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Patrick Schoenmaker

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TR.N Research Indy's Influences Classics Adventures Storm Over Bengal
Storm Over Bengal

Released by Republic Pictures - 1938

Directed by: Sidney Salkow
Written by: Garrett Fort
Produced by: Armand Schaefer

Patric Knowles .... Jeffrey Allison
Richard Cromwell .... Neil Allison
Rochelle Hudson .... Joan
Douglass Dumbrille .... Khan
Colin Tapley .... Hallett
Gilbert Emery .... Colonel Torrance
Douglas Walton .... Terry


In the 1930’s and 1940’s Hollywood mined much material from popular pulp authors of the day, not unlike the way studios have been purchasing the works of comic book and graphic novel authors today. Pulp writer Talbot Mundy was one such author who proved a great source for interpretation and inspiration. Gunga Din may have been born out of a Rudyard Kipling poem, nevertheless it contains a large degree of Mundy-inspired material. And a year before Din, another film, Storm Over Bengal, was made in the same setting (shot at the same Lone Pine, California location) and told a similarly heroic story of brave soldiers fighting off a rebellion in British-occupied India.

Storm Over Bengal packs a two-hour story into a one-hour film. A British Officer infiltrates the rebel’s lair disguised as an Indian Holy Man. Their evil scheme discovered, he then flies to a dying Majarajah, warning him of the Hillmen’s plans. After successfully obtaining the Rajah’s signed permission to allow the Brits to defend the territory he now must find a way to alert his fellow officers they are marching into a trap at the Caves of Kali. Further complicating the complications is the arrival of his bride-to-be and his newly enlisted younger brother. Their characters are not drawn with depth but serve as emotional backdrop to reinforce the overall theme of sacrifice for country.

It is a lot of story and a display of expert craftsmanship to keep the running time at a single hour while still delivering an exciting and fun movie. From scene to scene it cracks like a whip, moving along at an astonishing pace. The acting is top-notch all around, led by an urgent Patric Knowles, the sweet-faced Richard Cromwell as the younger brother and a luminous Rochelle Hudson. They are all in perfect pitch with the lightning pace of the piece. There is no room for indulgence and nothing of the sort attempted. Whittled down to its bare bones, the story is tough, with a durable structure capable of having been molded into any variety of cinematic styles. For whatever reason, the studio decided to turn it into a slam-bam action picture and it works very well. So well, in fact, that it’s potential to have been executed on a more grand scale seems a missed opportunity.
(Stephen Jared)


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