The Long Duel (1967)

 

 

 

Director:     Ken Annakin.

Starring:     Yul Brynner (Sultan), Trevor Howard (Freddy Young), Harry Andrews (Stafford), Charlotte Rampling (Jane Stafford), Virginia North (Champa), Andrew Keir (Gungaram), Laurence Naismith (McDougal), Maurice Denham (Govenor), George Pastell (Ram Chand), Antoņito Ruiz (Munnu), Imogen Hassall (Tara), Paul Hardwick (Jamadar), David Sumner (Gyan Singh), Rafiq Anwar (Pahelwan), Shivendra Sinha (Abdul).

1920s India where the British Raj still rules India; a British lawman squares off with a freedom-backing sultan

 

 

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

The Sultan's wife is about to have a  baby.  He rides out with his son.  When they come back they find their little encampment destroyed.  The British took most of the people of the encampment to their fort.  The Sultan rides out after his people.

In the fort the people are brought in.  Freddy Young tells his aide Abdul that those are the Bhanta tribe.  An wealthy Indian named Ram Chand tells the British commander Stafford that the nomadic tribes are nothing but trouble.  They are continually poaching and trespassing.  Freddy walks over to tell Stafford that this bringing in of the Bhanta tribe is no good.   Speaking of Ram Chand he says:   "You cannot bring in an entire tribe because one or two of his animals have been hunted."  Stafford tells Young that since he is leaving them, this is none of his business.  Young says these people are simple hill people who are very frightened.  Stafford refers to them as a pack of damn gypsies. 

Sultan is at the gate.  He is pulled off his horse and roughed-up a bit. 

Stafford tells Young:  "They will be moved to a resettlement camp."  Young says that to the Bhanta, that is severe punishment.

The guards bring over Sultan to see Stafford.  The Sultan or the Prince wants to know why his people were brought here?  Stafford says for trespassing and stealing.  "By government proclamation your  Bhantas are now a criminal tribe."  From now on, the Bhantas will only live under supervision.  The amount of freedom they are allowed will directly depend on how they act under supervision.  The Sultan now goes to see his people, who are being held behind barbed wire.

Young tells Stafford:  "You're going to have trouble."  Stafford says he doesn't think so.

Sultan is put in prison with the other males prisoners.  At night Sultan plans an escape from the prison his people are in.  He says that the people from other tribes cannot go with them for they are simple criminals.  A large criminal stands up and tells Sultan that he is not going without everyone going.   

Gymkhana Club.  Members Only.  Young is there saying goodbye to the others.  The collector comes to see him and says that it's a shame he is leaving because he has so much valuable information on the native tribes.  Young tells him that whenever the white man tries to civilize the nomadic tribes, the attempts are a disaster and they end up eliminating the tribes altogether. 

Sultan stages a fight between himself and the large leader of the criminals.  The two guards come in and are easily taken captive.  The criminal wants to kill people and is bothered by Sultan saying there will be no killings.  The men start taking out the sentries.  Then the door to the stables is opened,.  One man is killed with a thrown knife.  Sultan asks his wife Tara if everyone is ready to go?  She say everyone's afraid to go, except her.  But Sultan says she better stay here and have her baby. 

The Sultan and the others get on their horses and ride out the gate.  Coming a little later is Sultan's wife who got on one of the horses.  The alarm bell is rung in the fort and the officers at the Gymkana Club wonder what could have happened. Stafford races his car over to the fort.  He is shocked to hear that the prisoners have all escaped.

Tara is about to have her baby so the Sultan and her split off from the group and head to a friend's house in the mountains.  Tara and the child die during the birthing process.  Everyone is upset and the women and the Sultan's son cry.  They don't have much time to cry because the policemen from the fort arrive looking for the escapees.  The Sultan hides down in the well, while the two women and the boy talk with the policemen.  They tell the policemen that they have not seen anyone passing by their house.  The police leave and Sultan is retrieved out of the well. 

Sultan joins back with the escapees.  He tells the leader of the outlaws that for awhile they will need each other.  He also says he will be the leader because he knows these mountains better than anyone.  But he wants no more killing, because they will be needing the friendship of the villagers.  The leader of the criminals agrees to this. 

Sultan's group ambushes a part of the fort patrol, but no one is killed.  They use their fists, rope and the element of surprise.  The group takes everything they can from the police, including their horses, but they leave the policemen alive. 

Stafford gets a message about the ambush of the policemen.  He tells Jamadar to double the patrols. This has to be stopped or else it will get out of hand.  And he wants Sultan caught. 

The bandits loot a rich house of lots of good things. 

Stafford gets the reward for Sultan raised to 500 rupees.  Sultan and his men are treated like heroes in the hill towns.   

Sultan has been raiding for nine months now.  His name is known by the British of the highest ranks.  From government house the situation looks very bad.  They can't afford to have heroes like Sultan running around India.  They decide to take a force trained in jungle tactics and in charge of someone who really knows the country up there.    But who will be the leader?  Freddy Young, of course. 

Freddy arrives at the train station and he sees a lot of men from the fort running toward him all enthused to see him.  But the group passes right by Freddy and greet a young, pretty woman getting off the train.  It's Jane Stafford, daughter of the fort commander Stafford. 

