Gardner (Serving Maid),  John Southworth (2nd Lt. Barlow).

British army fights off an uprising in the 1850s




Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.

Fort Kandahar. 1850. A British outpost on the North west frontier of India.  [Kandahar, Afghanistan today is the capital of Kandahar Province, located in the southeast of the country.]

A native man named Rattu flirts with a native woman named Ito. A British soldier comes along and asks if Rattu has any work to do?

A British officer Captain Boyd comes into the quarters of a woman known as Elsa Connelly and tells Ito to tell the woman that he wishes to speak to her. Elsa comes out of her bath with a big towel around herself. He wants an answer to the ultimatum he gave her a week ago. She says she will tell Robert Case of the ultimatum when he returns, which should be soon.

Elsa asks why Captain Boyd is so vindictive? He answers: "I don't like wives who cheat. Especially with half-castes. And I don't like half-castes who masquerade as officers." Before he leaves the captain says it's kind of funny that her husband volunteered for a special mission with her lover.

Lt. Case is riding fast back to the fort. There is no sign of Connelly. Lt. Case reports to the commander to tell him that Lt. Connelly was captured in an ambush where the two men became separated. He also reports that the enemy's numbers are growing larger everyday and the Gilzhai now have a new, formidable leader known as Eli Khan. This leader was educated in England. [Ghilzai are the second largest Pashtun tribal confederacy found in today's Afghanistan  but the smallest is in today's Pakistan..]

The commander says that since they are under strength at Fort Kandahar, if they want to launch a full scale attack, they will have to have help from Fort Lakhan, which is about three days' ride from Fort Kandahar.

Case suggests that the commander may want to evacuate the civilians because when Eli Khan is ready he will attack the forts one at a time. The commander gets angry, says he doesn't need Case's advice and he may go. Then Colonel Drewe stops Case because he wants to know how Connelly was taken prisoner? Case says he saw what happened through his binoculars. Now the colonel asks him why at least didn't he try to rescue Connelly? Case says he had two choices. One, to die like a hero. Or two, to return to the fort to bring back the information to the commander.

Alone with the colonel, Captain Boyd wonders if Case's concern for the civilians extends beyond Mrs. Connelly.

Elsa Connelly is waiting for Case in his quarters. She says she wants to try to save her marriage. She also says that they never had a chance because the others hate Robert so much. Robert says it's too late. Tom isn't coming back. He was taken a prisoner of the enemy, who then killed Tom Connelly instantly.

Elsa gets mad at Case because he came back alive. Was that a coincidence or a convenience? She now says she wishes she had never set eyes on Case. As they fight, Captain Boyd comes in. Elsa leaves. Boyd says his orders are to place Case under close arrest. The charge is cowardice in the face of the enemy.

The court finds Case guilty. Case says he is innocent. Case is discharged from the service and will be confined for ten years in prison.

At night Rattu strangles two of the soldiers on guard to get into the prison. One more guard left. This guard is teasing Case about his ten long years in prison. Rattu strangles him too. Rattu lets Case out and the two run to get to their horses.

Rattu leads Case to a place where they stop to rest the horses. Eli Khan's men jump out form their places of hiding and surround the two men. Rattu tells Case not to worry and he tells the native leader not to harm Case for he is a friend of the Gilzhai. The leader is Hitala and he tells Rattu to tell Case that he is his friend.

The whole group now walks to the hiding place of Eli Khan. Eli comes out to meet and talk with Case. Case sits between Eli and his sister Ratina. Eli asks Case to join him. Case will join with Eli as long as he promises not to kill any civilians or prisoners taken.

A troop of of around 100 Lancers has been sighted headed to the Fort. Eli says it's most likely to be a relief force from Lakhan.

The colonel says A and B troops will move to Khyber Pass. The troops run into an ambush complete with cannon fire. The troops are caught on a small island of earth amid the stream in the valley. The Gilzhai are overrunning the British positions. Part of the troop makes it out alive. Captain Boyd came face to face with Case, but Case did not kill him. Boyd tells Col. Drewe and Drewe not decides to take drastic measured to find out Case's hiding place. He is even prepared to burn down local villages.

