Tuesday, January 19, 2010


A Hammer B-melodrama, much like TERROR OF THE TONGS; this was made the year before and has a similar plot trajectory. On the plus side, it moves at a faster pace, has a clearer plotline, and has more graphic gore, possibly serving as one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; on the minus side, it's in black & white (a minus only compared to the colorful look of TONGS) and the individual characters are generally less interesting, though the villain here (George Pastell, pictured) is nastier (and more fun) than Christopher Lee was as the Tong leader. In colonial India, a Kali cult, the members of which not only strangle their victims but also disembowel and gouge out eyes, is terrorizing the populace and making life difficult for the British East India Company. Guy Rolfe, a British official, is upset by a lack of support from his superiors in trying to deal with the kidnappings, robberies, and murders, so he quits and goes looking for his former servant, who went in search of his long-lost brother, assumed to have been kidnapped years ago and impressed into service as a cult member. A scene of torture or graphic violence pops up every few minutes, not nearly as gory as they would be today, but still often startling. One of the most effective shock scenes involves a man leaping into a noose to hang himself. There's also a nice scene in which Rolfe is staked to the ground while a cobra comes slithering along the ground; if only there was a mongoose nearby to save our hero! Pastell, with his bald head, glowering eyes, and almost manscaped chest, makes for a particularly impressive bad guy, especially in the opening sequence when he’s whipping his followers into a frenzy by snapping a strangling towel between his hands and leading a chant of "Kali!! Kali!!" Allan Cuthbertson is a useless British twit who keeps pissing our hero off, and David Spenser is the brainwashed brother who’s given his full induction into the cult, including a triangle-shaped scar on the inner arm that, lucky for the good guys, is a dead giveaway of membership in the Kali fan club. This B-movie version of a Gunga Din/Temple of Doom adventure is worth seeing, and available as part of the Hammer Icons of Adventure DVD set. [DVD]

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