Monday, September 16, 2013


If this film is still remembered today, it's because it is the film that introduced Sabu, the shirtless charming boy from India who became, for a time in the 1940s, a star in British movies playing, well, shirtless charming Indian boys. Here, at the age of 13, he plays a boy named Toomai who takes loving care of Kala Nag, his father's elephant. Supposedly, the wild elephants have headed north for a legendary 100-year herding and British official Petersen (Walter Hudd) puts out a call for elephants to be used in an attempt to find them. Kala Nag is chosen, and Petersen is so charmed by Toomai's antics that he lets him come along. The older men tell Toomai he'll never really be a hunter until he sees elephants dancing, an old wives' tale that no one believes except Toomai. Along the way, a marauding tiger kills Toomai's father, and the man who gets Kala Nag abuses the elephant, which leads Kala Nag to turn violent. The men decide the elephant should be put to death, so Toomai runs away with Kala Nag, finds the wild elephants, and even sees them "dance." Petesen commutes the elephant's death sentence and Toomai is hailed as Toomai of the Elephants. Sabu does come off as a natural actor and is pretty much the only reason to watch this slow-paced movie. The very first scene is Sabu delivering a lengthy monologue to the camera and he is very difficult to understand; luckily, once the action starts, he gets better. Sadly, there isn't very much action; the elephant shenanigans are fun to watch, but too much of the movie consists of long draggy dialogue scenes. The politics of the story, with the British as the worthy masters and the natives as unruly children, is a bit much to take these days. It's fun to see a young Wilfrid Hyde-White as the commissioner. [DVD]

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