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Gunga Din

4.7 out of 5 stars 265 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Gunga Din (1939) (DVD)

Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Academy Award winner Victor McLaglen star in Rudyard Kipling's classic tale of the noble Indian Gunga Din. British Colonial India. Three regimental sergeants of the Raj (Grant, McLaglen and Fairbanks, Jr.), accompanied by their native-born water carrier, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe), are assigned to protect a remote village from a gang of murderous religious fanatics. The small band finds adventure along the frontier of the subcontinent, but finally, overwhelmed in battle and facing certain death, the British soldiers are saved by the selfless heroism of the valiant Gunga Din.

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This big, boisterous adventure is more inspired by than based on Rudyard Kipling's famous poem. Legendary screenwriters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur have fashioned a rousing Hollywood movie full of high adventure, knockabout comedy, and old-fashioned male bonding. And old-fashioned it is: the trio of British officers and best friends who form the core of the film are a 19th-century three musketeers in India, threatened by the interventions of a woman who means to marry the dashing Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). Blustery commander MacChesney (Victor McLaglen) schemes to keep Ballantine in the army while his second in command, the treasure-hunting Cutter (Cary Grant in a hopelessly mugging comic performance), continues searching for his elusive mother lode, but all their plans are thrown into chaos when the rise of the bloodthirsty Thugs threaten Britannia's soldiers. Sam Jaffe takes up the rear guard in turban, loin, and full-body make-up as the titular Gunga Din, the loyal water carrier who dreams of becoming a soldier. Bombastically chauvinist and naively imperialist, the film is bound to rub some people wrong, but Stevens creates a thrilling spectacle in the grand Hollywood mold, a handsome, exciting classic comic adventure that helped make 1939 Hollywood's grandest year. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features

Audio Commentary: Commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer Documentary: Making-of documentary On Location with Gunga Din Featurette: Vintage Porky Pig Looney Tunes cartoon The Film Fan Theatrical Trailer: Original and reissue theatrical trailersAudio Commentary: Commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer Documentary: Making-of documentary On Location with Gunga Din Featurette: Vintage Porky Pig Looney Tunes cartoon The Film Fan Theatrical Trailer: Original and reissue theatrical trailersAudio Commentary: Commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer Documentary: Making-of documentary On Location with Gunga Din Featurette: Vintage Porky Pig Looney Tunes cartoon The Film Fan Theatrical Trailer: Original and reissue theatrical trailersAudio Commentary: Commentary by historian Rudy Behlmer Documentary: Making-of documentary On Location with Gunga Din Featurette: Vintage Porky Pig Looney Tunes cartoon The Film Fan Theatrical Trailer: Original and reissue theatrical trailers

