Sunday, August 31, 2014
"THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER" (1935) Review
For years, I could never understand Hollywood's penchant for making so many films about the British Empire during the first half of the 20th century. The film industry had released films about imperial outposts under the control of other countries - like France, Spain and even the United States. But why did they film so many about British Imperialism? One of those films is the 1935 feature, "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER".
"THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER" is based upon the 1930 memoirs of a former British Army officer named Francis Yeats-Brown. But if you are expecting the movie to be a clear adaptation of Yeats-Brown's book, you are in for a big disappointment. I suspect Paramount Pictures and producer Louis D. Lighton simply used the book's title and setting - Imperial India - to create their own movie. The movie's screenwriters, who included Waldemar Young and John L. Balderston, wrote a story about the experiences of three British Army officers serving with the 41st Bengal Lancers on the Northwest Frontier of India. The Scots-Canadian Alan McGregor welcomes two replacements to the 41st Bengal Lancers, the well-born Lieutenant Forsythe and Lieutenant Donald Stone (Richard Cromwell), who happens to be the son of the regimental commander, Colonel Tom Stone. McGregor is regarded as some kind of North American savage, who needs to reign in his aggression. Forsythe, who comes from an upper-class family, takes pleasure in mocking McGregor's Scots-Canadian ancestry. And Stone grows to resent his father, who is determined to treat him coldly in order not to show any partiality.
The three officers, who find themselves sharing the same quarters, slowly develop a grudging friendship. However, when word reaches the regiment from intelligence officer Lieutenant Barrett that a local chieftain named Mohammed Khan might be preparing an uprising against the ruling British, Colonel Stone and his senior officers respond with a display of both friendship and power to the chieftain. Unfortunately, Khan kidnaps Lieutenant Stone, using his mysterious "associate" Tania Volkanskaya (portrayed by a rather unexceptional Kathleen Burke) as bait. While Khan tries to extract vital information about a British ammunition caravan from Lieutenant Stone, the latter's father refuses to make any attempt to rescue him. Outrage, McGregor and Forsythe go after their younger colleague without orders.
As I had stated earlier, I never could understand Hollywood's penchant for Imperial British adventures for many years. Until now. I read in a few articles that "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER" was the first of its kind in this genre. Well . . . not really. The previous year - 1934 - saw the release of John Ford's World War I adventure, "THE LOST PATROL". And the silent era produced such films as 1929's "THE FOUR FEATHERS". But it was the box office and critical success of "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER"that kicked off a major influx of British Empire movies that clogged the theaters up to the end of the 1930s.
How do I feel about "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER"? Well . . . I certainly do not view it as a bad movie. I thought it was pretty decent. There were aspects of it that I found unoriginal - namely the "bromance" between the three major characters and the conflict involving a rebellious chieftain. How can I put this? I have encountered both scenarios before in other British Empire movies. The three buddies? Hmmm . . . the friendship between McGregor, Forsythe and Stone strongly reminded of a similar friendship between the three protagonists in 1939's "GUNGA DIN". One could accuse the 1939 film of plagiarizing the 1935 film, since it was released four years later. But the friendship featured in "GUNGA DIN" was based upon Rudyard Kipling's collection of short stories called "Soldiers Three". Who is to say that the movie's screenwriters used Kipling's stories as inspiration for the "bromance" in "THE LIVES OF THE BENGAL LANCER"?
Speaking of the movie's trio, why did Paramount cast three American-born actors in the leading roles? Was there really a serious shortage of British actors? As I recall, Ray Milland was under contract with Paramount around that time. The writers made excuses for Gary Cooper and Richard Cromwell's characters by portraying the former as a Canadian and the latter as an Anglo-American raised in the U.S. Franchot Tone is another matter. He portrayed the upper-class Englishman, Lieutenant Forsythe. Mind you, I have no problems with the actors' performances. But I had a difficult time watching a movie set in British India . . . and starring three American actors.
