(director: Fred F. Sears; screenwriter: Robert Libott; cinematographer: Henry Freulich; editor: Richard Fantl; music: Mischa Bakaleinikoff; cast: Jon Hall (Martin Viking), Christine Larsen (Mary Anne Palmer), Lisa Ferraday (Charlane), Douglas Kennedy (Kevin O’Hara), Michael Fox (Capt. Tamil), Donna Martell (Nawob’s daughter), Gregory Gay (B. Vornin), Matthew Boulton (Col. Palmer); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; Columbia Pictures; 1952)
“Stilted adventure story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fred F. Sears (“Crash Landing”/”Badman’s Country”/”The Miami Story”) helms this stilted adventure story that’s written by Robert Libott. It serves as passable entertainment as a time killer, but the stiff acting, the contrived melodramatics and the awkward story line leave it derailed despite the feverish train ride it takes us on.

The new American diplomat to Lucknow, Martin Viking (Jon Hall), arrives in Bombay, India, as unrest spreads across the Junipur countryside with a civil war looming. Viking checks into the Empire Hotel to meet his Irish soldier of adventure friend from the war Kevin O’Hara (Douglas Kennedy), but discovers he’s a suicide who is unrecognizable because he blew off his face. The next day Viking boards the Gundar Special from Bombay to take him to his post and is taken off the train by police when drugs are found in his suitcase that were planted there by political agents. That night he’s visited by O’Hara disguised as a Sikh, who tells him he planted harmless medical drugs in his suitcase to get him off the train. He then reveals he works for a Hindu terrorist group aiming to blow up the train Viking was on in order to kill an Indian prince, the Nawob of Junipur, which will start the civil war. While the men are quarreling, an unseen assailant sticks a knife in O’Hara’s belly. For the remainder of the film Viking is a man on-the-run from the determined Bombay Chief of Police, Captain Tamil (Michael Fox), who believes Viking killed O’Hara. Along the way Viking meets a pretty English tourist, Mary Anne Palmer (Christine Larsen), a model traveling with her elderly deaf father, Colonel Palmer (Matthew Boulton), who at first doesn’t believe the diplomat’s story but will later meet him again in Agra under trying circumstances and find out he’s telling the truth. The determined Viking will single-handedly prevent the assassination of the prince and be rewarded with some quality time with Mary Anne in Lucknow and then receive a belated thanks from Captain Tamil, who clears his name and rounds up the terrorist with the American’s help in fingering them.

Hall makes for a dismal hero, as he shows little charisma or star power to be a lead, and the romance part was clumsily done with Hall and Larsen showing no chemistry together. The India setting, filmed in B/W, seemed more Hollywood than real, while the story never could start any sparks but remained on hold as a slow fizz. There was lots of movement throughout and things were made to seem lively but, unfortunately, the film never felt lively. It’s a cheapie B-film that had the potential to be better with a more appealing cast, a tighter screenplay and better production values.

Lisa Ferraday, Jon Hall, and Christine Larson in Last Train from Bombay (1952)