DVD Review: The Brigand Of Kandahar
Available on DVD from Monday January 16th, 2012.
Isn’t it funny how when you start collecting something, you always seem to encounter a hard-to-find specimen somewhere along the line which makes your mission to acquire the entire collection rather difficult? Any fan of Hammer films with a mind to watch everything the studio ever released, has long been tormented by a handful of ultra-rare titles that have fallen into oblivion. Therefore, it is nice to report that two of these long lost Hammer offerings are about to make their belated – and somewhat surprising – debut on DVD.
The Scarlet Blade has never been available in the UK on video or DVD, though it did surface on TV in the late ‘90s. Even scarcer is The Brigand Of Kandahar, another title never seen on video or DVD and absent from TV screens for upwards of 35 years. This film has been so utterly forgotten that it was removed from Halliwell’s Film Guide a few years ago, as it was considered “too obscure”! Both films have been digitally restored by Optimum Home Entertainment and will be readily available as of 16th January 2012.
Following the release of The Quatermass Experiment in 1955 and The Curse Of Frankenstein in 1957, Hammer quickly earned themselves the title of the world’s leading studio in horror and sci-fi cinema. Occasionally they dipped their beak into other genres too, and The Brigand Of Kandahar is one such example of their non-horror output.
The film is directed by John Gilling, who had at this point already helmed the well-received Shadow Of The Cat and The Pirates Of Blood River. Later, Gilling would go on to make two of Hammer’s most critically acclaimed horror classics, Plague Of the Zombies and The Reptile. Alas, here he must shoulder responsibility for writing and directing a decidedly feeble and stereotypical colonial adventure.
At Fort Kandahar, Officer Robert Case (Ronald Lewis) returns from a reconnaissance mission with news that his companion Captain Connelly (Jeremy Burnham) has been captured and probably killed by tribal bandits. The commander of the fort, Colonel Drewe (Duncan Lamont) is furious with Case for not going back to help his stricken companion. His anger is fuelled further when he learns that he has been having an affair with Connelly’s wife, Elsa (Katherine Woodville). Suspicions mount amongst the officers that Case may have deliberately allowed Connelly to be captured in order to “clear the way” for his illicit romance with the fallen man’s wife.
Case is arrested and found guilty on a trumped-up charge of cowardice. He escapes from his cell and flees into the hills, where he joins up with the local bandits, led by the mad and violent Eli Khan (Oliver Reed). From here, he plans to take revenge upon the British officers who have besmirched his reputation.
The potential exists for The Brigand Of Kandahar to be much better than it is presently. Case could have been such an interesting and multi-dimensional character. He is certainly a rare type for this kind of film, a wronged man who fights back against evil-doers by committing further evil himself. He isn’t so much an anti-hero as a bad guy worth rooting for, made agreeable by virtue of being less villainous than everyone else around him. Sadly, the part is boringly written and handled with little enthusiasm by the miscast Lewis.
On the other hand Oliver Reed shows plenty of enthusiasm as the bandit leader. His performance is literally straight from the Christmas pantomime school of acting. His boo-hiss villainy and deranged cackling unfortunately wears thin all too soon. This is not Reed’s finest hour by any stretch of the imagination.
The one actor to emerge with their dignity intact is Duncan Lamont as the ruthless Colonel Drewe. Lamont was a studio regular and there is something regretfully ironic about the way his best performance in a Hammer movie happens here… in the worst one he ever appeared in!
The story itself is strictly routine, with nothing whatsoever to get excited about. Budgetary restrictions mean that the whole film has a horribly studio-bound appearance which only adds to the overall dispiritedness.
It is encouraging at least, that a lost and obscure film like this has finally seen light after so long. Admittedly this is a fairly terribly movie… but its release shows that there are still companies out there willing to bring out films which many of us have long since given up on seeing. If nothing else, completists will rub their hands with glee as they finally get hold of Hammer’s most rarely seen post-war film.
FMV Rating: *½