Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Monday: The Stranglers of Bombay

This week's Movie Monday selection is the 1959 Hammer thriller The Stranglers of Bombay!

I knew that Hammer had produced lots of non-monster-centric movies, but this was one I had never heard of until I saw a trailer for it on Trailers From Hell (one of my favorite sites). To be blunt, the thing that really drew me in was the presence of an actress named Marie Devereux, whose bust was so massive that I was shocked she even got to be in the movies at all--here mere presence seemed, to me, something that could not get past the censors of the day. So the combination of sex and violence (inherent in the title, of course) made me think The Stranglers of Bombay was going to be a lurid, squalid little movie--and you know I'm always up for that!

The film stars Guy Rolfe as Capt. Harry Lewis, an officer of the British East India Company, which was not a government agency but was so massive and powerful it might as well have been.

Thousands of natives have been disappearing without a trace, and Lewis wants to know why. He consults his superior, Col. Henderson (Andrew Cruikshank), but is rebuffed--he is more concerned with company business, like why many of the company's caravans are disappearing. Hmm, maybe there's a connection?
Henderson opens an investigation, partly to shut Lewis up. Lewis assumes he will be put in charge, but is passed over in lieu of Captain Connaught-Smith (Allan Cuthbertson), who is pretty much a clown. Lewis tries to present his case to Smith, but when he is ignored he resigns his commission to investigate the case on his own.

Of course, we do know that there is a creepy Thugee cult operating, since we ge to see them and their creepy practices, like when they punish some more unruly members by gouging their eyes out with hot pokers:
The cult uses strangling as its preferred method of killing, due to the belief in a story that when their god Kali fought the demon Raktabija, every time the demon spilled a drop of blood, it turned into another demon Kali had to fight. So strangling is the way to go!

Lewis' houseboy, Ram Das, believes his brother has been drawn into the cult, and goes to search for him. Ram Das subsequently disappears, but Lewis (and his wife) learns he met a bad end when Das' severed hand is delivered to the Lewis' home:
About halfway through the movie, I was wondering when The Good Stuff was going to start. Sure, there was the eye-gouging scene (which really doesn't go past what you see above) and the severed hand, but for the most part the movie was Lewis arguing with his superiors, and it was all talk talk talk.

Finally, though, Lewis is captured by the cult, and tied to the ground. A cobra is let loose and it approaches as a mute member of the cult (Marie Devereaux, and her boobs) watches:
This is a pretty good scene, since you can tell that it's the actor, not a stuntman, who is getting so close to the cobra. You kind of wonder how they do it until once brief moment where a pane of glass can be seen, ala Raiders of the Lost Ark. Still, not bad.

Sadly, the absurdly pneumatic Ms. Devereux is barely in this movie--as you can see above, when God was giving out Cup Sizes, she got in line three times. Despite (or maybe because of) the low-cut top Hammer gives her, she's barely in the movie at all. Her scene watching the cobra attack Lewis is the only really good glimpse we get of her. Harumph!

Captain Smith continues his bumbling ways, even allowing the cult members (pretending to be innocent travelers) to join a new, larger, supposedly more secure caravan, which leads to more murders in the middle of the night. Lewis' pet mongoose helps his escape the cobra when it kills the snake, which the cult takes as a sign that Kali is displeased with them. So they let Lewis go.

He joins up with Lt. Silver (Paul Stassino), but little does he know that Silver is also a cult member! At one point he sees a scar that is the mark of the cult and shoots Silver. Lewis is then caught again by the cult, and set to die by fire. But he is rescued by Ram Das' brother who, under the control of the cult, killed Ram. Overcome by guilt, he frees Lewis, who finally convinces Henderson to send in the troops to wipe out the cult.

Lewis ends up fighting the cult leader George Pastell, the result of which leads to the High Priest tossed onto his own funeral pyre:
The cult is wiped out, and the film ends with Henderson giving Lewis a promotion for his efforts. The End.

I went into The Stranglers of Bombay expecting a fun, lurid, bloody little thriller, filled with heaving bosoms just like a lot of their monster films. And while we get a little bit of that here, there are so many scenes of British guys talking that, to me, it really makes the film drag. We know early on that the Thugee cult is real, so watching a bunch of characters argue about that fact is just wasting everyone's time.
Apparently the film is somewhat accurate, historically--a cult like this really did exist, and was supposedly responsible for thousands, possibly millions, of deaths. And the British East India Company systematically wiped them out. Hey, we all gots to make a buck

Check out the aforementioned trailer to The Stranglers From Bombay and I think you'll see why I was so excited to see this movie. I guess you can argue it did its job:

Fun Fact: This film is a bit of a Movie Monday Triple Play: it stars Guy Rolfe, who starred in Mr. Sardonicus, as well as Allen Cuthbertson, who co-starred in Captain Nemo and the Underwater City!


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