I realize "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER" was the first movie to really utilize the whole "local chieftain rebels against British Imperial authorities" into its plot. This was also used in subsequent movies like "GUNGA DIN", "THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE", and "WEE WILLIE WINKIE". The problem is that I have seen these movies before I saw the 1935 film. And if I must be brutally honest, the screenwriters and director Henry Hathaway's use of this trope rather dry and bloodless. Hell, even the torture that Richard Cromwell's character underwent was handled off screen.
After viewing "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER", it occurred to me that the movie's character studies impressed me a lot more than the "action-filled" subplot. The interactions between the characters - especially between McGregor, Forsythe and Stone - struck me as a lot more interesting and complex. First of all, the screenwriters and Hathaway did an excellent job in portraying the problems (or lack of them) that the three major characters had with the film's other supporting characters - especially their fellow British officers. I was especially impressed by the film's portrayal of the officers' low regard for McGregor's so-called North American aggression, and with the younger Stone's cool relationship with his estranged father. I was also impressed by how the three disparate leading characters developed into a strong friendship by the movie's last act. But the screenwriters and Hathaway are not the only ones who deserve the praise. The movie's strong characterization would have never worked without the first-rate performances from the cast - especially Gary Cooper as McGregor, Franchot Tone as Forstythe and Richard Cromwell as the younger Stone. The three actors were ably supported by solid performances from Guy Standing, C. Aubrey Smith and Douglass Dumbrille.
Do not get me wrong. I do not dislike "THE LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER". I think it is a pretty solid film. But I find it difficult to believe or accept that it received a total of seven Academy Award nominations. Despite the movie's strong characterizations and excellent performances, I did not find it particularly exceptional. A part of me believes simply believes it would have been better off as a character study (with a shorter running time) than an epic British Imperial adventure.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Below is a list of my top five favorite episodes from Season Two of "HAWAII FIVE-O". Created by Leonard Freeman, the series starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett:
TOP FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF "HAWAII FIVE-O" SEASON TWO (1969-1970)
1. (2.21) "Most Likely to Murder" - Tom Skerritt appears as a Honolulu police officer and old friend of Danny Williams, who seeks revenge for the murder of his wife in this intriguing episode.
2. (2.13) "The Joker's Wild, Man, Wild!" - A beach boy and a playboy compete for the attentions of provocative heiress, via a bizarre card game that leads them to commit crimes on her behalf.
3. (2.01) "A Thousand Pardons--You're Dead!" - Steve McGarrett investigate the deaths of brides of three Army soldiers killed in Vietnam and uncovers an insurance scam operated by an Army sergeant. Harry Guardino, Barbara Luna, James Hong and Loretta Swit guest starred.
4. (2.09) "The Singapore File" - McGarrett escorts the witness to a murder committed by a local gangster from Singapore to Honolulu.
5. (2.22) "Nightmare Road" - Federal agents nearly undermines Five-O's investigation into the disappearance of a very important research scientist.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Below are images from the latest film based upon Marvel comic book characters, "GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY". Directed by James Gunn, the movie stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana:
"GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY" (2014) Photo Gallery
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"
Piper glanced up and saw Paige enter the kitchen. "Hey yourself. How was dinner, last night?"
A grunt escaped from Paige's mouth.
"That bad, huh?" Piper removed two eggs from the refrigerator. "Well, I'll make it up to you with some nice . . ."
Paige heaved a large sigh. "Dinner was fine," she grumbled. "In fact, it was a five-star meal."
Piper felt a small stab of jealousy. "Oh? So, Harry's ex-girlfriend must be quite the cook."
"She can't cook worth a damn," Paige grumbled. "At least according to Harry. Her . . . boyfriend cooked the dinner. Chicken Breast Stuffed with Lamb Mousse."
Piper blinked. "Chicken Breast Stuff With . . . huh. Wow!" Then a thought came to her. "Is this boyfriend a chef?"
"Nope. He's a lawyer. Prosecutor for the Feds."
The older woman noticed the gloomy expression on her half-sister's face. She cracked the eggs into a small bowl. "Let's see. Harry's old girlfriend has her own boyfriend. Who also happens to be a fabulous cook. So . . . why the long face?"
Grumbling, Paige shot back, "I don't have a long face."
