King of the Khyber Rifles (1953)

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Released 28-Jul-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1953
Running Time 95:49
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Henry King
Bounty Films
Starring Tyrone Power
Terry Moore
Michael Rennie
John Justin
Guy Rolfe

Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Bernard Herrmann

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.55:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, a pipe for the General
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     India, North-Western frontier, 1857; Captain Alan King (Tyrone Power) successfully leads a caravan of supplies to the garrison at Peshawar commanded by Brigadier General Maitland (Michael Rennie) although they had been ambushed on the way by rebel tribesman led by Karram Khan (Guy Rolfe). King is a half-cast officer, as his English father had married a Muslim woman, and he is shunned by some of the officers including Lieutenant Heath (John Justin) and barred from the Officer’s Club, although General Maitland’s spirited daughter Susan (Terry Moore) quickly decides that King is just the man for her. But the hostility of some officers is not the only mark against King; it becomes known that as a boy he was raised with Karram Khan after his own parents were killed. However, King is still put in command of the Khyber Rifles, a native regiment, and he and his men set out to prove their worth and loyalty to the British Queen by killing Karram Khan before he unites the hill tribes against them and joins the rebellion by the Native Indian soldiers, the Sepoys, which has broken out all over northern India.

     King of the Khyber Rifles is based on the 1916 novel of the same name by Talbot Mundy, although it takes little from the novel other than the name, changing the date and the plot. The novel had in fact been filmed once before, in 1929, by director John Ford under the title The Black Watch. This 1953 version of King of the Khyber Rifles is a wonderfully entertaining and colourful action / adventure complete with a dashing leading man, cavalry galloping across the plains, fights and attacks, dancing girls, romance and a bit of melodrama. As a response to the popularity of television King of the Khyber Rifles is one of the first productions made by Twentieth Century Fox in widescreen Cinemascope and Technicolor and it looks gorgeous, taking full advantage of the widescreen frame showing long columns of mounted men, the garrison fort with high mountains in the background and the attack on Khan’s camp while even static interiors, such as the general’s dinner, have the performers positioned at each end of the screen.

     King of the Khyber Rifles is helmed by Twentieth Century Fox’s versatile contract director Henry King who, in over three decades, directed such films as Twelve O’Clock High (1949), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) and Carousel (1956). The cinematography is by four time Oscar winning cinematographer Leon Shamroy who won his first Oscar for The Black Swan (1942), another collaboration with King and Tyrone Power, his last for Cleopatra in 1963. The rousing orchestral score is by Bernard Herrmann, who in his 86 credits listed on the IMDb scored films as diverse as Citizen Kane (1941), Psycho (1960) and Taxi Driver (1976).

     By 1953 Tyrone Power was 39 years old. At least from The Mark of Zorro in 1940, he had been one of Twentieth Century Fox’s leading stars, often in swashbuckling period films such as The Black Swan (1942), The Captain from Castile (1947) or The Black Rose (1950); there was some criticism that he was too old to play the dashing hero in King of the Khyber Rifles but although he looks to have put on some weight I must say that his on screen charisma is fully intact and he does a good job.

     King of the Khyber Rifles is an old fashioned adventure, with the sheer joy, colour and exuberance that sometimes seems lacking in many, more modern, adventure films. It looks fabulous in Cinemascope and Technicolor, the dialogue is snappy, the sets and costumes detailed, the music rousing, there are exciting fights and some romance. A delight and pure fun.

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Transfer Quality


     King of the Khyber Rifles is presented in the 2.55:1 aspect ratio but is not16x9 enhanced.

     This is a Technicolor widescreen film which is now over 60 years old. There were numerous tiny marks, some small vertical scratches and some minor interlacing but nothing that was distracting. Colours are deep and natural, with vivid blue skies, red uniforms and brown desert. Detail is firm, blacks and shadow detail are fine, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent. I must say that I was surprised at how good the film looked.

     No subtitles are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kbps.

     The film was originally shown with a 4 track stereo audio track and while I first thought that this DVD contained a mono track, during the sandstorm and fights there were effects in the rears in my system, plus music on occasion. Dialogue is clear and the effects, such as shots and horses’ hooves, are sharp and quite effective. The score by Bernard Herrmann is rousing.

    I did not notice any lip synchronisation issues. Pops and hisses were absent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     Nothing. The static menu offers only Play Movie / Chapters.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There is no US DVD version of King of the Khyber Rifles listed on Amazon, only Region 2 UK and Spanish releases which have no extras are listed. Buy local.


     King of the Khyber Rifles is great fun and very entertaining, made in Cinemascope and Technicolor to combat the encroachment of television during the golden age of Hollywood. It is perfect Saturday afternoon material, a wonderful old fashioned adventure full of snappy dialogue, detailed sets, colourful costumes, galloping cavalry, action and romance.

    The film is over 60 years old but looks very good, the audio is acceptable. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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