Product Details

  • Actors: Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sam Jaffe, Eduardo Ciannelli
  • Directors: George Stevens
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: April 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (265 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00049QQJQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,230 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Gunga Din" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Possibly the best pure action film ever made and certainly the inspiration for many that have followed. Inspired by, rather than based on, a poem by Rudyard Kipling (who briefly appears as a character in the uncut version of the film in the guise of a journalist traveling with the British army) this tale of adventure, comedy, and action in 19th-century India under the British Raj has it all. Superb b&w cinematography (nominated for an Academy Award in Hollywood's greatest year). Perfect casting, with Cary "Archie" Grant as the cockney Sgt. Cutter, Victor McLaghlen as gruff Master Sgt. MacChesney, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as the dashing Sgt. Ballantine, Sam Jaffee (in full body makeup) as the humble water carrier Gunga Din, and the scene-stealing Eduardo Cianelli as a ferociously intelligent villain who is far more frightening than any '30's movie monster.
The setting, outside the small town of Lone Pine, in California's eastern Sierras, beautifully mirrors that of northwestern India. Filmed in 100 degree heat, the picture's sets and backgrounds have a look of sere authenticity rarely achieved by location filming in the '30's. The superb score borders on the operatic, with leitmotifs for characters as well as scenes.
I vividly remember thinking as a child, when I first saw a grainy print on our b&w tv, that this was the first time I had seen a non-white person in a film who was obviously smarter than the Caucasian heroes. Yes, Cianelli's guru is a fanatic at the head of a cult of ritual murderers, but his discourse on what makes a good officer ("Great generals, gentlemen, are not made of jeweled swords and mustache wax. They are made of what is here [touches hand to head] and here [touches hand to heart]!") has stayed with me ever since.
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Format: DVD
This copy has one major fault: Too strongly edited. The opening scene with the character of Rudyard Kipling riding in a railway coach has been entirely omitted. The scene with the British Elephant squads setting up their artillery has been severely edited, and one misses the awesomeness of the pachyderms executing the drill of unloading the pieces as no other artillery unit in the world could do. And for what? So mediocre trailers and other trivia could be included on the DVD? I paid 11 cents at a Saturday matinee to see the original, and those scenes have been with me all these years. Would be pleased to have you offer an edition with the scenes restored.
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This 1939 adventure classic rivals the Swiss Army knife for sheer utility: under director George Stevens' sure hand, "Gunga Din" spins a heady mix of adventure, comedy, and (dare I say) drama from the few strands of a Kipling poem, and establishes a hugely influential model in the process. It's a movie that rewards both the serious cineaste and the Saturday matinee escapist, a prototype for the Lucas and Spielberg adventure epics of the '70s, and an enduring model for the classic buddy picture. Why, then, does it remain in home video exile?
Having grown up watching this on New York's "Million Dollar Movie," then airing on an RKO-owned TV station and thus dominated by the erstwhile studio's earlier hits, I was oblivious to the abrupt edits and grainy image quality already creeping into the televised prints. It was enough to savor Cary Grant's loopy, comic performance (as Archibald Cutter, arguably the closest he ever got onscreen to his true working class identity as Archie Leach), Doug Fairbanks, Jr.'s virtuous elegance, Victor McLaglen's signature bluster, and Sam Jaffe's soulful valor. By the time the veddy British colonel (Montagu Love) recited Kipling's title poem as an elegy for a fallen hero, you couldn't be sure if the print really had gotten that murky, or if your vision was blurred by the tears unleashed by the shameless (and highly effective) sentiment of the scene.
Flash forward to the '70s and Los Angeles, when the feisty Z Channel, a cable upstart actually programmed by movie buffs, wanted to air the movie. They approached the director's son, George Stevens, Jr., about finding a better print, perhaps one closer to the original release.
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Comment 39 of 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: DVD
The British Army battles a Thuggee uprising in colonial India.

There are action movies, there are good action movies, and there is George Stevens' 1939 GUNGA DIN, the greatest action movie ever filmed. It has it all, as the director's son George Stevens, Jr. reminds us in the recent `making of' feature bundled with this dvd - humor, action and humanity. Not - alas - romance (poor Joan Fontaine.) A disappointing, albeit beautiful, actress up to that point, Fontaine is nothing much than a plot device used to lure one of the film's soldiers three - Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. - away from the other two, Victor McLaglen and Cary Grant.

In that same feature are some circa 1985 interview clips of Fairbanks, who tells us that while filming some of the actors wondered if GUNGA DIN was dosed a little too liberally with humor. Indeed, few action movies this side of Indiana Jones are quite so persistently jaunty, few lean so close to slapstick. Grant has the lead comic role, but McLaglen and Fairbanks have their share of gags as well. It's not a comedy, but the humor adds essential air to the proceedings.

The bad guys in GUNGA DIN are malevolent, grim, Kali (the Goddess of Destruction) worshiping Thuggees. The Thuggees are a deadly threat who aren't allowed a slapstick moment. If GUNGA DIN'S humor adds a necessary lightness, the Thuggee menace adds essential weight. These guys are creepy, evil incarnate, and it's in the battles with them - especially the breathtaking grand battle at the end - that the movie generates its thrills.

We have only to account for that rarest of action movie qualities George Jr. mentioned - humanity. Of course, it's embodied in the title character Gunga Din, played by the then relatively unknown Sam Jaffe.
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