The troops start examining village after village and take some of the villagers prisoners.

Case discovers the Connelly is still alive. Half his face has been badly burned, but he is alive. Eli wants to take Case to see the other prisoners as well. Connelley is getting a whipping on his back, while the others prisoners push a wheel around in a circle.

A man writes out a telegram message to Col. Drewe. Jed Marriot, Political correspondent for the London Times, is proceeding to Fort Kandahar. His civilian status is Arual? to rank of Major. He is to be accorded the usual facilities. Signed by General Sands.  By the time the telegram arrives, Jed Marriott is already outside the door of Col. Drewe. Jed tells the colonel that he is here to report on the war. He is interested in the court martial of Lt. Case.

Jed goes to see Mrs. Connelley. She says that she thinks Case is guilty. She doesn't give him much more than that.

Boyd has brought in twenty prisoners. Each one is to be interrogated. None of the prisoners say they have seen or heard of Robert Case. Boyd has to tell Drewe that the prisoners are too scared to talk. So Drewe asks for a pistol and a prisoner. He is going to threaten the prisoners with death. He threatens the first prisoner and fires a close warning shot at the man. The man begs the colonel not to kill him because he has wives and many children. He says he will talk to the colonel in private. Drewe tells his men to take the man to his office.

Jed comes in and sees what was happening. He asks the colonel if he would have killed the prisoner if he refused to talk? Yes.

The prisoner talks and Drewe tells his staff that he wants six men: one officer, one non-commissioned officer and four men. They will sneak into the area suggested by the prisoner. The objective is to kill the traitor Robert Case. And, if possible, it would be nice to kill Eli Khan too.

So a select group of men and the reporter go out on their mission. They are ambushed and most of them are killed. The reporter and two soldiers are taken prisoner. One of the prisoners tries to escape and is killed.

Marriott tries to talk with Case, but only gets a bit of information from him. He refuses to give Marriott the entire truth.

Eli Khan tells Case the that Rattu reports that 400 men from Gaza have moved into the hills of north of Kandahar. Ratina says those people are very peaceable and of no real help to Eli. Eli is going to visit those people and if they won't join with Eli then his men will use the people as target practice.

In private Ratina tells Case that if she tells the men, they will follow Case into battle. Would he lead them? Case asks her why is she trying to undermine her brother? She says because Eli killed their other brother.

In the pits, Case shoots Connelly dead. He sees it as a mercy killing. Marriott rushes in and he starts accusing Case of killing Connelly to get him out of the way, so Case could have Elsa. Case knocks the reporter down. He gets up and still is making accusations against Case. This time Case just walks away from the reporter.

Case goes into see Ratina. She wants an answer from him about leading the men. Case says that her brother spared his life and he knows how it feels to be betrayed. Ratina says that Rattu hates Eli as much as she does. She adds that Eli will never return. Rattu will see to that.

Case lets the reporter go with an escort back to Fort Kandahar. Ratina just stares at Case, looking none too pleased.

The reporter tells the colonel and his staff what he saw and heard. He says Case is not interested in killing civilians. So Drewe decides to evacuate the civilians. Marriott goes with the people.

Maybe Case will let the civilians go, but not Ratina. Case tries to stop her, but the men stop Case instead. Ratina says she will lead the raid and kill all from Kandahar. Elsa is one of those civilians.

The evacuation group stops for a rest. Ratina gives the signal to send her men scurrying downhill to kill the British. And it is still another ambush. They kill all but take Elsa with them. Marriott survives the ambush.

And now Ratina and her men bring Elsa to the hide-out to show her to Case. Ratina pushes her down to the ground. Case goes to help her get up, but she won't let him near her. She calls him a murderer. She says Case murdered Tom.

