Drum, The (1938, Sabu, Raymond Massey)

The Drum

A rousing adventure set on the Northwest Frontier of India. Variety said of The Drum (the title was changed to Drums in the United States) “production is a typical Korda magnificent spectacle.”

The British government orders Captain Carruthers (Roger Livesey), an officer stationed in Peshawar, to sign a treaty with elderly Mohammad Khan (Amid Taftazni), the ruler of a friendly state who wants to safeguard the throne for his young son Prince Azim (Sabu). But Khan’s unscrupulous and fanatically anti-British brother Prince Ghul (Raymond Massey) murders him and usurps power. Azim is forced to flee and subsequently makes friends with young British drummer boy Bill Holder (Desmond Tester). The British are forced to recognise Prince Ghul, who invites the British contingent to a feast while secretly planning to massacre them with concealed machine guns. Azim is forewarned and saves the day for the Raj, although he is unable to prevent bloodshed during a terrific battle, which the British win only after the arrival of reinforcements.

The creative and logistical problems Alexander Korda had encountered during the overseas filming of 1937’s Elephant Boy encouraged him to look nearer to Denham for location filming for The Drum. Instead, the exteriors were convincingly shot in the hills outside Harlech in Wales. Thirty years later, director Gerald Thomas followed Korda’s example and went to Wales to shoot the exteriors of his 1968 Northwest Frontier picture Carry On Up the Khyber.

UK / London Films / 1938

Director: Zoltan Korda
Writers: Arthur Wimperis, Patrick Kirwan, Hugh Gray, from the novel by A E W Mason

Cast: Sabu, Raymond Massey, Valerie Hobson, Roger Livesey, Desmond Tester

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