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The Drum

The Drum(1938)


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On the Northwest frontier of India, a British column marching through tribal territory is attacked by machine guns, and Capt. Carruthers, operating undercover disguised as a native, learns of another smuggled caravan of guns. Carruthers returns to Peshawar, reports his news, then asks Margery, the Colonel's niece, to marry him. Acting on Carruther's information, the British make a treaty with Mohammed Khan, the ruler of Tokot, promising protection and peace if he will forbid the passage of arms through their region. Carruthers and his column are greeted by the enthusiastic young Prince Azim, the old Khan's young son, who learns to play the drums from Bill Holder, a young British drummer of his own age. The Khan's brother Ghul opposes the treaty, because he plans to establish a Moslem empire that will end British rule. When the British depart, Ghul murders the Khan, takes control of Tokot, then orders Azim's murder. Azim escapes with friends, however, and returns to Peshawar. There he visits Bill, then eludes his assassins until he finds a British home, where he is protected. Azim's benefactor is Margery, now married to Carruthers, who has been assigned to go to Tokot as the British resident. Ghul pretends to honor the treaty made by his brother, and invites the British to a polo match while guns are brought in the other side of the city. Mohammed Khan tries to warn Carruthers, but is taken prisoner. The Great Drum of Tokot signals the beginning of a five day feast, at the end of which the British are to be massacred, providing the spark for Ghul's great native uprising. Although the British would then be obliged to replace Ghul with him, Azim refuses to allow the Carruthers to be killed. He tries to warn the British of Ghul's plans, from Bill to the Governor, but no one will believe him. Azim rides to warn Carruthers himself, but a British spy confirms his story, and a column is sent to Tokot. Meanwhile, Carruthers suspects a conspiracy, but is ready to sacrifice himself. During a dinner, the British are placed in a courtyard surrounded by hidden machine guns. Azim then reaches the drum, and plays a warning drumbeat that Carruthers recognizes, thus giving the British a crucial moment's warning. After a battle in the palace, most of the British retreat to the residency, but Carruthers has been captured by Ghul. The troops from Peshawar arrive, attack the city and defeat Ghul's forces, and Azim's supporters carry the dying Mohammed Khan so that he can shoot Ghul. As the new ruler, Azim reviews the British troops, including Bill.