Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

"The 77th Bengal Lancers."

Dell Comic No. 791.

Dell comic book No. 791: "The 77th Bengal Lancers." Spinoff from "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" (NBC 1956-1957). Front cover shows Philip Carey as Lt. Michael Rhodes and Warren Stevens as Lt. William Storm. Outside and inside front cover show scenes at Vasquez Rocks County Park in Agua Dulce. 36 pages.

Great Britain might have won the war in 1945 (with a little help from her allies), but the sun started to set on her colonial outposts soon afterward. Jordan threw off the colonial yoke in 1946, followed by India and Pakistan in 1947. NBC's "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" capitalized on the pre-war movie of substantially the same name (with Gary Cooper and Franchot Tone) and the lingering popularity of 1939's "Gunga Din" in an attempt to give 1950s television audiences an opportunity to wax nostalgic.

The real-life Bengal Lancers — soldiers and adventurers who swarmed to India to protect the interests of Britian's East India Company from the 1600s to the 1800s — "fought often and hard in a country torn by turmoil," the spinoff comic book declares. "The time would come for the fighting to stop, but not for over a hundred years — a hundred years of soldiering in the name of Empire."

The television version of the Lancers defended a fort built for the series at Vasquez Rocks. The fort would survive for some 15 years — which was 14 years longer than the TV show that spawned it.

Egypt's Nasser had just seized the Suez Canal when TV's "Bengal Lancers" premiered October 21, 1956. Israel, France and Britain struck back days after the second episode aired.

Dell published the first companion "Bengal Lancers" comic book in early 1957 and numbered it 791, the next sequential number in its generic numbering system. Dell didn't usually give television spinoffs their own numbering system until the show was picked up for a second season. Thus, there was no "Bengal Lancers" No. 2.

Under pressure from Eisenhower, Britain and France withdrew from Egypt in December. Israel pulled out in March, and the Suez crisis was over. So, too, were the Bengal Lancers. The sun set after the 26th episode aired April 14, 1957.

Film historian Jerry L. Schneider writes (Schneider 2011:576):

At one time, a fort sat on the property on the level field between the major rock formations and the current 14 Freeway. The fort was built for the television show "Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" from Screen Gems, a Columbia Pictures subsidiary, erected at a cost of $117,843.17.

"Tales of the 77th Bengal Lancers" lasted one season on NBC (26 episodes, 1956-1957) and starred Philip Carey, Warren Stevens and Patrick Whyte.

The fort appeared in many subsequent productions including the "Star Trek" episode "Arena" (air date Jan. 19, 1967) where Captain Kirk (William Shatner) fights the Gorn commander (Sand Canyon resident Bobby Clark).

In the early 1970s the County of Los Angeles removed the fort, which was reportedly made of 2x4's, chicken wire and plaster. It was gone by 1974 ("Blazing Saddles").

LW3663: pdf of original comic book purchased 2019 by Leon Worden. Download original images here. Photo file.
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