STUDIO: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 113 Minutes
Two Fitzpatrick Traveltalks featurettes on India

The Pitch

the political half of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire
series, only in
India, and pretend that Arya Stark is
the only person that matters. Too long? It’s
Mission: Impossible meets Bugsy Malone."

The Humans

Stockwell (who has been in goddamn everything in the last sixty years), and
Errol "Robin Hood" Flynn, Arnold Moss.

The Nutshell

They call
it "The Great Game," the give-and-take of politics and intrigues in
19th century colonial
India. The players of this game on both
sides have pawns, such as our protagonist, Kim. Kim is a young British kid
whose parents both died, leaving him to fend for himself in
India. He disguises himself as a local,
to earn more sympathy. His deft life as a gutter-rat brings him to the
attention of the players of the game in the British military, who employ him as
messenger and spy. But is it too much for Kim to handle, being a child in a
man’s game?

"Y’know, Mr. Flynn, I had heard different stories about your preferences."

The Lowdown

You know,
if you handed a script like this to a modern director, his sensibilities would
probably turn it into a political allegory and emphasize the plight of the
conquered people, while maintaining their savage nobility. That’s exactly why
it’s kinda fun to watch this film. Victor Saville adapts Rudyard Kipling’s
story in a way that preserves the author’s pulpy take on colonialism. The world
of Kim
is foreign, but only as a setting, not as a sensibility.
India forms a place for the British to
fight against the faceless bad guys who, for some reason, keep insisting that
the British are on their land. Lawrence of Arabia this ain’t.

Saville goes out of his way to emulate the feel of Kipling’s prose; he even
includes a narrator, who sets up a false dialogue with the audience, as
Kipling’s narrators often do. The plot unfolds like a book, which is a point of
interest as well as a bit of a problem. The pacing is a bit off, with an
exposition-heavy first half nearing the point of drudgery before the maneuvers
of the second half redeem it.

Dean Stockwell is shouldered with most of the heft of the film, and he keeps
his back straight enough to keep the audience on board. His charisma is
emulated directly from his cast mate Flynn, but the script calls for a strange
conflict between young Kim’s Anglo heritage and his hindu persona, which
Stockwell never quite grasps. Every insult he hurls at a peasant, cab-driver,
or beggar — of which there are many — comes across wooden, and kinda sabotages
that half of his character. It’s as if he was painfully aware, during shooting,
of his mother’s caution not to say anything at all if he couldn’t say anything

"Your country shall be next to face my blistering insults!"

Flynn, as Mahbub Ali, the Red Beard, and high-ranking player of the Great Game,
only gets a handful of scenes. He fulfills a distant father-figure role for
Kim, holding up ideals of manhood that Kim wants to follow, while remaining
aloof and mostly character-less. He gets to seduce a few women, swing a few
blades, and that’s about it. His role is largely present to inspire Kim to
action, which is unfortunate because the veteran adventurer’s presence
on-screen is enough to inject a bit of momentum into the slower-paced early

of a rollicking adventure, the story of Kim is more about a pawn’s-level
view of a shadow war. Kim gets his chance to prove himself to Mahbub Ali, to
the British army, to a Buddhist priest of his acquaintance (with alarmingly
Catholic vestments), and to his dead father’s memory before it’s over, as well
as help to thwart an assault on the peaceful colonial cities.

Kim is a gloriously culturally-insensitive
story for a certain breed of children, but it’s all in good fun. It’s an
artifact of history, of a couple different literary/cinematic traditions, so
the one criticism that really sticks is this: It kinda slips on the balance of
that whole "fun" issue, thanks to uneven pacing and thinly-drawn characters.

Cultural insensitivity and underage smoking? Ye gods!

The Package

This is
great. Warner Bros. didn’t have much bonus content from the film itself, since
it was made in 1950, so they brought in a couple of travelogues from the
Fitzpatrick series. "Ancient
India" and "Land of the Taj
Mahal" are both fascinating and, by association, serve to expand the
setting of the film. Unfortunately, that’s about it for the bonuses, but I’m
glad the authors saw fit to include those, rather than just go the path of
least resistance and offer a bare-bones disc.

The audio
is in a curiously mastered Dolby 2.0. All the levels were surprisingly low, so
that I had to set the volume on my rig about
10% higher than normal just to make out the dialogue. The video has a
few problems, too — the transferred print wasn’t cleaned up especially well,
and there are copious color-balancing issues, scratches, and even the cigarette

6.6 out of 10