The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bandit of Zhobe

Late this summer I reviewed 1956's Zarak, a quasi-historical epic that was entertaining for all the wrong reasons. Epically bad choices in casting, lack of story and character development, all lost in a search for that epic scale which was never really there to begin with.  So how do you improve on it? Well, long story short, you don't. Made three years later, 1959's The Bandit of Zhobe is almost scene-for-scene the exact same movie.

A chieftain of an Indian tribe (India, not Native American) on the frontier, Kasim Khan (Victor Mature) has his family and life torn apart from him, his tribe massacred in a brutal massacre led by Azhad Khan (Walter Gotell), a rival chief who leads the attack with his men dressed as British troops. With a small but loyal group of followers, Kasim becomes a bandit, terrorizing British interests in the area. The regional commander, Major Cowley (Norman Wooland), would like nothing more than to get his hands on the bandit, but Kasim avoids him at every turn. Cowley's daughter, Zena (Anne Aubrey), believes Kasim deserves a chance to know the truth, but can she get him to believe what actually happened?

I gave a marginally positive review for 1956's Zarak (read HERE) in July. The TCM website inexplicably listed this quasi-sequel/remake as a western, but it was apparent almost immediately that this was basically the same thing as Zarak.  Check that, it's not basically the same thing. It is the same thing. Mature plays the same character risen from the dead, Wooland the capable British officer trying to arrest him, and Aubrey the oddly out of place possible love interest. Maybe studios thought audiences were stupid enough to forget. Maybe the studios just didn't care, seeing a cheap chance to make some money. Yeah, that second one sounds more appropriate.

For whatever reason and having seen the two movies about four-five months apart, I liked 'Bandit' considerably more than its predecessor.  Go figure because I certainly can't. The same problems are there -- little story, just a running series of battles, no character development -- but I went along with it this time. Hoping to capitalize and make some easy $, the studio reuses countless shots and whole sequences.  Watch them back-to-back and you'll see at least 15-20 minutes of footage pop up in both films.  The battle scenes are ripped from Zarak in their entirety and dropped into this movie. The positive? The Zarak battles scenes were the best thing going for that movie, and not surprisingly they work here too.

Looking like he's phoning it in for a paycheck, Mature says about 18 words the whole movie. Those words are growled and muttered. He is the star of the movie with name recognition only, nothing else. The focus instead turns to his British counterparts.  Anthony Newley plays Cpl. Stokes, the somewhat goofy British soldier placed in charge of watching the major's daughter and not enjoying his duty at all. Some comedy but not too much thankfully.  Aubrey is the innocent one, sure she can figure everything out without anything bad happening, Wooland the veteran officer trying to avoid a full-scale war breaking out.

So this isn't much of a shocker, but for a 1959 British movie generally forgotten and made on the cheap, there isn't much info out there about 'Bandit.' I'd like to say where the movie was filmed, but I honestly have no idea, and I can't find that information anywhere. So what to say? In Italy or Asia or wherever 'Bandit' was filmed, it is a starkly shot but certainly visually interesting film. The TCM print was in pan-n-scan too, and it still looked good. That speaks to something. An average movie for sure, but one I enjoyed. I'd say watch Zarak too, but the pure awesomeness might blow your mind.

The Bandit of Zhobe <---Youtube scene (1959): ** 1/2 /****

No comments:

Post a Comment