By Nicholas Stix
The Man Who Would be King (1975) is John Huston’s adaptation of the eponymous, Rudyard Kipling short story that is the greatest adventure story that this writer has ever read.
The picture stars Sean Connery as Daniel Dravot and Michael Caine as Peachy Carnehan, two British ex-soldiers, who become soldiers of fortune in Western Asia, among some of the most primitive, savage peoples the world has ever known—and who remain virtually unchanged unto the present day.
Kipling tells the story with his characteristic irony and appreciation for human differences, as well as tragedy, even as his characters themselves lack such appreciation.
Huston had sought originally to pair Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart in the picture, which he had striven for over 20 years to make.
From 1941-1953, Huston and Bogart collaborated on a series of classics and masterpieces: The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, The African Queen and Beat the Devil. When Bogart died in 1957, Huston’s work went into a tailspin, from which it never fully recovered. This picture is the closest he came to recapturing his lost glory.
Huston’s picture has a lovely, atmospheric score by Maurice Jarre.
When I saw this picture almost 40 years ago, it was the first time I ever heard the song “Minstrel Boy.”
The Man Who Would be King is available on DVD, but some versions reportedly lack a certain powerful moment, so please do not slough off this rare opportunity to see this masterful adaptation of Kipling’s masterpiece.
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