The Jungle Book (1942)

jungle book poster 1942 movie sabu
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Nice use of camera work and technology for the time, Sabu is a good Mowgli

Bad fake animals, drags at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Jungle Book

Studio: Alexander Korda Films

Genre(s): Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s): April 3, 1942

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

jungle book mowgli elephants sabu dastagir

Tarzan?!?! I’m the king of the Jungle!

When Shere Khan kills his father, a baby becomes lost in the jungle where he is raised by wolves.  Growing up, Mowgli (Sabu Dastagir) finds his is different than his brothers, but the discovery of his home village leads Mowgli on a new adventure among men.  Mowgli falls in love with Mahala (Patricia O’Rourke), but her greedy hunting father Buldeo (Joseph Calleia) becomes obsessed with Mowgli when he learns Mowgli knows the location of the hidden palace which houses a great treasure!  Buldeo wants the treasure at any cost, but the jungle is Mowgli’s friend.

Directed by Zoltan Korda, The Jungle Book adapts part of Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 story collection The Jungle Books which featured the character Mowgli who was first introduced in “In the Rukh” which was published in Many Inventions in 1893.  The film was received positively and nominated for Academy Awards for Best Cinematography—Color, Best Art Direction-Interior Direction—Color, Best Effects, Special Effects, and Best Musical Score—Drama or Comedy.  The film was collected by the Criterion Collection as part of the “Sabu!” collection as part of the Eclipse imprint (Eclipse Series #30).

jungle book mowgli mahala sabu dastagir patricia orourke

Mowgli…my father will teach you all people are kind of crap

Growing up, The Jungle Book seemed to be on a lot.  It was in the public domain and used as filler on weekends by stations that needed cheap entertainment.  The adaptation is relatively strong and focuses on Mowgli’s adulthood and is still holds up.

The Jungle Book’s story moves away from the animal interaction for obvious reason and mostly focuses on adapting the “Tiger! Tiger!” portion of The Jungle Books that has Mowgli trying to return society.  This leads to mostly made up context, and the movie is obvious meant for sequels along the vein of the popular Tarzan series.  The movie is bookended by Buldeo (Joseph Calleia) relating his part of the story and revealing that there are more stories of Mowgli to be told.

Sabu really brings life to the story.  His stunted talk could be from language differences, but it works here since his character is also an outsider.  He brings a life and zeal to the character that the story needs.  Patricia O’Rourke is a nice companion for the character (but also shows the whitewashing of Hollywood at the time.

jungle book mowgli kaa snake sabu dastagir

Gee, it’s not as touching as Mowgli floating down the river with Baloo

The movie still looks and sounds good.  It has a bright crispness to it from the Technicolor shine.  Many of the animals are real with some pretty fake looking rubber animals mixed in (I expect it with the snakes and alligators, but the bad underwater fight with Shere Khan kind of pushes it).  The grand cities of the jungles are a mixture of matte paintings and models, but they do manage to look good for the time.  The soundtrack seems typical (big booming instruments) but interesting enough, it was the first score from a film ever to be released.  The score was rerecorded and mixed in Sabu speaking on the tracks.

The Jungle Book is a fun movie and part of childhood for kids who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s who didn’t have cable.  It is hard to explain to people what it was like to rely on TV schedules and random airings of movies to see a movie so movies that aired regularly could easily become a tradition.  Fans of the Disney version of The Jungle Book might still enjoy it, but it is easy to see how times have changed…and younger viewers will probably find this goofy and too long for their taste.

Related Links:

The Jungle Book (1967)

The Jungle Book (2016)

Elephant Boy (1937)

The Drum (1938)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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