(out of 5)
Sabu deservedly became a star when this sweetly fun adventure became a hit with children the world over. Himself an elephant driver who had never seen a film before, Sabu’s unselfconscious acting and charming appearance are put to good use in the role of Toomai, Rudyard Kipling’s little hero. After his father is hired by English hunter Petersen (Walter Hudd) to round up wild elephants meant to be put to work in human service, Toomai is devastated to lose his parent to a wild tiger (not the last time Sabu would lose a parent this way in a film). He and his own giant, faithful pachyderm companion remain with Petersen and his crew, insisting that he knows where to find more of the great creatures whose like has not recently been seen in their usual stomping grounds. The other men in Petersen’s retinue laugh at his childish naivete, disbelieving in the myth of elephants dancing in the jungle, but we know they are wrong to mistrust this wise and good hearted lad. The plot is a thimble’s worth of narrative to hang the adventure on, but the vast amounts of gorgeous footage (mostly shot by “documentarian” Robert Flaherty in India) makes for a terrific viewing experience. The film led to super stardom for its adolescent star, who promoted the jingoistic, colonial view of his nation in many more (politically lamentable, but wonderfully enjoyable) adventures in the years to come.
Directed by Robert J. Flaherty,
Cinematography by Osmond Borradaile
Produced by Alexander Korda
Music by John Greenwood
Production Design by William Hutchinson
Film Editing by Charles Crichton