Literary Movies: Kim

Kim MovieThe story of Kim by Rudyard Kipling has been criticized by some for implication that the Indians were inferior to the British Raj. True enough, Kipling believed in the white man’s burden and the book is an artifact of its time.

But it has nothing on the movie that came 50 years later.

Casting Eroll Flynn as Mahbub Ali is nothing short of awesome (or ridiculous).

Paul Lukas as the Lama is terribly miscast. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, he just isn’t convincing as a Tibetian or a lama.

And I was surprised to see Kim was played by Dean Stockwell, whose acting career has spanned 70 years (Beverly Hills Cop 2, AirForce One, Manchurian Candidate).

The only Indians in the cast are children or bit-parts and props.

And despite the fact that the film was shot on location in Rajathstan and Uttar Pradesh, it feels like it was shot on primarily on a Hollywood sound stage (other than a few shots of the Khyber Pass).

Having said all of that, this movie is every bit as enjoyable as the book. Flynn is obviously having fun in his role. And Stockwell demonstrates his acting prowess even at that young age (it’s too bad the other child actors in the movie don’t have his skill).

The movie follows the plot of the book rather closely, starting with Kim’s begging and ending when he saves the day. And unlike the book, the movie is clear that Kim’s lama dies as he discovers the river he’s been searching for.

If you’re looking for authenticity or Indian actors, Kim isn’t a movie for you. But if you enjoyed the book and want to watch a somewhat dated, fun movie that even your kids will like (mine did), put Kim on your list.


Books Mentioned in this Post:

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

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