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A Movie A Day: Quint on THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960)
Welcome your sons, great Kali. Look upon them with favor.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Playing a little bit of catch up now. Since my last AMAD went up very early this morning it’ll feel like I’m posting two AMAD columns on top of each other… Oh well, both were really damn good movies and now I’m not scrambling to get to the day’s movie like I have been for the last week or so. We jump from DRACULA A.D. 1972 to THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY via editor James Needs. From what I can gather, Needs was an in-house Hammer cutter, having edited (or supervised the editing of) AMADs THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER, THE DEVIL-SHIP PIRATES, THE TERROR OF THE TONGS, HELL IS A CITY as well as Hammer’s QUARTERMASS and quite a lot of their MUMMY and DRACULA movies. Gotta say that I’m totally pleased with the Icons of Adventure DVD set. The cover sucks a big swollen nut, but the three Christopher Lee films in beautiful color and this film in gorgeous black and white look like a million bucks. Each film (all 4 Hammer productions) has a commentary, so there are even special features to go along with the movies. For under $20 that’s an awesome set. They’re putting out another set of 4 films (with slightly more known titles) called Icons of Horror… They let the fans pick the cover this time, so the cover doesn’t suck. See:

The DVD comes out in the middle of October and don’t be surprised to see a few of those titles appear in future AMAD installments. After loving the Icons of Adventure set, I’ll definitely be picking this one up. So, THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY… Let me start this look at the film with a strong recommendation. I recommend you watching this movie as a double feature with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. It’s very, very clear that this film had an impact on either Spielberg or Lucas (or both). Set in India during the British rule, the film focuses on the East India Company’s troubles with a local cult who have been kidnapping and murdering the citizens of the country for years.

They are pretty much Thuggee, although they are never referred to as such in the movie (we do get a post movie scroll with the word “thug” underlined repeated throughout the text, though). The Kali-worshipping leader opens the movie initiating new members and telling the story of Kali’s fight with demon Raktabija where every drop of blood turned into another monster that Kali had to fight, so the Goddess ended up strangling every monster and defeating the demon. They take that to mean Kali wants to kill without bloodshed, so they are a cult of stranglers, using sacred silk scarves. Now, I don’t think that’s exactly how the original Hindu legend goes, but it’s definitely a creepy story that opens up the movie and introduces us to this strangling cult. Character actor George Pastell plays the Kali Cult leader and is a fantastic baddie, which was a relief to me since this is the only film of the 4 in this set to not include Mr. Christopher Lee as the lead villain. Yesterday we talked about Hammer’s stable of actors and how they constantly brought grade A performances to B movies, which is something that flat out doesn’t exist these days, it seems. Pastell deserves some of the praise I heaped onto Peter Cushing. I fucking love Mola Ram as played by Amrish Puri, but even I admit he’s a cartoon… a goddamn scary as shit cartoon, but over-the-top. Pastell’s villain isn’t exactly written as multi-dimensional, but the quiet calm and sincere belief in his religion that Pastell brings to the character adds so much to the story.

Guy Rolfe plays the British lead, Captain Harry Lewis who takes it upon himself to battle his lazy, ignorant and content countrymen to investigate this cult. He spends half the movie fighting for the right to investigate these occurances and the other half trying to keep his neck from being broken by the sacred silk of the cultists. The cult lives by a rather strict rule, which means for some really interesting set pieces. At one point Rolfe is captured and tied to stakes, on the ground… And they let loose a cobra, who slides right up to him. I freaked right the fuck out at this scene. Seriously. I don’t have anything more than a healthy fear of snakes, but cobras really get me. As a kid I visited the San Francisco Zoo as part of a field trip, I think, and they had a snake exibit. The exibit was essentially see-through plastic shoe-box sized cases stacked on top of each other. Of course being a small child I couldn’t see the snakes higher up, so I slipped my fingers into the cracks between the plexiglass cages and pulled myself up to see the other snakes, my nose inches from the glass. Imagine my POV as I rise up to the cobra cage. I saw the hood for a split second before it struck the glass an inch from my nose, sending me falling back to the ground. That’s been burned into my memory ever since.

It took me quite a while to tell how the fuck they did this scene. It was clearly a real cobra slithering right up to who I at first thought was an unlucky stuntman, but then realized it was Rolfe himself. This snake was inches away, hood up and swaying. Then the filmmakers cut to a wider shot and suddenly I could make out Rolfe’s reflection in the glass separating him from the snake. See, I told ya’ either Spielberg or Lucas saw this movie… Then Rolfe’s pet mongoose charges on the scene and fucks that snake up. According this cult’s code, the death of a snake means bad omen, that Kali is not pleased, so they have to let Rolfe go. Arthur Grant’s cinematography is once again top notch… very rich in it’s scope black and white glory. Hammer’s A#1 director Terence Fisher is in fine form here, though this kind of film will never be as widely seen as his Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing monster movies. David Z. Goodman’s first screenplay credit is a strong start. I find it a fascinating subject matter and the story carries a great scope. Final Thoughts: These are the kinds of films I love finding in these kinds of collections. THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY is easily overlooked by even film fans without any huge recognizable star, but is a great little adventure story that is surprising graphic. The finale is a bit fast like most films of this time, but I never found myself losing interest in the picture. On the whole, I heartily recommend the Icons of Adventure DVD set. There’s not a stinker in it and every transfer is gorgeous.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, August 21st: MAN, WOMAN & CHILD (1983) Friday, August 22nd: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976) Saturday, August 23rd: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959) Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956) Monday, August 25th: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957) Tuesday, August 26th: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) Wednesday, August 27th: THE SET-UP (1949) Tomorrow we follow writer David Z. Goodman (LOGAN’S RUN, STRAW DOGS) over to an obscure ‘80s drama called MAN, WOMAN & CHILD. See you folks then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972

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