Disney has mined Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories twice, but it has never topped this elegant, lush classic by the British Korda brothers. Producer Alexander Korda brought director Zoltan and designer Vincent to California... more », where they used Hollywood's resources to create a storybook India of verdant jungles, beautiful lagoons, and modest peasant villages. Sabu plays Mowgli, the man-cub raised by wolves and schooled in the jungle who returns to civilization as a young man. When greedy villagers discover that he knows of a hidden treasure, they turn the town against him and follow him to the ruins of an ancient palace (a magnificent, crumbling temple of glowing blue stone overrun with vines and vegetation). Sabu gives a vital, energetic performance, leaping and climbing like he was born to the wild and innocent of corruption and fear that infects the village. As the treasure hunters turn on one another and resort to murder for the prize they all desire, the film gets darker and fiercer than Disney ever dared in its remakes. It's still the most glorious of all versions, a grandly realized epic vision with a sense of wonder and a magnificent fantasy landscape of deep, rich colors, like a painting come to life. Joseph Calleia plays the greedy villain with his usual conniving flair. Miklós Rósza wrote the gorgeous score. Be wary of inferior video copies: the film has fallen into the public domain and is available in a proliferation of substandard prints. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Seldom has live film so captured the mood of the original book on which it was based. The framing device of the old story teller (who turns out to be the villain of his own story) and the overvoice narration is Kipling all the way. While the cartoon versions degrade the material and put in riduculous songs, in this film the visual is poetry itself and the Rosza score is magnificent. This and its companion film are examples of movie making at its finest. And if the animals have more screen presence than do some of the actors, so be it."
Memorable Star, Brilliant Art Design--And Terrible DVD Trans
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 08/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Loosely based on the Rudyard Kipling "Mowgli" stories, the 1942 JUNGLE BOOK offered war-weary audiences brilliant Technicolor, elaborate sets, numerous action sequences, exotic animals, lost treasure, and a climatic firestorm--not to mention charismatic Indian-born star Sabu in a persistently and titillating half-naked state. It was easily one of the most popular films of the year, a two-hour respite from some of the darkest days of World War II, and its style was so admired it easily won two Academy Awards for best color cinematography and best art direction.
Seen today, however, JUNGLE BOOK is considerably less enchanting. Much of the film's original appeal arose from audience interest in seeing "jungle beasts" in full color--and while several of the animal sequences (particularly those relating to tiger Shere Khan) are classics of their kind, most modern audiences have seen many such scenes in many later films. Further undercutting the animal-interest is the film's use of several animal "dummies" that seemed realistic in 1942 but which are now very obvious in their artificiality.
What remains, however, are Sabu and the overall design of the film, both of which are quite remarkable. Sabu (1924-1963) was an extremely unlikely star, plucked from complete obscurity in India by the Korda brothers to star in the 1937 ELEPHANT BOY. Fluent in English, unexpectedly charismatic, and with a handsome face and impressive body that the Kordas displayed to great effect, Sabu's greatest success would come with the 1940 Korda brothers' production of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, and he would remain a popular actor in exotic roles throughout World War II. Although not his best film, JUNGLE BOOK captures Sabu at the very height of his appeal--and that is saying a great deal indeed.
The design of the film is equally notable and provides a perfect backdrop to Sabu's charms. Filmed largely on soundstages where producer Alexander Korda, director Zoltan Korda, and art director Vincent Korda could exercise absolute control over every aspect of the film, JUNGLE BOOK is a study in the art of the Technicolor process and easily ranks among the finest color films of that decade. The sets, particularly the complex jungle and "lost city" scenes, are both remarkably fine and beautifully photographed, and the firestorm that climaxes the film retains considerable power.
Unfortunately, however, there doesn't really seem a single DVD edition of the film that presents the film in its full 1942 glory. JUNGLE BOOK is among a number of famous films that has fallen into public domain--and the result is a host of incredibly dire releases to the home market. I have seen, either in full or in part, at least a half-dozen DVD releases of the film, and in each instance the colors are extremely muddy and the picture very fuzzy, often to a point at which the movie is virtually unwatchable. And sadly, given the obscurity of the film in the wake of the popular Walt Disney animated feature, we are very unlikely to see anything better.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer"
Please, Somebody, Restore This!!!
G. Schneider | VA United States | 06/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I give this film five stars because it's a gem. I do NOT give the DVD release any stars whatsoever. This is one of those unfortunate films that fell through the cracks into Public Domain (like FLYING DEUCES and ROYAL WEDDING) and has been languishing in shoddy releases ever since. The source print(s)for this DVD leave us with a muddy picture whose Technicolor splendor is reduced at times to sepia or even black and white and whose soundtrack is consistently noisy.
The movie is delightful and in many ways superior to the far more recent remake with Jason Scott Lee (who deserves another good movie, but that's another matter entirely). Sabu, at 18 or so, was delightful and at his boyishly charming peak. So why can't someone take the trouble to locate a pristine print or negative (as they did with FLYING DEUCES) and digitally restore this classic to its original glory? Surely there are enough of us in the world to buy it that the project would be worthwhile!"
Monty Moonlight | TX | 02/01/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you want something different from the Disney animated version, which I love by the way, this is a great, real version of the Rudyard Kipling classic. There is something so mysterious and magical about this film. You really feel you are in a Jungle fairy tale when it begins. You really feel lost in the jungle. I will never forget the first time I saw this film as a child. Watch it at night, and in the dark, to give you the proper theater atmosphere. It will transport you to the jungle that way. It is such a great version of the story. The DVD isn't miraculous, it's pretty close to the poor videos they make of this film, but at least time won't hurt it like it does with VHS."
5 stars for the film - not the DVD
A viewer | United States | 10/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What a pity that this classic film has entered the public domain. It's almost enough to make you wish that copyright laws lasted in perpetuity. Maybe then this movie would have been preserved and remastered the way that MGM's excellent DVD of "The Thief of Bagdad" was. I would gladly pay $15-20 (and quite possibly more) for such a treatment of "The Jungle Book," and would sleep just fine at night knowing that the heirs of the Korda brothers were getting a cut of it. Rather, we are treated to a slew of slipshod generic DVDs. It is probably only a matter of time before the original masters of this gorgeous, magical film deteriorate beyond all recognition, and all memory of this film vanishes into oblivion. This was the first film my mother ever saw as a young girl in Hungary in the early 1950s, and one of the first films I ever saw as young child in the early days of VHS. In all probability, I will never get the chance to show it to my own children, at least not in the way it was meant to be seen. What a pity."