Thursday, May 2, 2019
The Jungle Book (1942)
The publication of The Jungle Book in 1894 marked the beginnings of the jungle boy genre - tales of boys (and later sometimes girls) raised by animals in the jungle. It is therefore a kind of precursor to the equally famous creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan. Of course being a Kipling story there’s just a bit more to it than that.
He is not entirely comfortable in human society but he does take a liking to Mahala (Patricia O’Rourke), the daughter of the less than trustworthy Buldeo (played by Joseph Calleia and yes it’s the same Buldeo who narrates the tale).
The trouble starts when Mowgli and Mahala discover the ruined city, and more particularly when they discover the treasure room. The old cobra who guards the treasure warns them that the treasure is death.
Mowgli is played by Sabu, by this time a very big star. Sabu had been discovered by the Kordas when they were making Elephant Boy in 1937. He went on to success in Hollywood in films such as Arabian Nights. As a confused young man who does not know to which world he belongs he’s very effective.
Compared to the now better known Disney animated version this 1942 film focuses more on Mowgli and on human dramas and less on the animals but they are still important and Mowgli can talk to them.
The use of real animals (mostly) rather than animation as in the Disney version works well.
The plot is simple and there’s not quite enough of it for the movie’s 108 minute running time. There’s also an almost complete absence of wit and humour. Writer Laurence Stallings possibly takes it all a bit too seriously.
Unfortunately Umbrella’s Region 4 DVD is not that great. I’m told that Network’s Region 2 release is considerably better but I’ve not seen it. It’s rather scandalous that such a visually spectacular movie has not had a Blu-Ray release (as far as I know).
The Jungle Book is not a complete success but it’s unique and extraordinary visual style is still enough to make it a must-see film.