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dombrewer's avatar


I think you'd have to be in a very forgiving kind of mood to really enjoy "Gunga Din" in this day and age. In the first instance there's Grant, McLaglen and Fairbanks Jr goofing around while natives and soldiers are being massacred on all sides which is a pretty strange tonal choice under the circumstances, the more slapstick it becomes the odder the drama seems. Then there's the fairly traditional usage of white actors in the leading Indian roles - middle aged Jewish American Sam Jaffe has a stab at playing the title role (a teenage Indian water carrier) in blackface and it's pretty embarrassing. They obviously wanted Sabu, seemingly Hollywood's only Indian, for the part - but he wasn't available. Frankly they should have waited until he was, although you'd think there must have been more than one competent Hindi actor out there somewhere. Never mind. Lastly there's the whole myth of the British Raj as a worthy heroic action in the first place and Gunga Din naively idolising the military bluster and arrogance of colonialism - the Thuggee cult probably have a point, the British probably deserved to be strangled in their beds. The action sequences are pretty good, although mostly sped up, and Annie the elephant is delightful. Just don't think too much the snakes bouncing around on wires in the snake pit, or British soldiers wielding American guns and saluting wrong way, or about how Grant can survive a lashing, being shot and then bayonetted right through the back in the final showdown. It's exceptionally silly.
11 years 7 months ago
LordKinbote's avatar


This movie has a high FFPM (face punches per minute) ratio. I approve!
13 years 1 month ago
psdantonio's avatar


Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
12 years 9 months ago
eiriknielsen's avatar


This movie is bizarre to watch today. While I can't deny the script is fun and adventurous like an Indiana Jones script it's a film that nearly checks all the racist boxes for modern audiences. Blackface...check. Colonial masters putting down native rebels...check. spoiler

But probably the craziest element is the fact that the villain is an unmistakable personification of Gandhi, who is shown not as a leader of independence but as a villainous murderous cult leader attempting to drive the British from India to build his own monstrous empire...i've never really seen anything like it.
2 years 10 months ago
Siskoid's avatar


Respect where respect is due - Gunga Din is absolutely, totally a precursor and inspiration for the Indiana Jones films, managing the same sense of fun and comedy in an otherwise violent adventure (Cary Grant essentially being a greedier Indy). The morality is black and white, and we're not supposed to take the many deaths very seriously unless we're meant to. Unfortunately, the film is dated almost beyond my ability to recommend it except for its importance to film history, or perhaps for Kipling completists, despite having some good moments, impressive builds, and a good pulpy story ultimately about friendship and loyalty. Possibly the easiest problem to ignore is the unambiguous Colonial point of view, with heroic British occupiers (with variable accents, ooh boy) whereas the locals are either servants or savage cultists. But the black face is egregious, especially in the case of the Thuggee guru and the eponymous water bearer from Kipling's poem. And sometimes the comedy feels a bit forced, such as the punch-spiking sequence, or the way the director speeds up all the fist-fighting action as if we were in a silent Buster Keaton feature. What's THAT all about?
3 years 11 months ago
gulliver's avatar


Not without qualitys, even though it is absolutely not pc. But definetly not worthy of 3 top 1000 lists!
9 years 7 months ago
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