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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the end of the first battle, Daniel is wheeling on his horse as the enemy around him fall to the ground in fear, because he is seemingly unhurt by the arrow sticking out of his chest. But the arrow is not there in any of the long shots. It only reappears in Daniel's chest when he is shown in close-up. See more »
No director ever personalized a genre the way John Huston could. While some critics have claimed his style was a 'lack' of style, the opposite is actually true; his sense of irony, love of the absurd, respect for personal codes of honor, and twist endings that always remind us that the true value of a journey is not arriving at a destination, but in the 'getting there' all set apart his best work from that of his contemporaries. Even his lesser work has value, and his best films, which certainly includes THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, are unforgettable.
The tragicomic tale of two ex-Sergeants turned confidence men with a grand scheme to fleece a near-legendary kingdom had been a 'pet' project of Huston's since the forties, and he'd spent years tinkering with the script, planning to film it with Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart in the leads. With Bogart's death in 1957, he'd considered various other match-ups (including Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole), until he found the ideal pair, in Sean Connery and Michael Caine. Connery had just finished the spectacular THE WIND AND THE LION (in which Huston played a small, but memorable role), and the Scot had often been compared to Gable with his dark good looks, machismo, and lack of pretense. Michael Caine, a long-time friend of Connery, was one of the industry's busiest actors, and had already proved himself adept at playing both soldiers and con men. Together, Connery and Caine had a camaraderie and chemistry that even Gable and Bogart couldn't have equaled, and Huston was "quite pleased".
Christopher Plummer was another inspired piece of casting, as the legendary author Rudyard Kipling. Bookish, with a keen intellect and rich sense of humor, Plummer's Kipling, sharing Masonic ties with the future 'Kings', is the perfect foil for the duo, offering sound advice which they totally disregard, with a wink and a smile. As Dravot (Connery) tells him, "We are not little men", and India, bound up in British bureaucracy (as well as becoming too 'hot' for them) could never provide the immensity of riches they dreamed of.
Huston eschewed the 'traditional' approach to adventure films, with cardboard heroes performing near-impossible deeds until the inevitable 'happy ending', and grounded his story in reality, which disappointed any viewers hoping KING would simply be a variation of GUNGA DIN. But in not romanticizing the story, he gives it a sense of immensity and the exotic, a richness of character, and an understanding of human frailties that far surpasses a typical Hollywood product. While Dravot orchestrates the pair's ultimate ruin by taking his 'godhood' too seriously (as he turns 'noble', trying to bring order to his 'kingdom', and decides to start a dynasty by taking a wife), you can understand why Carnehan (Caine), seeing their 'get rich' scheme disintegrate, would be anxious to leave, but also why he would forgive his friend, when they face torture and certain death. Loyalty, to Huston, is not lip service, but a true measure of a man. While Dravot and Carnehan are certainly not role models, their love and respect for each other transcends their faults, even their lives, putting the film's final scene, as a physically crushed Carnehan leaves his 'bundle' for Kipling, into perspective. It is a moment you won't soon forget.
THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING proves, yet again, why John Huston, as he once described his friend, Humphrey Bogart, is "irreplaceable".
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