Sultan comes to free the members of his Bhanta tribe.  He gests a real surprise.  They tell him they have already adjusted to he stationary lie style under the British.  They have to work for the British, but the work load is not that bad. Sultan can't believe that they want to stay in the British cage.  Seeing Sultan's displeasure, they slowly walk away from him. 

The criminal leader and his men come riding up to Sultan who tells them that from now on they will just be looking for "ourselves".  The other leader says that's probably for the best.  

Capt. Young comes into the club.  He wants to speak with Stafford, but he is not here yet.  Young's primary protector asks Young not to make Stafford feel like he is a loser in this matter. 

Sultan and his men get into the fort.  They send flaming arrows into the wood buildings and into the tents.  Sultan throws a tin can near the tents.  The ammo depot explodes.  Young hears and sees the big explosions.  The tin box remains where it was thrown.  It is found later and inside it was a message from Sultan:  "Capt. Young, I trust it was a warm welcome.  I look forward to our next encounter."

Jane Stafford gives a ride in her father's car to Young.  Along the way she asks Young why doesn't he and her father get along?  Young just says he doesn't agree with some of Stafford's attitudes.  He, like too many veterans, have the idea that the Indians are a bunch of no goods.  Jane is bothered by this statement and says her father has given his life to the betterment of India.    Young says:  "I'm sorry.  Would you have preferred an evasive answer?"

Out in the field, Young learns that Ram Chand is having a big celebration.  At list, this is what the dancing girl told them. 

Sultan goes over to look over the celebration.  The five dancing girls are dancing to the music.  Suddenly Sultan and his men come to the festival.  The party guests start running away from the oncoming Sultan.  Ram Chand plays it cool and asks his aide why wasn't Sultan invited to the celebration?   Sultan now orders that Ram Chand's guards hand their weapons over.  Ram Chand tells his men to put down their weapons. 

The dancing girls come out again and start dancing to the music.   The main dancer, Champa, is especially pretty and Sultan likes what he sees.  She seems to be flirting with Sultan.   

Young and his men show up at the main palace, but the guard there says the big celebration is being held at the summer house.  So Young has to head for the summer house. 

A sentry sees Young and his men and he runs along a short-cut to warn Sultan.  Sultan tells his men to get going.  Meanwhile he grabs the main dancer and takes her with him.  Young arrives shortly after Young has left.  Young and his men now give chase.  Sultan gets off his horse and he and the dancing girl hide.  He says that the dancing girl betrayed him.  She says she certainly did not.  She only told Babu about the festival. 

The dancing girl walks over a rope bridge to get to the other side.  Sultan starts to follow her, but sees two policemen coming up on them.  He gets himself into position and leaps off a rock on onto the  first horseman.  Then he grabs a rifle and knocks the other horseman off his horse.    Sultan starts running across the bride.  One of the policemen manages to shoot Sultan in the right arm, but Sultan keeps going.  One of the soldiers now cuts the top ropes of the bridge.  That isn't successful either so the soldier tosses a grenade and the explosion cuts the bridge in two.  Luckily for Sultan, the bridge slams into some small trees on the other side of the canyon.  Now the dancing girl helps him get up and onto the other side. 

The dancing girl binds up Sultan's wounds.  They kiss. 

A new shrine is opening and Capt. Young wants to be there because Sultan won't be able to resist coming to the opening. 

At the opening the criminal leader and his men see Young and another policeman in disguise walking among the attendees.  Some of the men want to shoot Young from a distance, but the leader tells them to wait for where there are two vultures there are bound to be many more.  A criminal comes over to tell the leader that there are many more policemen behind the wall over there. 

All of a sudden Young calls off the attack on Sultan.  He gives no reason for this  --  just that Sultan did not come.  But Sultan and his son are there alright.  The police pull out. 

Stafford is furious that Young didn't kill Sultan while he had the chance.   Young says to have the police fire into the crowd and kill their own people would make the whole people of the area to despise the British.  He goes on to say that Sultan's real goal is to take his people back up into the hills.  Now Young says if you really want Sultan to be caught or killed, they should put his mainly women and children on the train saying they are being transported to Delhi.  Sultan will attack the train to free his people.  And in that case, they will catch him in a devastating trap. 

The Bhanta tribe is put onto a train. Sultan and his men are determined to take the train and free the people of the Bhanta tribe.  But before the train reaches Sultan, Young puts his troops on the train.  Young tells Stafford that he is going to try to take Sultan and his men alive. 

The criminal chief jumps on the coal carrier of the train.  He knocks out the engineer's assistant and then knocks the engineer out and pushes him off the train.  The train starts to come to a halt.  Young sticks his head out to see what's going on.  He then starts yelling for Sultan saying that if he gives himself up he (Young) will see to it that his people are returned to the hills. The criminal leader shoots Young, but does not badly wound him.   Now the big battle begins.  There is fierce fighting, but then Stafford calls for the machine gun to open up on the enemy. 

The criminal leader rushes to kill the machine gunner, but he is shot by one of the policemen protecting the machine gunner.  Now Sultan sneaks up behind the machine gunners and takes them all out with his knife.  He then grabs the machine gun and starts firing at the police. 

