Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gunga Din (1939) Classic Movie Review

Is this Hollywood's first comedy/action/buddy movie?

I am working my way through a huge Cary Grant dvd boxset, sort of one or two movies a month. I have come onto this film in the collection, I thought oh its from 1939 one of the greatest years in Hollywood history so why not make this one the first Cary Grant review.

Based roughly on the great Rudyard Kipling's poem of the same name this film is set in 19th century India. It follows the misadventures of three British soldiers (Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Victor McLaglen) who on their travels are joined by a local water-bearer, called Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe). They have the task of stopping a secret mass revival of the murderous Thuggee cult.

This film is greatly cast the three leads are just spot on, the friendship and mischief between all three is a wonder to  watch. Douglas Fairbanks Jr proves he is not just the son of the silent eras biggest action star, but a decent actor too. This was released just as Cary Grant was finally making a name for himself, so he is very strong in front of the camera, compared to his earlier films where he starred with the legendary Mae West (who also got him in the movies). He is already developing his comedic ability in this film which is for me one of my favorite things about Cary, he could act straight but also pull off comedy, which brings in nicely to nice film..... and for me its problems.
This film is good for the friendship between these guys, hence why I ask is it the first buddy movie?, but it has its problems, the actions scenes are very strangely speed-ed up, which for me is bizarre because, the fight scenes and action scenes look well thought out for the era, and its just such a shame they sped them up, it looks like slapstick nearly!!. Which brings me onto another thing for all the comedy and everything its trying to act serious after a while, which for me does not work!!. I hate to say this too, Cary Grant's accent keeps coming, going and switching between various accents, I have seen films earlier than this and don't recall him doing that in them. Now onto the good the story is great, the characters are a joy to watch, like I said the friendship is believable. The set pieces and the huge action scenes with plenty of extras taking battle, is impressive to behold for the era, they nicely fill the screen very impressive. Its sad to think that if it was done today it would all be done with CG (Computer graphics) which is the Bane of my movie loving self. There is a wonderful scene where Gunga Din is watching the soldiers practice their marching and so on, and wishing he could so be a soldier too, Cary plays along for him and makes him feel proud, its a wonderful scene to behold.

 The Cinematography is brilliant for the era, various shots perfectly placed never too far or too close from the action just right. Especially in the interior sets its nicely done, chasing up and down stairs the camera just stays static and lets the action happen in front of it, nowadays the camera moves with the action, maybe its the simplicity in it but I like the static camera of yesteryear. Now here is the sad thing for this film, if it hadn't of been released in 1939 it would of been regarded as one of the best unfortunately... 1939 was an amazing year for cinema, Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Mr Smith Goes to Washington and Goodbye Mr Chips just to name a few, so as you can probably tell the competition is not in its favor!.

Saying all that tho I did enjoy the movie, not one of the best early Grant movies but its worth a watch.
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