“THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING”
Blu-ray widescreen, 1975, PG, mild violence
Best extra: There’s just one – “Call It Magic: The Making of ‘The Man Who Would Be King’ “
IN THE VINTAGE feature “Call It Magic,” director John Huston says it took him 20 years to get Rudyard Kipling’s story made. The roles of Danny Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, he adds, were intended for Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart.
No knock, but it’s hard to see them in place of Sean Connery and Michael Caine. In fact, it’s hard to see anyone else in this swashbuckling epic. Connery and Caine embody Danny and Peachy, roguish ex-soldiers in late-1880s British India who hatch a scheme: They’ll go to remote Kafiristan, train an army, set up a king, usurp him, then, Peachy says, rob the place “four ways from Sunday.” Privy to their plan is Kipling himself, played by Christopher Plummer.
Danny and Peachy almost pull it off, too – until hubris and delusion knock Danny from his throne. In the feature, producer John Foreman says “King” is a celebration of the human spirit, the pitfalls to which it is subject and the glories that are possible. Indeed it is. It’s also an indelible portrait of friendship and a rip-roaring adventure.
The film gets a considerable boost in high-def. Detail, for the most part, is spot-on; it softens a little when the camera pulls away, but that’s typical of movies made in the 1970s. The color, though, is exceptional – super-saturated but authentic. Huston went to Morocco to shoot in its markets and mountains, and every frame just bristles. If you caught “Zulu” when it came out on Blu-ray a few years ago (and if you didn’t, you should), it’s the same deal. The sense of place is real.
The audio isn’t as dynamic. Again, chalk it up to the vintage. The center speaker gets most of the action; dialogue, however, is distinct and the soundtrack is never tinny.
It would’ve been nice to get some new extras – interviews with Connery and Caine, maybe a feature about Huston, Kipling or India under British rule. But you can’t have everything, right? “The Man Who Would Be King” will do nicely.
— Craig Shapiro