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14 December 2016

Jungle Book (1942)

Young British-Indian actor Sabu had 'a smile as broad as the Ganges and charm enough to lure the stripes off a tiger'. He became an instant star with Elephant Boy in 1937. Another tropical Technicolor treat was the fun and adventurous Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942), which delighted audiences with Rudyard Kipling's tale of jungle boy Mowgli years before Walt Disney would make its animation classic.

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
Vintage collectors card. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli.

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
Dutch postcard, no. 850. Photo: Universal Film. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli.

Kipling would have been proud


Jungle Book (1942) is a splendid Technicolor production, produced by Sir Alexander Korda and directed by his brother, Zoltan Korda. It is based on Rudyard Kipling's two Jungle Book anthologies (published in 1894 and 1895), which comprise fifteen stories. For the film four of these stories were used: Mowgli's Brothers, How Fear Came, Tiger! Tiger!, and The King's Ankus.

Sabu stars as the teenaged Mowgli, who was raised by wolves in the jungle of India. After he has left his animal friends, Mowgli appears in a village and is adopted by Messua (Rosemary DeCamp). The story of Disney's animation classic, The Jungle Book (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1967), can be seen as a prequel to the story of this film.

In the village, Mowgli learns human language and some human ways quickly, but he keeps his jungle ideas. The animals of the jungle know and respect him, they willingly do as he wishes because, they know that he is good and one of them. The influential merchant Buldeo (Spanish born actor Joseph Calleia) is bigoted against 'beasts' including Mowgli, but not so Buldeo's pretty daughter Mahala (Patricia O'Rourke). Mowgli takes the girl on a jungle tour where they find a treasure. This sets the evil of human greed in motion...

Sabu's likable and athletic lead role, the lavish sets by Vincent Korda (yet another Korda brother), the exotic and oriental musical score by Miklos Rozsa and the splendid Technicolor cinematography by Lee Garmes and W. Howard Greene of enchanting forests and a lost city make Jungle Book truly amazing for its time.

Ron Oliver at IMDb: "As teen-aged Mowgli, Indian actor Sabu couldn't be more perfect. Whether as the Wild Boy who first enters the village, or, later, as the completely competent young man who ferrets out the secret of the Lost City's treasure, fights the tiger Shere Khan and communes with deadly snakes, elephants & wolves, he is completely believable. Kipling would have been proud."

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
German collectors card by Küno's Film-Foto in the series Das Dschungelbuch , no. 1, presented by Sparkasse bank. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli.

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
German collectors card by Küno's Film-Foto in the series Das Dschungelbuch , no. 2, presented by Sparkasse bank. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli with Wolf.

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
German collectors card by Küno's Film-Foto in the series Das Dschungelbuch , no. 3, presented by Sparkasse bank. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli with Wolf and Panther. Two scenes with the black panther were obviously shot with the panther behind a glass screen, as a safeguard to protect the actors. In both scenes, showing close-ups of the panther, debris is seen adhering to the glass.

Sabu in Jungle Book (1942)
German collectors card by Küno's Film-Foto in the series Das Dschungelbuch no. 4, presented by Sparkasse bank. Photo: publicity still for Jungle Book (Zoltan Korda, 1942) with Sabu as Mowgli and the defeated Shere Khan.

Sources: Ron Oliver (IMDb) and IMDb.

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