Co-Writer (screenplay)/Director: John Huston
Running time: 129 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): PG
UK Release date: 18th December 1975
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 15th October 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Based on a story by Rudyard Kipling, this is one of those films that I’ve always wanted to see but never managed to, until today. The gods of time were always against me with this one… I’d always turn over when it was half way through, or there would be something else I wanted to see on the other side, but I finally bagged & tagged it today! A film of great scope with a lot of action and adventure, it keeps you guessing until the end. I enjoyed it, with a few reservations, but more of that after this brief summary.
Late one night, a shadowy figure visits reporter, Rudyard Kipling, in his office in India. The visitor is Peachy Carnehan, and he is there to tell Kipling a tale. He reminds Kipling that they had previously met three years ago when he had witnessed a contract between Peachy and his colleague, and friend, Daniel Dravot. The two men, latter-day confidence tricksters, had recently left the army in India and had decided to go and seek their fortune in the little-known land of Kafiristan. The contract stated that they would abstain from alcohol and women for the duration of their adventure… amongst other things. They set off and after a torturous journey they finally arrive. Having scared off some natives with their rifles, they are surprised to find a Ghurkha living in one of the villages. He was the only survivor of a geological expedition several years earlier. This man, known as ‘Billy Fish’ would act as interpreter for the pair. And so they begin their rise to power by persuading the leader of the village to let them train their men so they can defeat all his enemies. Things continue in a similar vein until Daniel is hit with an arrow that doesn’t kill him in a battle. Word of this gets back to the holy city of the region and the pair is summoned. I won’t say any more because what happens next is key to the whole plot & I don’t want the Spoiler Police raising an army and chasing me down.
Very well made a beautifully shot, but you wouldn’t expect anything less from the likes of John Huston. Great performances all round, particularly from Sean Connery as Daniel Dravot and Michael Caine as Peachy Carnehan, they seemed to spark off each other really well. It’s a shame they haven’t made more films together on this evidence. Also worthy of note were Christopher Plummer as Rudyard Kipling and Saeed Jaffrey as Billy Fish.
There is some great dialogue in this film and it is delivered with great aplomb by both leading actors. They are supposed to be common men; non-commissioned officers of her majesty’s army, and that’s just what they speak like. Very much an old-fashioned adventure film, it really delivers on that front. I mentioned there was a problem with it though, and it’s that it’s just too damn long, you could easily lose thirty minutes of the running time from the beginning and the film would be just as good, if not better (in my book). If it wasn’t for this I would have definitely scored it higher, but even so, it still a great film and comes with my seal of approval… Recommended.
My Score: 7.8/10.
IMDb Score: 8.0/10 (based on 20,799 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96/100 (based on 23 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
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Peachy Carnehan: Home to what? A porters uniform outside a restaurant and six penny tips from belching civilians for closing cab doors on their blowzy women?
Daniel Dravot: Not for us thank you. Not after watching Afghans come howling down out of the hills and taking battlefield command when all the officers copped it.
Peachy Carnehan: Well said, brother Dravot.
Daniel Dravot: In any place where they fight, a man who knows how to drill men can always be a King. We shall go to those parts and say to any King we find - "D'you want to vanquish your foes?' and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then we will subvert that King and seize his Throne and establish a Dynasty.
Daniel Dravot: Billy Fish, do they always use such a big ball?
Billy Fish: Depend on size of man's head. Big head, big ball, small head, small ball. That Bashki man. Oh big damn head
Billy Fish: [On being offered a horse to escape a battle] Ghurkha is foot soldier, not cavalry.