Directed by George Stevens
Screenplay by Joel Sayer and Fred Guiol; Story by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on a poem by Rudyard Kipling
RKO Radio Pictures
Repeat viewing; Netflix rental
#135 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This rollickng adventure is always enjoyable.
Cutter (Cary Grant), McChesney (Victor McLaughlen) and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) are officers in the British Army in India and fast friends, drinking buddies, and adventure lovers. Ballantine has decided to resign his commission to marry Emmy (Joan Fontaine) and it becomes the mission of the other two to foil his plans by fair means or foul. Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe, channeling Sabu) is a water carrier in their unit who has dreams of being a soldier.
Days before Ballantine is to leave the army, Cutter and McChesney are sent on a dangerous mission to ferret out the whereabouts and intentions of the murderous society of “Thugees” who worship Kali and honor her with mass assassinations. They trick Ballantine, who cannot really resist a challenge, into joining them and Gunga Din tags along. The three find the “Thugs” in a fabulous golden temple and are involved in many hair-raising adventures there, with the support of the humble Din.
While this film suffers from the “sahib syndrome”, it is enormous fun. Grant, McLaughlin, and Fairbanks are the perfect threesome to carry it off. The DVD I rented had a good commentary by Rudy Belmer, who pointed out the many parallels between this film and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984).
Gunga Din was nominated for an Academy Award for its B&W Cinematography by Joseph August.