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Sabu! - Eclipse Series 30 (Criterion)
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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 ZoltÃ¡n 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.
Robert Flaherty and ZoltÃ¡n 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.
ZoltÃ¡n 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 PÃ©rinal and Osmond Borradaile (The Four Feathers).
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Elephant Boy,starring,among others, Sabu,W.E. Holloway and Walter Hudd, has Sabu opening the picture giving a monologue and setting up the story for us.It concerns Sabu's rise from a wanna be hunter,mocked by fellow elephant drivers,to a full fledged leader in his own right.His father's elephant is picked to join a hunt for wild elephants.During that time his father is killed by a tiger.Another driver takes over the charge of Sabu's elephant but treats it cruelly and is injured by it when it goes on a rampage.Fearing that they will kill the elephant Sabu flees with it.The two inadvertently find a huge wandering herd of elephants and when the rest catch up in short course, they have what they came after and Sabu is celebrated as a master elephant driver.
The film is shot in black and white and is clear and crisp.The film isn't perfect,as it does show its age,but it is a decent print,provided by the BFI.The shooting in India is impeccable and gives the film,along with it's new little star,an air of authenticity.4 stars.
The Drum,which stars,among others,Sabu ,Raymond Massey,Roger Livesey and Valerie Hobson, finds Sabu as the son of a local maharajah in the northwestern part of India.His bad uncle(Massey)is power hungry and wants the British gone so he can rule.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"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!
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.
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.