16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2011
I simply cannot say enough good things about these three Sabu films and I expect Criterion's prints will be top-notch.
"The Elephant Boy" is his black and white debut, and while it involves heavy use of stock wild-life footage the frames themselves are rare indeed as they feature dramatic shots of elephants in their natural setting - very unusual for an early 1930s film. Sabu's accent is a little difficult to understand at times, but his winning smile and personality shine through. And wait til you witness the stampede of the films finale!
"The Drum" is a full color epic Indian frontier action/drama that has been sorely overlooked and not in commercial print since the 1990s. A young Sabu is the child prince of a remote area not under British rule whose father's kingship is coveted by his chief advisor. When Sabu meets a British army drummer-boy he makes a friend who will aid him in his time of greatest need as he struggles for his kingdom and life. An absolutley brilliant film, it watches like a mash-up of "The Four Feathers" and "The Thief of Bagdad" with a strong degree of "Gunga Din" thrown in for good measure. An intelligent, sentimental and good natured action/drama, certain to become a favorite.
But the real draw here has been only broadcast on TCM of late in a fine print: "Jungle Book". It's been said that "Thief of Bagdad" was the Korda brother's answer to "The Wizard of Oz", but this film is far more magical and fun. Sabu has an unusual degree of anger in this movie that is not evident in his other early films. This venality makes him much more exciting and dangerous and you'll thrill to his adventures as he explores strange ancient cities, flees angry villagers, courts a beautiful girl and speaks with his Jungle - all the while plotting his revenge against the killer tiger Shere Khan. The animal characters such as the python Kaa are wonderfully portrayed - just real enough to suspend disbelief and just human enough to delight and amuse. One for the whole family. I played this for my young niece and nephew who had only seen the Disney version and they liked this better. Oh! and it's in gorgeous rich color.
I am astonished at Criterion's value price for this three feature film release. Unless you purchased the three dvd 1936-1939 film serial set of "Flash Gordon" from Image for ten dollars, your money has hardly ever been better spent, I assure you.
Fans of 1930s cinema, rejoice!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2011
Alexander Korda has produced numerous quality films under his London Films umbrella, the highlights being "The Private Life of Henry VIII" (1933), his first international success, "The Four Feathers" (1939), probably his greatest film and one of the all-time greats, and "Thief of Baghdad" (1940), arguably the best fantasy film ever made.
In this Criterion Collection Eclipse Series #30 are three films starring Sabu (who was also featured in "Thief of Baghdad"): "Elephant Boy" (1936), "The Drum" (1938), and "The Jungle Book" (1942).
"Elephant Boy" is a black-and-white semi-documentary, co-directed by Zoltan Korda and Robert ("Nanook of the North") Flaherty, and this crisp print handsomely preserves the introduction of Sabu, the first Indian film actor to gain international fame, here but a child of twelve, and filmed in his native land (albeit in English).
"The Drum" is the disappointment of this collection. As a film, it is the best of the three, being a fine adventure yarn in the time of the British Raj, shot in India's northwest frontier (now the Afghanistan/Pakistan border). However, the print looks no better than the U.S. and U.K. VHS versions that were available in the early 1990s; indeed, it is in need of restoration. Tears in the film are evident, as are many flaws: many images are blurred, and the colours are a bit washed out (especially in comparison to the sumptuous clarity and colour of "The Four Feathers" which was released the following year). It may be that this is the best available print at present (without cleanup/restoration).
"The Jungle Book", on the other hand, is in gorgeous condition, and its vivid hues are a far cry from the many cheapjack public domain prints that are being sold of this film. It is a fine retelling of five tales from Kipling's classic, and by far the best print of the three films offered in this Criterion release.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2011
I recieved my Sabu dvds today and have just finished watching JUNGLE BOOK. I've gotta say, WOW! I hadn't seen the film in 35 years. I remembered it being a good film, But obviously I saw only a muddy, dull print of it, like we all have, because that is all that was available until now. Gods bless Criterion for bringing us a clear, brilliant print because it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The colors are a revelation. The sets are just plain beautiful. And Sabu gives a stunning performance; far better than his more famous role in THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD.