"Fine." Piper resumed her preparation of breakfast. "So, what do you want with your omelet? Ham? Cheese?"
A sigh left Paige's mouth. "Cheese will be fine. Along with red and green peppers." Again, she sighed.
Exasperated by her sister's moodiness, Piper slammed an egg-coated fork on the counter. "Okay, Paige! What the hell is wrong? What happened last night?"
"Nothing happened, Piper," the younger woman replied coolly. "Except I had to spend most of last night listening to Harry and the others talk about their careers. It made me realize that I was the only person in that room, making less than thirty thousand dollars a year."
So that was it. Piper let out a gust of breath. "Honey, you don't have anything to feel ashamed about. You're a college graduate from . . ."
"A college graduate, who happens to be a shop's assistant, Piper!" Paige retorted. "Because I had made the stupid mistake of giving up my career!"
Piper realized that appeasing her sister's bitterness might be more difficult than she had imagined. "But you had done it to become a full time witch. Remember?"
"Gee, that's just swell, Piper! Except I've learned that being a full time witch doesn't mean learning sixteen different ways to kill a demon!"
Piper retorted, "Look Paige, you're one of the Charmed Ones. One of the most powerful witches ever. And whether you like it or not that means that you have a duty to be a protector of the innocent!"
Sneering, Paige shot back, "Well, isn't that peachy? That makes me feel soooo much better to hear this speech from someone who, deep down, doesn't give a rat's ass about being a witch!"
That went well. Or not. After taking a few breaths, Piper said in a calm voice, "Paige, I realize that you're feeling a little blue right now. I've gone through this, myself. You're disappointed that your life didn't turn out as you had expected. Hey! I wanted to be a chef and restaurant owner. Instead, I own a nightclub. But . . ."
"But what, Piper?" Paige's sneer grew more pronounced. "Are you trying to tell me that I should be thankful for being a'protector of innocence'? Barbara thinks it's a joke. So do Harry and Olivia, even though they haven't said anything. Or maybe I should be thankful that I have a regular job, despite giving up a better one?"
A long pause followed before Piper quietly said, "Maybe you should be thankful that you have two sisters who love you."
Paige's dark eyes glittered with an emotion that made Piper feel uneasy. "Do you?" the younger woman murmured. "Was that the reason why you had finally invited me stay here in the house? Or why you and Phoebe had convinced me to become a witch? Because you love me? Or because you needed a third sister to replace Prue and revive the Charmed Ones?" She paused and shook her head. "You want to know something, Piper? There are times . . ." Paige broke off and heaved a sigh. "Never mind."
But Piper needed to hear what Paige had meant to say. "Never mind . . . what?"
Rolling her eyes, Paige merely replied, "Trust me, Piper. You don't want to know." She rose to her feet. "You can have my omelet. I'm going to work." She marched out of the kitchen, leaving behind a very stunned Piper.
Darryl turned the police sedan from Mason and into an alley entrance, before coming to a halt. After switching off the engine, he and Olivia climbed out of the car. The redhead glanced up at the sky. "Hmmmm," she commented. "Looks like rain."
"Again?" Darryl frowned. "I thought we had seen the last of the rain for a while."
"This is San Francisco, Darryl. Not L.A. or San Diego." Olivia added, "Of course, for this time of the year, there's usually a lot more rain down there."
Darryl grumbled, "That's comforting."
The duo's colleague, Carlotta Trujillo, broke away from a group of police officials and approached them. "Hey guys," she greeted in a breezy manner. "Looks like we've got ourselves a real winner."
The other woman continued, "His name is Bernard Remar. Found I.D. on him. His body was found inside a half-empty dumpster by two Sanitation Department employees around . . ." Carlotta glanced at her watch. ". . . an hour-and-a-half ago."
Both Olivia and Darryl allowed Carlotta to lead them toward their other colleague, Scott Yi. He leaned against a large, olive drab dumpster. Next to the dumpster laid a Caucasian male dressed in a rumpled gray business suit. The man's pudgy body not only reeked of alcohol, but also contains patches of green mold on his face and exposed upper chest. Olivia frowned. "Mold? Where did that come from? Inside the dumpster?
