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Eclipse Series 30: Sabu! (Elephant Boy, The Drum, Jungle Book) (Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In the thirties and forties, the Indian actor known as Sabu (born Selar Shaik) captured the hearts of moviegoers in Britain and the United States as a completely new kind of big-screen icon. Sabu was a maharaja’s elephant driver when he was discovered by documentary trailblazer Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North), who cast him as the lead in Elephant Boy, a Kipling adaptation Flaherty directed with Zoltán Korda (The Four Feathers) that would prove to be enormously popular. Sabu went on to headline a series of fantasies and adventures, transcending the exoticism projected onto him by commanding the screen with effortless grace and humor. This series collects three of the lavish productions Sabu starred in for the British film titans the Korda brothers: Elephant Boy, the colonialist battle adventure The Drum, and the timeless Jungle Book.

Elephant Boy Robert Flaherty and Zoltán Korda shared best director honors at the Venice Film Festival for collaborating on this charming translation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book story “Toomai of the Elephants.” A harmonious mix of the two filmmakers’ styles—Flaherty’s adeptness at ethnographic documentary meeting Korda’s taste for grand adventure—Elephant Boy also served as the breakthrough showcase for the thirteen-year-old Sabu, whose beaming performance as a young mahout leading the British on an expedition made him a major international star.


82 minutes

Black & white


1.33:1 aspect ratio

The Drum Zoltán Korda’s charged adaptation of a novel by The Four Feathers author A. E. W. Mason features Sabu in his second film role, as the teenage Prince Azim, forced into hiding when his father, the ruler of a peaceful kingdom in northwest India, is assassinated by his ruthless brother. Protected by a friendly British officer (The League of Gentlemen’s Roger Livesey) and his wife (Great Expectations’ Valerie Hobson), and befriended by the regiment’s drummer boy, Prince Azim ends up fighting with the colonialists against his dastardly uncle. This rousing adventure is elevated by Sabu’s exuberant performance and spectacular Technicolor cinematography by Georges Périnal and Osmond Borradaile (The Four Feathers).


97 minutes



1.33:1 aspect ratio

Jungle Book This Korda brothers film is the quintessential version of Rudyard Kipling’s classic collection of fables. Sabu stars as Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves who can communicate with all the beasts of the jungle, friend or foe, and who gradually reacclimates to civilization with the help of his long lost mother and a beautiful village girl. Deftly integrating real animals into its fanciful narrative, Jungle Book is a shimmering Technicolor visual feast, and was nominated for four Oscars, including for cinematography, art direction, special effects, and music.


102 minutes



1.33:1 aspect ratio

Product Details

  • Actors: Selar Shaik, Roger Livesey, Valerie Hobson
  • Directors: Zoltan Korda
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Black & White, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 3
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: November 29, 2011
  • Run Time: 281 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005HK13OU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,781 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Verified Purchase
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.
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By Dr. Pretorius on December 4, 2011
Verified Purchase
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.
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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.
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