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I think you'd have to be in a very forgiving kind of mood to really enjoy "Gunga Din" in this day and age. In the first instance there's Grant, McLaglen and Fairbanks Jr goofing around while natives and soldiers are being massacred on all sides which is a pretty strange tonal choice under the circumstances, the more slapstick it becomes the odder the drama seems. Then there's the fairly traditional usage of white actors in the leading Indian roles - middle aged Jewish American Sam Jaffe has a stab at playing the title role (a teenage Indian water carrier) in blackface and it's pretty embarrassing. They obviously wanted Sabu, seemingly Hollywood's only Indian, for the part - but he wasn't available. Frankly they should have waited until he was, although you'd think there must have been more than one competent Hindi actor out there somewhere. Never mind. Lastly there's the whole myth of the British Raj as a worthy heroic action in the first place and Gunga Din naively idolising the military bluster and arrogance of colonialism - the Thuggee cult probably have a point, the British probably deserved to be strangled in their beds. The action sequences are pretty good, although mostly sped up, and Annie the elephant is delightful. Just don't think too much the snakes bouncing around on wires in the snake pit, or British soldiers wielding American guns and saluting wrong way, or about how Grant can survive a lashing, being shot and then bayonetted right through the back in the final showdown. It's exceptionally silly.
This movie has a high FFPM (face punches per minute) ratio. I approve!
Tho' I've belted you an' flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!
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In 7 official lists
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This movie ranks #74 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers
This movie ranks #122 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #218 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #267 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #354 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #803 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #992 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000