The Drum

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THE DRUM—-leave it to the British to run things properly in India: if only that dratted local populace would stop revolting. Large-scale pip-pipping in Technicolor from 1938, directed by the estimable Zoltan Korda, produced by brother Alexander.

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Some second-unit work was done in India, most of the exteriors were shot in hilly regions of Wales. It’s of course vastly dated in outlook, even in its day it produced riots in Bombay (with independence still a decade away). It also was nominated as Best Foreign Film for the ‘Mussolini Cup’ from colonialist-friendly Fascist Italy.*

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Youthful ‘Prince Azim’ (Sabu, at 13) makes friends with a drummer boy in the Gordon Highlanders, and comes to the aid of ‘the lads’ when slime-dog uncle ‘Prince Ghul’ (Raymond Massey) besets them with his tribesmen.

Some eye-filling scenes still impress and there is an excellent sequence with a company of ‘Tommie’s’, around a campfire, singing “I’ll Be In Scotland ‘Afore Ye”.  Great action at the finale.

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99 minutes, with Valerie Hobson (The Bride of Frankenstein, Werewolf Of London), Roger Livesey, David Tree, Francis L. Sullivan. Leo Genn has a bit part.  Extra fun for another of many hissable bad guys from the great Raymond Massey, who showcased crafty evil in The Hurricane, The Prisoner Of Zenda, Sante Fe Trail,  Desperate Journey and Arsenic And Old Lace.  The controversial Korda brothers, Hungarian emigres to Britain, had preceded this with Sanders Of The River, extolling the “White Man’s Burden” in Nigeria (with a disgusted Paul Robeson),then followed up with the massive and exciting The Four Feathers, expending benevolent Martini-Henry bullets in the Sudan. The charming Sabu, who first showed up in their Elephant Boy in 1937graced two more of their classics, The Thief Of Bagdad and Jungle Book. Raymond Massey  The Drum (1938)

This oldie, in the States slightly re-titled as Drums, was one of the first movies shown on new-fangled TV, back in 1948, so even if you haven’t seen it, there’s a good chance your parents or grandparents caught it back in the olden days when you had get up, walk to the TV to turn the channel, patiently using your hand instead of idly burning out your hapless thumb. Yes,we were tough then…..

*The prize was awarded at the Venice Film Festival between 1934 and 1943 (when Benito was booted out of the boot) Unsurprisingly, five of those coveted cups went to their busy pal Germany. Favoritism?

Poster for Zoltan Korda's The Drum (1938)

Alexander Korda Sabu Raymond Massey Valerie Hobson Roger Livesey Desmond Tester

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