Day 618: The Man who would be King

Day 618: The Man who would be King

I finished this adventure “classic” tonight…which is to say pretty much watched the whole thing 😛 I’d seen the first 30 minutes of it a couple days ago, so tonight was the remaining 90, essentially the whole story 😛

It was a lot of fun. I was reading that several critics blasted Michael Caine for a somewhat over the top performance, but I have to disagree with ye old guard. Caine was fabulous. So was Sean Connery, for that matter; both as bawdy scoundrels setting out into the unknown trying to make themselves a fortune.

The premise is fairly straight-forward: to enlisted men in the British army in India decide not to go home after their tour of duty, and instead connive a way to get themselves much further north into the fictional country of Kafiristan. The plan from there is a bit more sketchy if you think about it too hard, but essentially, they want to take their soldiering skills to the “uneducated” folk of Kafiristan and help the tribes defeat their enemies, making their following grow larger as they go, and taking up “bobbles and bangles” in payment until they’ve got enough of a following to be considered kings. Or something to that effect.

The plan works even better than they expected; Sean Connery is mistaken for the long-promised son of Alexander the Great, who’d swept through the country centuries earlier and had promised to send his progeny back some day. THAT turns out to be a bit more than they bargained for, and the fall that we all know is coming (since we see the foreshadowing right at the top of the picture)…comes.

Some aspects of the movie are definitely problematic, which is completely unsurprising to me since it was a really problematic time period that Rudyard Kipling’s novella was written in. It was the British Empire. The people of the hills around India were considered to be uncivilized and unsophisticated. I mea, we now know that’s a total misconception. Just because Europeans had guns didn’t make them any more civilized or sophisticated than any of these other tribal cultures, so seeing them blatantly protrayed on screen as…well, stupid baffoons…that doesn’t go over so well these days.

The saving grace, however, is that the film ultimately has our two white “heroes” pay a price for their avarice. See, they *think* that they’re so much smarted than the native peoples they wish to rule over…but that ultimately is their downfall. Just as it was Imperialisms downfall, something that certainly should have been apparent by the 70s, when this film was made. There is *just* enough historical context sewn into the narrative to make it a cautionary tale about hubris, greed, and underestimating people you don’t understand.

That last paragraph makes it sound like it was a serious, dramatic affair. It certainly wasn’t. The heart and soul of the movie are Danny and Peachy, and they’re constantly laughing and bickering and, well, mostly just having a wonderful time on their adventure together. Houston has perfectly captured that feeling of heading out into the unknown, thinking on your feet, and getting yourself in and out of trouble. It was an immensely FUN movie, and it was beautifully and impressively shot to boot. They filmed in Morrocco, some of the shots are breathtaking. I love any movie that deals with full real-life scale like that, as in where they’re crossing a vast desert, or slogging through snow in the high mountains.

I’m also totally a sucker for these old-style adventure movies. Even when it was made, it was nostalgic. John Houston himself made his name doing movies in the 40s and the 50s…so even when this movie came out it was a throwback. What I love about it, though, is that it wasn’t a throwback in a winking at the past sense…if you’d shown it to me without me seeing the date it was released, or recognizing the ages of Sean Connery and Michael Caine…I’d never have guessed in came out in 1975. No way. I’d have said 1955. Or maybe early 60s. It was seamlessly a part of that period of movies, and I LOVE the way those movies are shot, written, scored…all of it. They’re very warm, and safe, and focus so much more on fun and charm than we do with our movies today.

Other than watching the movie, I took it pretty easy today. Podcasted with Joe, oversaw some apartment work, took a nap, watched a bit of the A’s game…that was pretty much it. A much-needed day off. And tomorrow, I’m sleeping in a little bit! 9am is when I’m waking up, and there’s nothing you can do to change my mind!

Good night, guys. See you tomorrow 😉