Ratina tells Hitala to take this Elsa and shoot her. Case throws Hitala to the ground. So Ratina asks is Elsa his woman? He says no. Ratina says then why shouldn't she be killed? Just then everyone is interrupted by the arrival of Eli Khan. Ratina has to go over to him and pretend she is happy to see Eli.

Case tells Elsa to stay out of sight as much as she can, but don't try to escape or she will be killed.

Eli is mad saying that Rattu tried to kill him. He says someone must have offered Rattu a reward for killing Eli. But it is Rattu that is dead and Eli who is alive. Eli stares at his sister. She changes the subject by saying that the English tried to evacuate the civilians. They killed all of the convoy except for an English woman, who is very beautiful.

Elsa is forced to come to Eli so he can look at her. He does so and says: "She's mine." Holding a knife, Case says she stays with him, not Eli. Eli says they will settle the matter by a sword fight. Elsa uses the opportunity to leave the cave. Ratina notices she is missing, but does nothing. Elsa runs right into Marriott.

Marriott knocks out one of the guards. He grabs two horses. Meanwhile, Case kills Eli Khan. So now Ratina is in charge. She tells Case that his woman ran away. Why did she dessert Case? Does he regret this? Case says no. And the last tie he had with the British has now been broken.

This is good news to Ratina. She tells Case that now he is chief of the Gilzhai. They will attack the fort. Case hugs Ratina.

Marriott tells the colonel that the British will be outnumbered ten to one.

The Gilzhai are on the move. Indeed, there are a lot of men. They line themselves up on the length of a ridge. The British come along in front of them. They stop and fire at the Gilzhai. The Gilzhai shoot back. The British head back to the fort followed by the Gilzhai.

And now the British ambush the Gilzhai. They have canon which helps destroy many of the Gkilzhai. Now both flanks of the British army advance as does the center. Case kills a number of the British.

The blast from a mortar knocks Case off his horse. He kills a couple more British soldiers and then finds himself in a battle with the colonel. It looks like Case is going to kill Col. Drewe, but a British bullet his him in the left shoulder. Other fighters intervene and Case grabs a horse and retreats along with the rest of the Gilzhai.

Case finds a cave and goes inside. The British are on his trail. They find the cave and find fresh blood on the walls. Case goes out the other end of the cave and is able to climb up the rocks for a ways. The British spot him and wound him again. Another British soldier is about to shoot Case when Ratina shoots the soldier. Now the colonel shoots Ratina. Both Case and Ratina die.


There's not much history here.  The action is set in 1850.  The First Anglo-Afghan War took place from 1839 to 1842.  The Second Anglo-Afghan War  took place from 1878 to 1880.  The British were involved in the Crimean War, 1853-1856, but that was against Russia.  I couldn't find any mention of big troubles in Kandahar in 1850.  The use of the term "Northwest Frontier" conjures up India, but fighting was done around Kandahar, Afghanistan.  The British used Indian soldiers to help with any troubles on the border. 

The film is partly about racial discrimination in the British Army and society.  Lt. Case was a half-breed (the British used the term half-caste).  Case was proud to be in the British Army, but felt alienated from the white British soldiers because they did not accept him.  And when Case gets in a jam, he is treated very badly by the military, convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.  A newspaperman comes out to Fort Kandahar to study what he fells might be an injustice done to Lt. Case because he was half-caste..  Lt. Case fights back in a different way. 

Katherine Woodville (as Elsa Connelly) was not used effectively with a terrible set of dresses.  They put the beautiful Yvonne Romain (as Ratina) in such heavy brown makeup and a huge black hair wig that I didn't even recognize her.  Ah, what a waste of beauty.  Ronald Lewis (as Lt. Case) looked totally British with a brown smudged face that lessened the sting of the charge of discrimination Case experienced.  The other two British officers were painted as one-dimensional, stubborn and bigoted. 

I still enjoyed the film even though it was a very simple story (like following a formula).  There was plenty of action.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.




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