STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY, THE (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriter: David Z. Goodman; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editor: Alfred Cox; music: James Bernard; cast: Guy Rolfe (Capt. Harry Lewis), Allan Cuthbertson (Capt. Christopher Connaught-Smith), Andrew Cruickshank (Col. Henderson), George Pastell (High Priest of Kali), Marne Maitland (Patel Shari), Jan Holden (Mary Lewis), Paul Stassino (Lt. Silver), Tutte Lemkow (Ram Das), David Spenser (Gopali Das), Michael Nightingale (Sidney Flood), Margaret Gordon (Mrs. Dorothy Flood), Marie Devereux (Karim,the Big Breasted Mute Mascot of the Cult Group); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Hinds; Columbia Pictures; 1960-UK)
“Too bad the melodrama wasn’t as gripping as it should have been.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Terence Fisher(“Mantrap”/”The Curse of the Werewolf”/”The Revenge of Frankenstein”) ably directs this sadistic B/W Hammer horror-mystery-adventure production. It’s loosely based on a real life cult of ruthless assassins, derived from a sect of Kali, in the 1820s in India, called “the thuggees.” The screenplay is grisly but well-written by David Z. Goodman. The script is based on Major General W.H. Sleeman’s efforts in India to eradicate the cult (which resulted in over a thousand arrests and over a million vics-contrary to this pic, the crimes were only Indian on Indian). The cult group is led by the charismatic High Priest (George Pastell), and they aim to bring down the colonialist’s lucrative Bombay’s East Indian Company by systematically robbing the company’s caravans and killing their travelers. They are responsible for the disappearance of thousands of innocent people, and are abetted by their trained cult members blending into the territory’s workforce unnoticed and acting as spies.
It’s left to the British Army to put them out of business. But the upper-class Col. Henderson (Andrew Cruickshank), the one in charge of the territories for the Brits, is indifferent to the problem and too stupid to know what action to take. When pressed by the East Indian Company officials to stop the raids on their precious cargo, the colonel appoints the arrogant, inexperienced, dull-witted, fellow upper-class officer who is the son of an officer he was best friends with, Capt. Christopher Connaught-Smith (Allan Cuthbertson), a newcomer to India, to lead the investigation instead of the logical choice of someone who has been in the territory for over twenty years as a soldier and has the ability to get things done and has the proper contacts and knowledge of the area– Capt. Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe). When Connaught-Smith proves to be an incompetent and the investigation stalls as he refuses any help from Lewis, and Lewis’s loyal manservant (Tutte Lemkow) disappears when tracking his brother who disappeared, the proud officer resigns and on his own discovers the secret Kali group and their sacred spot where they torture and maim (tongue amputations and eye-gougings) their captives and, furthermore, as a gift to Kali strangle their vics with their sacred silk cloth pieces and feed the sacrificed vics to the goddess of destruction.
Nothing more than a routine adventure story filmed with an exotic background, that bases its tale on the atrocities committed by the cult group. Too bad the melodrama wasn’t as gripping as it should have been, and too bad the awkwardly shot climax of the hero alone taking on the entire cult group is far from believable.
The word thug became part of the English language as a result of the cult’s notorious criminal reputation.
REVIEWED ON 10/23/2010 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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