Young decides to take the train back to the station they started from.  Sultan throws the machine gun off the train along with some ammunition boxes.  Stafford tries to stop the train but Young stops him from doing this.  Now Sultan knows that he has lost a lot of men in the battle.  He finds the criminal leader dead. 

In Lucknow, Young's superiors are happy with the battle.  It's true the police lost quite a few men, but Young decimated Sultan's force.  They want him to get back there and finish the Sultan off. 

Back at base camp Young and Stafford get into still another argument.  Stafford says the police could have finished off Sultan and his men for good.  This time Jane Stafford says that Young is right and her father wrong.

Young goes to talk with the dancing girl that Sultan likes so much.  He tells her he wants to send a message to Sultan.  He wants to talk with Sultan and he wants to know the time and place where they can speak in private. 

Champa gives the directions to the meeting place to Young.  He starts heading up the stream. 

Champa returns to her place and is grabbed by Stafford and his men.

Young and Sultan meet.  Young tells Sultan:  "There has to be a time to end this killing. That time has come."  A leopard jumps from a rock headed toward Young, but Sultan shoots the big cat in the air.  They depart amicably. 

Now Young is taken off his assignment to be replaced by Stafford. 

Young comes back the the club and asks Jane where is her father?  He's over in the fort.  She tells him that she has heard about what happened and wanted to say that she is sorry to hear it.  Young says it was a secret meeting.  How did the news get out so fast?  Jane says the dancing girl talked.  Apparently, the girl was a go between with Sultan for a long time. 

Young goes to see Champa in jail.  He sees that she has been beaten up.  He asks her who did this, but all she says is please go away.  So now Young bursts into Stafford's office.   He tells Stafford that the dancing girl has been tortured.  Stafford says if his men went too far, they will be disciplined.  He also says that the girl talked and now they know where Sultan is:  at the top of Corral Valley. 

Young heads out toward Corral Valley.  The next day Stafford and his men are on horseback headed for the top of Corral Valley.  They are seen by a sentry and he rides to tell Sultan that the British are headed up the pass.  The police chase after two men in the valley.  Sultan gets his people into position.  As the police come close, Sultan gives the signal and the machine gun bullets start tearing into the ranks of the police horsemen.  Someone throws a hand grenade at the police.   And now Sultan and his cavalry charge the police.

The machine gunner now opens up on Young and another policeman as they reach the battle area.  The policeman is killed, but Young escapes death.  He is so mad that he starts climbing the mountain to get at the machine gunner.  On the way up he drops his pistol. 

Stafford is shot and goes down, but he is still alive.  Young reaches the machine gunner and the two men fight hand to hand.  Young wins and then he pushes the machine gunner off the mountain.  And now Sultan sees his men suddenly going down as the machine gun is directed at the rebels.  Sultan looks up and sees Young manning the machine gun.  He decides to go after Young, who starts coming down the mountain as Sultan awaits his arrival.  Sultan thinks about  shooting Young, but then he glances around at the battlefield.  The ground is covered with the dead, dying and wounded.  Sultan rides for home. 

Stafford tells Young that they beat Sultan.  Yes, but Sultan got away. 

Sultan goes home to pick up his son and then they leave. 

Jane talks to Young at the club.  He tells her he is going to resign before they boot him out.  Jane says she wants to go with him.  She gives him a big hug.  Young says it will never work.  She gives him a quick kiss, tells him God bless and walks away.  The captain sees a small boy in among the potted plants.  He asks the boy who is he and the boy says he's Munnu, son of Sultan.  Sultan wants to see him. 

A policemen sees Munnu with Young and goes to report it. 

Munnu and Young reach Sultan.  Young tells him that he has to take Sultan.  Sultan says it's better him than someone else.  He then asks Young to look after his son.  Young replies:  "I'll take him."

Munnu rushes over to report that the police are headed this way.  Dad tells his son to go with this man, his friend.  So the two start down the hill.  Sultan shoots himself.  Munnu wants to run back to his father, but Young stops him.  The two of them start back to their horses.

 

In this film the British colonial forces are much nastier than the British in The Drum (Drums) (1938) and King of the Khyber Rifles  (1953).   They over-exaggerate the dangers presented by a small hill tribe known as the Bhantu. They imprison the entire village for hunting a few animals owned by a wealthy Indian.  This starts a war with the prince of the tribe, Sultan, who operates as a guerrilla fighter against the British.  Sultan becomes a big thorn in the side of the British.  Since the British commander in the area can't catch Sultan, they get an enemy of the commander, Freddy Young, to take over the job of catching Sultan.  Freddy is much more sympathetic to the Indians and he tries to limit the bloodshed in constantly chasing down Young and his men.  This, of course, meets with the disapproval of the top officials at Government House and commander Stafford.  Behind the scenes, Freddy works to save the life of Sultan.

Yul Brynner (as Sultan), Trevor Howard (as Freddy Young) and Harry Andrews (as Stafford) were all good in their roles.  Also here is a very young Charlotte Rampling as the daughter of the fort commander.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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