Tuesday, July 1, 2008

International Crook (India, 1974)

I've yet to learn that the question "How could this possibly be bad?" is a dangerous one. Because there's almost always an answer. Still, watching the convolutions that a potentially awesome movie will go through in order to suck can be just as thrilling as watching the machinations of a finely crafted thriller unfold. There's no end to the level of ingenuity and the number of surprises that you will encounter.

In the case of the 1974 Bollywood film International Crook starring Dharmendra and Feroz Khan, the movie had three things very strongly in its favor: namely that it was a Bollywood film made in 1974, that it starred Dharmendra and Feroz Khan, and that -- probably most importantly -- it was called International Crook. All of these had me primed and ready for a dizzying tale of pleather-clad cads living a decadent criminal lifestyle accessorized by space-age underground lairs, day-glo lycra-clad nautch girls and curving plexiglass bars ornamented by gigantic bottles of Johnny Walker Red. Perhaps even Ranjeet would show up to model some horrific baby-size leatherwear of some kind.

But the problem is that, despite its 1974 date, most of International Crook appears to have been filmed a lot earlier -- by the look of the styles on display, and of Feroz and Dharmendra themselves, some time in the late sixties. Now, I don't know why, but apparently once this footage was shot, the production of International Crook was put on hold for a good long time. But for someone, the dream of International Crook never died, and at some much later point, Feroz Khan and Dharmendra were both brought in to complete the movie, though without anyone bothering to style their hair, clothes -- or, for that matter, their acting -- to match the footage already shot. The result is that you're presented with the curious spectacle of 1960s Dharmendra stepping into a car and then stepping out of it as 1970s Dharmendra, and of 1970s Feroz Khan talking on the phone to 1960s Dharmendra. Even the whole sensibility of the movie shifts randomly as a result, with Khan, playing a typically clean cut and upstanding 1960s police officer in a spic-and-span uniform for most of the movie, showing up at one point with shaggy hair and his shirt open to the navel to beat a confession out of a suspect Dirty Harry-style.

1960s Dharmendra and Feroz Khan in International Crook

1970s Dharmendra and Feroz Khan in International Crook

While all of this certainly adds an element of novelty to International Crook, I'm sad to say that it is merely just a symptom of a larger pattern of haphazard neglect evidenced in International Crook's overall half-assed construction. Still, the film does have a few things to recommend it. For one, there is the theme song, which goes like this:

Crook. Crook. Crook. Crook. Crook.
Crook. Crook. Crook. Crook. Crook.
International crook!

And which also includes the line, "If they had their way, they would even sell god!"

And then there is this rather remarkable outfit worn by Saira Banu (seen here with 1960s Dharmendra).

And 1960s Dharmendra's living room set, which is to die for.

Don't say you haven't been warned.


houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

Hm, could "International Crook" be part of a previously undiscovered genre, the Secret Timetravel Film?

Todd said...

Well, if time travel is possible, then I'm going back for that couch.

Rum said...

i love how dharamendra and feroz's hair are so coordinated one minute puffy then slicked also.

Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I'd ask a lot of why-based questions if I thought an answer was available...but I don't, so instead I'll just say: wheeeeee! And then head off to find the song.

Anonymous said...

I won't say I haven't been warned, but I'm still *sadly* tempted by this. For all the reasons you outlined above, too.


Todd said...

Oh, believe me, I understand. I think that it's worth seeing for the theme song alone, which will stick in your head for days -- though probably in a way that's far more annoying than it is pleasurable. The fact that there's not a clip of it available on YouTube is sort of an international crime in itself. Crook, crook, crook, crook...

Kartik P. said...

I just saw this lulu of a movie. It's definitely in the "so bad it's good" category. In addition to the 1960s and 1970s continuity jumps, the hilarity is enhanced by Dharmendra and Saira's "baby" boy, who changes from a young infant to a young toddler in the same scene. Killer!