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Film / North West Frontier

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North West Frontier (also known as Flame Over India in the United States and Empress of India in Australia) is a 1959 British film starring Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall. It is set in 1905, in the North West Frontier province of India.

A Muslim uprising has begun, and British Army Captain Scott is asked to take 5-year-old Prince Kishan and his widowed governess, Mrs. Wyatt, to the safety of Haserabad, and from there to Delhi. Upon arriving, however, Scott finds that the last train has already left, and the rebels have seized the gates.

Undaunted, Scott finds a battered old engine called the "Empress of India" (but always referred to as "Victoria"note ) and enlists the help of its driver, Gupta, to get the Prince, Mrs. Wyatt, Scott, and several extra passengers — Mr. Bridie, a British ex-pat; Mr. Peters, an arms dealer; Lady Wyndham, the governor's wife; Mr. Van Leyden, a Dutch journalist; and two unnamed Indian NCOs — out of Haserabad.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adventurer Outfit: Scott, as befits an army officer in India.
  • The Alleged Car: Victoria is the train equivalent. It smokes constantly and the whistle goes off at the worst possible moments.
  • Arms Dealer: Peters
  • Aside Glance: Mr. Bridie looks at the camera and smiles during the attack on the train.
  • Big Bad: Van Leyden.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The group's only hope lies in an elderly locomotive whose glory days are long behind it.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mrs Wyatt is one of the only civilians on the train who knows how to use a gun. Which comes in handy when Scott is fighting Van Leyden.
  • Companion Cube: Gupta treats Victoria as this. So does Scott.
  • Cool Train: Victoria. Despite being an ancient and poorly-maintained loco considered only good for shunting, she manages to get everyone to safety.
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  • Crazy-Prepared: Lady Wyndham.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone, Scott, Peters, and Mrs. Wyatt most of all.
    Peters: [about a gun] I've never used one of these in my life.
    Scott: They're for killing people with.
  • Disney Villain Death:
    • Van Leyden, who falls off the train.
    • Almost happens to Prince Kishan, who almost falls off a bridge. Luckily, Scott was able to reach him.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Gupta initially appears to be a servile Ethnic Scrappy speaking in humorously broken English. However, he's also a highly experienced railwayman whose expertise is essential to the mission.
  • Double Take: Mr. Bridie does one when he sees the train being chased by horsemen.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Van Leyden is visibly nauseated by the massacre, and seems to regret that killing the Prince is a necessity for his cause.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Not so much among the central characters, but neither the British nor the rebels are portrayed as being in the right.
  • Irony: Peters, an arms dealer, has never used a gun in his life.
  • Mighty Whitey: Peters and Scott both demonstrate this attitude. Scott even describes the Indians as "children" at one point.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Van Leyden, who also claims to suffer Half-Breed Discrimination, although this is never seen in the film.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: Attempted as a bluff by Peters who, as an arms dealer, would be considered the gun expert on the train.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Scott has elements of this, although this is Deliberate Values Dissonance given that he's a British soldier in India in 1905.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Used by Gupta on Victoria. Scott attempts it, but gets a facefull of oil for his trouble.
  • Ramming Always Works: Well, when the obstacle is a wooden gate and the ram is a fully coaled and watered locomotive with a full head of steam going downhill, yeah, that gate didn't stand a chance.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Mr. Bridie: And now I supposed all our troubles are over.
  • Understatement: "He got off." Said by Scott about Van Leyden after he falls off the roof of the train.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Van Leyden's motivation for attempting to murder a 5-year-old boy
  • Spot of Tea: Naturally, with three of the main characters being English. Mrs Wyatt even sarcastically suggests that Scott drinking coffee would "bring the British Empire crashing down."
  • Thriller on the Express: The entire plot of the film.
  • The Von Trope Family: Van Leyden.
  • Traintop Battle: It was inevitable that this would happen sooner or later.
  • Upper-Class Twit: The monocled colonel.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Van Leyden.


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