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A young ELEPHANT BOY dreams of becoming a hunter like his father, grandfather & great-grandfather.
Rudyard Kipling's short story Toomai of the Elephants comes to life in this exciting little movie from Sir Alexander Korda's London Films. The original material has been embroidered upon, but the changes from Kipling, who had died in 1936, actually give the slight tale more punch without destroying its integrity. Location shooting, personally granted by the Maharaja of Mysore on his private lands, gives a veracity to the film which no studio back lot could equal.
In the title role, young Sabu is utterly natural & authentic in his film debut. As equally at home in front of the lens as he is on the back of Kala Nag, the wise old elephant, Sabu is never anything less than completely convincing, whether he's scurrying up trees, bathing his pachyderm, or showing complete confidence in interacting around scores of the great beasts.
Walter Hudd is persuasive as Petersen sahib, the hunter sent to round-up elephants for the Government. Allan Jeayes shows authority as Machua Appa, the elderly head tracker. Genial Wilfred Hyde-White, one of Britain's finest character actors, has a single scene as the local commissioner.
The sequences dealing with the elephant herds, the lives of the mahouts, and the building of the stockade are all fascinating and give an almost documentary quality to the film at times.
Born Sabu Dastagir in 1924, Sabu was employed in the Maharaja of Mysore's stables when he was discovered by Korda's company and set before the cameras. His first four films (ELEPHANT BOY-1937, THE DRUM-1938, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD-1940, JUNGLE BOOK-1942) were his best and he found himself working out of Hollywood when they were completed. After distinguished military service in World War II he resumed his film career, but he became endlessly confined for years playing ethnic roles in undistinguished minor films, BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) being the one great exception. His final movie, Walt Disney's A TIGER WALKS (1964) was an improvement, but it was too late. Sabu had died of a heart attack in late 1963, only 39 years of age.
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