Scott shook his head. "No. We didn't find moss of any kind, in there. But look at his upper chest."
Darryl knelt beside the corpse. Olivia watched, as he examined Remar's upper chest. It contained slash marks. And the man's white shirt and gray tie had also been slashed. "What in the hell?" Darryl exclaimed. "What in the hell happened to him?"
"It's obvious that someone had slashed him," Carlotta answered. "Someone with a claw. Notice how the slash marks came in fours?"
Olivia noticed. Which led her to wonder if an animal had attacked the victim. But why only slash the upper chest? She expressed this aloud.
Scott added, "Look at his chest, again. There are more than just slash marks on it. Seems to me that Mr. Remar had been stabbed first." He paused dramatically. "With four puncture holes in at least two places. Very odd."
Again, Olivia stared at the victim's chest. Just as Scott had pointed out, Bernard Remar had been stabbed. Before or after being slashed - at the moment, no one knew.
Carlotta shook her head. "If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that this Remar guy had been killed by something unnatural. This whole setup . . . it's just strange."
"Unnatural?" Darryl shot an uneasy glance at Olivia.
Olivia sighed. "I hope not. For our sake. And for Captain McPherson's." Darryl's unease increased. She glanced at Scott and noticed the latter's grave expression. As if something seemed familiar to him. A gnawing feeling struck Olivia that she and her colleagues may have stumbled across something other than a simple murder case.
Artemus stared at the human in disbelief. "Did I hear correctly?" he asked softly. "This hu . . . this judge has refused to cooperate? Despite the photographs and everything else?"
Cedric Lloyd's usual self-assured manner seemed to have crumbled. "I . . . it seems that Judge Bourgh is more afraid of facing prosecution for corruption than being exposed as an adulterer to his wife."
"Hmmmm." The powerful daemon leaned back into the large leather chair, inside his corporate office. "And all because of some . . . young prosecutor?"
Nervously, Lloyd nodded. "Yes, Ronald Wong. It seems that Wong is one of the prosecutors for the case that Bourgh is presiding over."
A sigh left Artemus' mouth. "Very well. Thank you, Mr. Lloyd. I'll look a little further into this matter."
"It's really very simple," Lloyd added anxiously. "Just get Wong out of the way. Once he's out of the picture, exposure to adultery is the only thing that Bourgh will have to worry about."
A cool smile quirked the daemon's lips. "Thank you, Mr. Lloyd. I realize that, now." Artemus swiveled his chair around to face the large window that overlooked San Francisco Bay. "Like I said, I'll deal with the matter. Good day." The moment Artemus heard the attorney close the door, he swiveled his chair back around and reached for the telephone. "Prax! Get in here."
Less than a minute later, the daemon's subordinate entered the office. "Yes, Artemus?"
The older daemon heaved another sigh. "I have a problem, Prax." He revealed Cedric Lloyd's situation with William Bourgh. "This problem requires the elimination of someone."
Curiosity gleaming in his eyes, Prax asked, "To whom should I assign this job?"
"I think that a witch . . . or even a warlock would suffice," Artemus replied. "After all, the target is simply another mortal. And I suggest that our assassin use mortal means to eliminate . . . the, uh target. I don't want his death attracting the wrong attention. Like Belthazor."
"Belthazor?" Prax looked confused. "How would this mortal's death attract his attention?"
Artemus scowled. "Because Belthazor's wife is a police officer. If either of them ever gets a whiff of any supernatural connection . . ."
Prax nodded. "I'll see to it, right away." He hesitated momentarily. "Pardon me Artemus, but who is the target? Bourgh?"
"No." Artemus picked up a file from his desk. "We need him alive. The target's name is Ronald Wong. He's a U.S. attorney with the Justice Department. Compose a dossier on him and give it to our assassin."
This time, Prax bowed. "Yes, Artemus." He turned on his heels and strode out of the office. Artemus focused his attention upon the file in his hands.
"Hold the elevator, please!"
