Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jungle King (India, 1959)

Right. I bet you thought that the lion was the king of the jungle. But, in reality, it's a hairy, very slightly paunchy guy in a loincloth -- though, I must point out, one who bears no relation to that more famous and prohibitively trademarked loinclothed jungle king seen in less circumspect Indian movies like this one and this one and this one.

The jungle under this particular, non-copyright-infringing king's reign is a carefree place, one in which the natives while away their days with singing, dancing and general, good-natured horsing around. That is, until a gang of elephant poachers lead by a fancy lady encroach upon their leafy paradise and disturb the natural balance. But, to tell the truth, even that doesn't succeed in disturbing their jungle idyll all that much, as, despite the poachers' increasing depredations, those natives -- Jungle King included -- continue on with all of their singing, dancing and horsing around until pretty much Jungle King's final reel. All told, that translates into Jungle King containing a fuck of a lot of musical numbers, which, given that it's a very low budget film, further translates into it containing even more running around trees than your usual Bollywood movie.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that the fancy lady -- who, when she's not out in the wild in her pith helmet and jodhpurs, wears bauble-y evening gowns and resides in a mansion -- is not, unlike every other villainess in a Bollywood jungle movie, in love with the loinclothed hero, but rather just wants to kill him outright. This provides Jungle King with some much needed conflict. However, things are not quite what they seem. Oh, damn. Well, let's just ignore that for the rest of this review.

Jungle King's top billing goes to child star Shaga Hydoo, who plays the Jungle King's son -- and whom, for reasons of verbal economy only, arising from the fact that I couldn't make out his character's name in the unsubtitled VCD's dialog, I will call "Boy". To tell the truth, that is just weird. Because, although Hydoo gets plenty of screen time, this is clearly Tarza-- I mean, Jungle King's movie. Also on hand is plus-sized comedienne TunTun, who commands a tribe of pygmies played by small boys in fake beards. I have also heard of Sheela Ramani, who plays Jungle King's mate -- and Boy's mom -- Shiva.

Part of me wants to say that Jungle King could not possibly be more generic. But there is another part of me that knows that, with just the slightest amount of coaxing, my brain could in fact come up with something even more woefully rote in its adherence to jungle movie tropes than this one. This leaves me no choice but to focus on those things which, although preciously marginal, slightly set Jungle King apart from the jungle movie pack.

(Sound of notes rustling.)

Hmm... well, in the final act, all of the principles end up being tied to posts by the villains. Um, no, that's not it. Oh, wait: But then Jungle King lets out a mighty cry and a herd of elephants comes to the rescue! Oh, right, that's not it either.

Did I mention that TunTun leads a pack of pygmies played by children in fake beards? I did? Well, fuck it. I'm going to go with that, anyway. Come on. That's really not something you see every day.

This review is part of "Stranded in the Jungle", a month of jungle adventure themed posts at 4DK.


Michael Barnum said...

You know Todd, I bought the JUNGLE KING VCD within minutes of adding it to their list of new releases. 3 days later I was sitting comfortably in my recliner getting ready to watch disc # 1.

More than a year has passed and I have yet to pop in the second disc.

As much as I love a jungle man (or woman) film, particularly an Indian made jungle man(or woman)film, I have to say that this movie bored the tears out of me. Perhaps the second half will be a bit more entertaining. I can only hope.

Frankly, you would think that a film featuring a really hairy jungle guy who is not Tarzan, lots of musical numbers, Sheila Ramani, and Tun Tun surrounded by pygmies would register much higher on the awesome scale, wouldn't you.

Todd said...

Thanks, Michael. I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who found Jungle King to be something of a chore. I thought that maybe it was just jungle fatigue setting in on my part. The incredibly murky image quality on the VCD (as is evidenced by the screen caps -- I don't even remember what that second shot was supposed to be of)didn't help matters much, either.

Thankfully, it's all uphill from here as far as Jungle Adventure month is concerned.

memsaab said...

Oh good, a film I can pass on knowing that all I've missed is Tun Tun and a pack of pygmy children with beards.



Todd said...

I know, right? Damn you, Jungle King, with your one minor yet nonetheless irresistible redeeming feature!