Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gunga Din

Gunga Din; adventure, USA, 1939; D: George Stevens, S: Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Victor McLaglen, Sam Jaffe

The British Raj, 19th century. After 30 years, a mysterious cult called Thuggee reappeared again, continuing with its practice of worshipping the godess Kali by killing as many people as possible. MacChesney, Cutter and Ballantine, three friends and members of the British Army, discover the cult in Tantrapur, where they caused a mass exodus of villagers. MacChesney and Cutter and, however, also concerned with Ballantine quitting the army to get married. When his friend Gunga Din finds out the Thugee temple, Cutter is captured. Din manages to bring MacChesney and Ballantine to the location, but they are captured too. Still, they manage to take the cult's guru which causes a stalemate. When the British army shows up and is suppose to fall into the trap of the Thuggee, Din is able to warn them, but is killed and buried as a soldier.

"Gunga Din" is today a rather dated blend of adventure and 'Three Stooges' style comedy that at times seems as if it was inspired by B-movie standards too much. The opening act where the three British sergeants go to investigate what happened to the isolated village of Tantrapur after all communications were cut off but find the place entierly deserted is truly stimulative and has that spark of mystery, Cary Grant delivers another good performance as Cutter whereas it is interesting to point out that the Thuggee cult that killed people truly existed in India up until the 19th century. Unfortunately, the storyline does not continue with that finely established mood but instead reduces itself by wasting too much time on cheap antics (the whole punch sequence is stupid) and poorly written structure since practically the whole second part of the film is one huge plot hole, from MacChesney and Ballantine going to rescue Cutter from hundreds of Thuggee members all by themselves (which is why they get captured themselves) up to the bad guy explaining his plan to his captives so that they can ruin it for him. Director George Stevens is competent, though, which is a reason why this did not turn out into a complete disaster, managing to turn it into a light, naive and ironic little adventure flick that does not need to be analysed too much.


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