Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1939. RKO Radio Pictures. Story by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Screenplay by Joel Sayre, Fred Guiol, inspired by the poem by Rudyard Kipling. Cinematography by Joseph H. August. Produced by George Stevens. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by Van Nest Polglase. Costume Design by Edward Stevenson. Film Editing by Henry Berman, John Lockert. Academy Awards 1939.
It’s fun in the sun as three British soldiers tear India apart looking for treasure. When they can’t find it, they receive some straightening out from their superior officer and are then sent into the desert to help put down an uprising of Thugees, a group of murderous rebels who worship the goddess Kali. One of the cheeky trio, played by Cary Grant, goes off with his loyal waterboy (Sam Jaffe) on a continued quest to find riches and ends up being taken captive by the villainous group, leaving his companions (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen, who are both wonderful) to come and rescue him. Dedicated performances, spirited humour and terrific action scenes featuring hundreds of extras all combine for a breathtaking adventure film; the only sour note is the sight of what are obviously white actors painted black to play natives of India.