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Saturday, September 8, 2012

THE DRUM / DRUMS (1938)

The Brothers Korda (producer Alexander, helmer Zoltan & designer Vincent) had a passion for the British Colonies that only comes to Hungarian emigrants. After ELEPHANT BOY/’37, but before THE FOUR FEATHERS/’39, they made this A. E. W. Mason adventure about a brave young Indian Prince (Sabu) whose peace-loving father is murdered by his treacherous uncle (Canadian Raymond Massey in dark ethnic disguise). After warning his British drummer boy pal (hey!, it’s red-headed Desmond Tester, the kid with the bomb on the bus in Hitchcock’s SABOTAGE/'36), Sabu sneaks ahead of the British relief column and manages to beat his ‘tattoo’ on the ceremonial drum to warn his British friends (led by wonderful Roger Livesey) of his uncle’s trap. Raj claptrap, you say? Well, take these things with a grain or two of salt and they can be quite tasty. Zoltan Korda never had the sheer bravura technique of fellow Hungarian helmer Michael Curtiz, nor the ability to call on Errol Flynn & the resources of the Brothers Warner, and this story hasn’t the majestic sweep of FEATHERS (nor the sweeping score by yet another Hungarian, the great Miklos Rosza), but it’s rousing stuff all the same.

DOUBLE-BILL/SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Criterion includes this in their 3-pic SABU! package along with ELEPHANT BOY and JUNGLE BOOK/’42. Visually, the restoration is a rare miss for the company with an image that preserves the airy, almost translucent quality of a real nitrate TechniColor print, but suffers from variable color density & a lack of sharpness. Better elements were available not so long ago, perhaps the source is suspect. (From a re-release print?)

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