This adaptation of the famous short story by Rudyard Kipling tells the story of Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan, two ex-soldiers in India when it was under British rule. They decide that the country is too small for them, so they head off to Kafiristan in order to become Kings in their own right. Kipling is seen as a character that was there at the beginning, and at the end of this glorious tale. Written by
Greg Bole <email@example.com>
To get to Kafiristan, they would go through the Khyber Pass and turn north, but when they leave the caravan, they turn left (south) - in the wrong direction. See more »
[speaking to Billy Fish in Kafiri]
Ootah say take your pick. He have twenty three daughters.
Those are his daughters? Why the dirty old beggar!
Now, now Danny. Different countries, different ways. He's only being hospitable according to his lights. Billy, tell him one's as pretty as the next and we cannot choose.
[Billy translates; Ootah replies in Kafiri]
Ootah say he also have thirty-two sons if you are liking boys.
Tell him he makes my gorge rise; tell him!
Now Peachy, different ...
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Outside of the obvious reflections on the immoral and absurdly hypocritical nature of early British colonialism, it's just a damn entertaining movie.
But you have to think that Rudyard Kipling, who grew up under British rule in India, was certainly trying to shake some sensibilities when he first wrote the story as part of an 1890 package called The Man Who Would Be King and Other Stories, nearly a century before it was made into a film and during an era when the British Empire was still very much a reality.
From the perceptive realization that even the staunchly important Masonic Lodge -- which had infilitrated every aspect of Britain's upper classes -- could be easily corrupted; to the arrogance as Sean Connery's character Daniel Dravot, who elevates what he sees as mere social superiority into a god-like status; to the inevitable humbling of both men at the hands of the 'savages' they profess to rule, the film is ultimately about the humility all men should exhude, particularly in the face of the unfamiliar.
Kipling's tale also preached tolerance, though you might not consider that to be the case based on the film's climax: consider that if Daniel and Peachy had shown an iota of respect for the religion that they instead decided to fleece, how differently the tale might have played out.
The film owes much of its success to the chemistry between Caine and Connery, who regardless of later plaudits, gave the finest performances of their careers. Connery is particularly nuanced, with Daniel Dravot starting the tale as a somewhat lackwitted second fiddle to the scheming Peachy but later seeing his limited vision help him surpass his friend in terms of villainy with an equally heavy price. Caine plays, to some degree or another, the same charming British sheyster/teddy boy he popularized in the Harry Palmer films. But without a backdrop of similarly disaffected cockney bad guys, it's stunningly effective.
John Huston's direction is among the best of his career, and in terms of his ability to use both sprawling vistas and tight, almost claustrophobic photography, owes a nod to his earlier work, including The African Queen, Night of the Iguana and the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. As examples, witness the zenith of Peachy and Daniel's hazardous trek through the mountains played out in full panoramic detail, only to be followed 90 minutes later by the tight shot of Kipling's face, the revulsion fairly etched into every crease as we reach the climax.
But perhaps the true hero of this film was Boaty Boatright, who also cast Connery's classic "The Wind and The Lion." He managed to take some of the most strident, forceful personalities in the film industries, threw them together and came up with a film about humility. Magic.
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