Cole glanced at the attractive woman who rushed toward the elevator. He immediately punched the OPEN elevator . . . just in time for the young woman to dash inside.
Once the doors had closed, the woman gushed a breathless "Thanks!" to her benefactor.
"What floor?" Cole asked.
The woman replied, "Twelve." She let out a gust of breath, while Cole pushed the number 12. Then he noticed her dark eyes staring at him. "Oh my God! It's you!"
One of Cole's eyebrows quirked upward. "Pardon me? Do we know each other?"
"Not exactly," the woman replied, her breathless tone still apparent. "I'm, uh . . . I've seen you around. Before. And I've heard of you. Cole Turner. Right?"
His paranoia flaring up, Cole regarded his companion with wary eyes. "Uh . . . yes, as a matter of fact. And you are?"
"Janet Hui." The woman held out her hand. Cole shook it. Reluctantly. "I basically do Criminal Law."
Ms. Hui continued, "And I'm an old school friend of Harry McNeill."
The elevator stopped at the twelfth floor. The doors slid open. Ms. Hui stepped out. Cole followed. "This is your stop?" she asked.
Cole nodded. "That's right. I'm going to the law library."
"So am I."
The pair proceeded to walk along the corridor. The half-daemon continued, "So, you went to school with . . ."
Ms. Hui finished, ". . . with Harry? Oh yeah. At Stanford. In fact, I had just run into him, yesterday. We had dinner, together." Cole shot her a surprised glance. "Along with his girlfriend, whom I believe you know. Paige Matthews. And my boyfriend was also there. Ron. We had even mentioned you." She smiled prettily. "Small world, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Cole responded with his own smile. "Small world."
Olivia and Scott entered the police station's forensics lab. There, they found pathologist, Deborah Liu. "May I assume that you want the report on the Remar body?" she asked in her usual caustic manner.
"You may assume," Scott retorted. "Don't tell me. It's not ready yet."
"Actually . . . it is." Deborah thrust a yellow envelope at Olivia, who grabbed it.
With a sneer stamped on his face, Scott shot back, "Well, this is a record for you, isn't it? It usually takes you two to three days to get a report back to us. Instead of . . ." He glanced at his watch. ". . . four-and-a-half hours?"
The forensics specialist stared coolly at Scott. "Wow! We're really in bitch mode, today. Aren't we?"
"What's in the damn report?"
Olivia opened the envelope and removed a brown folder. Deborah continued, "It seems that your Mr. Remar had died from collapsed lungs. Both of them."
Frowning, Olivia asked, "You mean he had some kind of respiratory disease?"
"Nope," Deborah replied with a shake of her head. "His lungs simply collapsed. That's it. He had no disease, no virus . . . nothing. It's almost as if the oxygen in his lungs had suddenly disappeared."
"Are you kidding?" Scott exclaimed. "But what about the marks on his chest?"
Deborah frowned. "What about them?" The two police officers stared at her. "Okay, look. Yes, Mr. Remar had suffered some blood loss after being . . . attacked. But the slash and puncture marks didn't kill him. His lungs had collapsed. And with the marks and green moss on his body . . ." She paused and shook her head. "I don't know. If I didn't know any better . . . Never mind. You figure it out. I have other bodies to examine." She turned away from the detectives.
Both Olivia and Scott exchanged wary looks. "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" the latter murmured.
"Darryl is not going to like this," Olivia added.
"Darryl isn't going to like whom the real killer might be," Scott shot back.
Olivia stared at him. "Please don't tell me that we're about to venture into the world of the supernatural."
"Okay, I won't." Scott turned on his heels and walked out of the Forensics Lab.
"Scott!" Olivia cried, as she rushed after her colleague. "Scott, wait up! Do you know who killed Remar?"
Scott paused in his tracks. "Not who . . . what." Olivia continued to stare at him. "C'mon Livy! I'm surprised that you haven't guessed yet. Sudden loss of oxygen, along with the marks on Remar. The green moss."
Nearly two minutes passed before an unlikely idea came to Olivia. "Oh Goddess! Not the . . ." Her voice dropped to a whisper. ". . . chiang shi?"
END OF CHAPTER FOUR