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A notorious bandit develops a grudging respect for the English military man assigned to capture him.
In the years preceding World War II in the border region between Afghanistan and India, Zarak Khan, son of tyrannical tribal leader Haji Khan, struggles with his desire for his father's wife Salma. When Salma begs Zarak to take her back to her own people, Zarak calls her a temptress, but then succumbs to her charms and passionately kisses her. At that moment, Haji appears, orders his son flogged to death and Salma sold to the trader Akbar. When The Mullah, a Muslim holy man, asks Haji to spare Zarak's life, Haji declares his son an outlaw and exiles him from the village. Now branded an outcast, Zarak organizes a band of rebels targeting British soldiers operating in the Khyber Pass. At Fort Abbott, an outpost of British colonialism, Major Ingram, the officer sent to defeat the rebels, argues with Sgt. Higgins, who advises him to kill Haji and burn his village. Later, in the town of Peshawar, Zarak's brothers bring word that their father has died. Zarak then visits a cabaret, where, preoccupied by thoughts of his father's death, he fails to notice Salma, now a professional dancer, dancing suggestively for an audience of leering men. After her performance, Salma sends for Zarak and explains that she bought her freedom from Akbar. Still unaware of Salma's profession, Zarak asks her to marry him, but she refuses, citing the prohibition against marrying one's father's wife. As Zarak spends the night with Salma, British soldiers spot his men on the street and follow them back to their camp. In a surprise attack, the soldiers capture many of the bandits, slaughter the rest and burn down the camp. Awakening in Salma's arms the next morning, Zarak learns the fate of his men. Undeterred, Zarak rides to the British outpost in Ziarat where his men are being held, and forces one of the soldiers to transmit a telegram stating that the trial has been moved to Fort Abbott. Posing as a British soldier charged with escorting the rebels, Zarak proceeds to the guard house, where the prisoners are released into his custody. After marching the men a safe distance into the desert, Zarak files off their chains and releases them. When Zarak informs his right-hand man Hassu that he plans to marry Salma, Hassu takes him to the café where Salma, scantily dressed, dances provocatively. Furious, Zarak denounces her and storms off. Some time later, Zarak and his men gallop down from the hills to attack a band of travelers. When the outlaws reach the road, however, the travelers throw off their robes, revealing themselves to be British soldiers. In the ensuing gun battle, Zarak is captured, but escapes and is pursued by Ingram. After crossing a rickety suspension bridge, Zarak starts to saw at the ropes, causing the bridge to swing dangerously and tip on its side. Trailing Zarak, Ingram clings to the bridge's slats as the river rushes below. Just then, The Mullah passes by and asks Zarak to spare Ingram's life. At the behest of the holy man, Zarak relents and runs off, and Ingram reaches safety just before the bridge crashes into the river. In Afghanistan, a ragged Zarak arrives at the palace of his cousin, Ahmad Khan. Doubting the disheveled beggar's claim to be the great Zarak Khan, Ahmad tests his prowess by ordering him to face a fierce, sword-wielding warrior. When Zarak triumphs using only a knife to defend himself, Ahmad welcomes him as his cousin. Zarak then proposes robbing the bank in Ziarat, outlining a plan in which he will keep the British pinned down at their fort while Ahmad and his men steal the money. Ahmad agrees, and, after delegating half his men to Zarak, they ride out. As they near their target, Zarak rides alone into town, purportedly to scout the situation. In reality, he plans to double-cross Ahmad and keep the gold for himself. To accomplish this, Zarak hurls a note warning of imminent attack through a window at the fort. Consequently, when Ahmad and his men ride from the hills to encircle a column of British troops, the British lure them toward the fort, where an artillery battalion waits in the bushes. As the Arabs near, the hidden weapons spew gunfire, forcing them to retreat. Soon after, word comes that Zarak has robbed the bank in Ziarat, causing Ingram to regret his decision not to destroy the outlaw's ancestral village. On the ride to Ziarat, Ingram strikes a deal with Zarak's brothers to turn over the outlaw in exchange for the reward. When one of the brother's declares that Zarak is hiding in the well, the British fire their guns down the well, wounding Zarak, who escapes through a secret tunnel. Late, parched and exhausted, Zarak sees an old man drinking water from a leather bag. Desperate for a drink, Zarak slams his rifle butt into the man's head, then notices his prayer beads and realizes that he has killed a holy man. Wracked with remorse, Zarak returns to Salma and collapses. Upon recovering from his wound, Zarak resolves to give himself up as penitence for killing the holy man. As Zarak rides toward Ziarat to surrender, his brothers scurry to tell Ahmad the news. Ingram then travels to Ziarat to escort Zarak back to the fort, and after Ingram and his prisoner leave town, they are attacked by Ahmad. In the ensuing battle, Ingram is captured by Ahmad but Zarak escapes. Singling out Higgins, Zarak takes him to Ahmad's camp where they secretly watch as Ingram is threatened with dismemberment. Zarak then instructs Higgins to ride to the fort for reinforcements while he forestalls Ingram's execution. Striding confidently into Ahmad's camp, Zarak is taken prisoner and sentenced to be hanged, but to stall for time, he proposes that he be flogged to death instead. Intrigued, Ahmad sadistically orders Zarak's brothers to be his executioners. As the final, fatal blow is struck, the British troops arrive to save Ingram. Some time later, Ingram, his wife Cathy, Salma and Higgins visit Zarak's grave and puzzle why he would sacrifice his life for that of his enemy.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 26 Dec 1956|
|Release Date:||1956||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||94||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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The whole film is in widescreen!
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