I wasn't going to go into detail here because it is late as I write, but I have to say a word about the sets. Sets and backlots and soundstages are part of what I love about classic films. I don't need the sets to be realistic and fool me into thinking that the actors are in a real place. All I need from sets is that they be well made and beautiful. In fact I like sets that are obviously sets. I enjoy the pretense and the artificiality, as long as it succeeds in creating an illusion and an atmosphere. (I especially enjoy the wrinkled backdrops of angry sky in FRANKENSTEIN, reminding us that it is all make believe.) The sets in JUNGLE BOOK are just amazing. I would love to see a breakdown of how they accomplished what they did. They do not create a real jungle but a fantasy jungle; a jungle of a child's imagining. More beautiful than any merely actual jungle could ever be, I will be freeze-framing this film for the rest of my life, just to look at that amazing scenery and try to figure out what is real tree and what is not, what is physical set and what is backdrop or painting on glass, or matte process. But for all the artificiality, they succeed in creating a jungle that you can almost smell. I really hope that Criterion's print is good enough to justify a blu-ray release sometime in the future. That would be somethin'.
I haven't watched the other two films yet, but even if they are duds, I got my money's worth in JUNGLE BOOK.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2012
I REMEMBER FROM MY CHILDHOOD MY ENJOYMENT OF THE ADVENTURES OF "SABU" the Indian young actor particularly IN THE SPECTACULAR FILM: "THE JUNGLE BOOK". FOR YEARS I TRIED TO GET A DECENT COPY OF THIS FILM AND THE 3 VERSIONS I ENDED BUYING ON DVD, EACH WAS WORSE THAN THE OTHER. FINALLY AND THANKS TO THE CRITERION COLLECTION, I DO HAVE THAT MARVELOUS FILM IN GLORIOUS TECHNICOLOR AS I REMEMBER IT FROM SO MANY DECADES, LONGTIME AGO!.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2012
I just wanted to add that if you are an "old" movie fan, the print of "The Drum" isn't half as bad as several reviewers make it sound. It is part of the Eclipse series, not a Criterion. Plus Roger Livesy's performance should make up for any shortcomings of the print quality.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2013
I have quite a library of Criterion DVDs and have come to expect quality transfers from this company. There have been a couple of duds, including the very bad transfer of The Scarlet Empress. But The Drum, one of the films in this set, is incredibly bad. It has terrible definition and colors that look like that have gone through a washing machine. Film is almost unwatchable. It looks like a third rate, public domain DVD that you can find at bargain basement prices.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2013
Growing up in Southern California and working in the movies with my farther and wild animals I met Sabu and he know my farther and where friends. The films are a part of the history of India and the British. That world is gone for ever. . .
on March 1, 2015
I have been a Kipling fan since I learned to read, and a Sabu fan from childhood. I adore "The Jungle Book" and "Black Narcissus". But now, I have acquired Sabu's first two films, and watched them from the perspective of an old and perhaps over-educated retired professor, I have a very different take. "The Elephant Boy", which is an ideal boy's story, can offend some with the not quite well disguised homoeroticism of certain scenes, but worse,a basic plot--the capturing of wild elephants for perpetual servitude which, quite frankly, turned me off. "The Drum" made me sit up and stare at the screen. Here, in glorious technicolor and Raymond Massey playing an evil Arab, I found none other than the urground for the current political situation in Irak, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan. And even the beginnings of ISIL. "The Jungle Book" keeps its everlasting spell on my affections. The restoration is just what one wishes for, the set is impeccable, and I will treasure it.
on February 9, 2015
I bought this three movie series for " The Jungle Book " but, was not disappointed , the movie does not follow Kipling's stories , it is actually several stories , perhaps too long and complicated to squeeze into one movie . The production itself is very good , with very good quality and color , the acting is also good . The other two movies in black and white and in my opinion not as good .
on March 6, 2014
Rudyard Kipling era, British empire, king and country, and for many reasons they don't or won't make 'em like that anymore. Old fashioned and fun.You know what your getting and you get it.