Monday, May 13, 2013

Movie review: Gunga Din (1939)

Watch Gunga Din on Amazon Instant
It's the 1880s-ish, in British-controlled India. Three good friends, MacChesney, Cutter and Ballantine have been in the army together for years. They're dispatched to look into a cut telegraph line. Included in their detail is Indian water-carrier Gunga Din, who wants nothing more than to be allowed to join the British military.

The group discovers that the telegraph had been sabotaged by the Thuggees, a cult of assassins devoted to the Hindu goddess Kali.

Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) has decided to leave the service, marry the woman he loves, and go into the tea business.  This spurs the adventuresome Cutter (Cary Grant) to go in search of a gold temple that Gunga Din had told him about. Cutter is trapped there by the Thuggees, and Din escapes to notify Cutter's friends, who launch a rescue, following Gunga Din.

I love Cary Grant, and it's nice to see the old films and realize how many stars we know today as stand-alones worked together back in the day. However, I didn't love this film. I didn't find the story very engaging, and the acting was post-silent large: exaggerated gestures and expressions. The fight scenes were obvious and stagey.

I watched it because of its place on the AFI's 100 Years 100 Cheers list, which is part of my 101 Things in 1001 Days list.


  1. I always mean to watch this. It had a huge impact on William Goldman, one of my favorite authors/screenwriters, so you'd think I'd enjoy it. But you know what? I find it unwatchable. Apologies to the AFI.

    1. I'm with you there. I love Cary Grant, but I just couldn't get into the movie.