Billy Fish: He wants to know if you are gods.
Peachy Carnehan: Not gods - Englishmen. The next best thing.
A 1975 film directed by John Huston
and starring Sean Connery
, Michael Caine
and Christopher Plummer
about the glorious and awful sides of European Imperialism. This film follows Daniel Dravot (Connery) and Peachy Carnehan (Caine), two former non-commissioned officers of the British Raj on a journey into the wilds beyond the Khyber Pass and into the lands of Kafiristan on a mission to become kings, or die trying.
Based on a short story by Rudyard Kipling
(played by Plummer here).
This film contains examples of:
- Alas, Poor Yorick: The end.
- Alexander the Great: Known as "Sikander" to the Kafirs, and held in legend as a god since he passed through and helped advance the region millenia earlier. He said he would return one day, and the high priests have been waiting ever since.
- Ancient Conspiracy: Peachy and Danny are members of the Freemasons. When this is found out, it marks them as the descendants of Alexander the Great to the Holy Men.
- Audience Surrogate: Kipling.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Danny gets a very humble one.
- Battle Interrupting Shout: Priests walk across the battle field and the War stops.
- Book Ends
- Celibate Hero: Subverted - Daniel and Peachy are doubtlessly as sly with women as they are with men's money and trust, but both make a pact not to dabble in matters of the opposite sex until their quest to become kings is achieved. Despite their unscrupulous nature, they stick to this surprisingly well.
- Chased by Angry Natives: After the wedding.
- Crazy Homeless People: Peachy appears to be one at the start of the film.
- Con Man: Both of the protagonists.
- Cunning Linguist: Billy Fish.
- Defiant to the End.
- Dueling-Stars Movie: Sean Connery and Michael Caine.
- Evil Colonialist: Peachy Carnehan and Daniel Dravot, who plan to use their British military training and a supply of smuggled arms to take over the tribes of Kafiristan (now a part of Afghanistan).
- Face Death with Dignity.
- Feud Episode: Brought on by the A God Am I trope.
- Final Speech: At the end of the film, as they face death, the protagonists join together in singing a rousing Protestant hymn, "The Son of God Goes Forth to War", which is sung to the tune of "Minstrel Boy".
- Fun with Foreign Languages: Kafiristan means "Land of Infidels".
- A God Am I: Danny develops this attitude.
- God Guise: The basis of most of the plot.
- Heroic Vow: The Contract.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Peachy and Danny.
Daniel Dravot: Peachy, I'm heartily ashamed for getting you killed instead of going home rich like you deserved, on account of me being so bleeding high and bloody mighty. Can you forgive me?
Peachy Taliaferro Carnehan: That I can and that I do, Danny. Free and full and without let or hindrance.
Daniel: Everything's all right then.
- I Choose to Stay: Subverted.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder:
Billy Fish: (after refusing his chance to escape in a horse) Gurkha is foot soldier, not cavalry.
- In Medias Res: Of the How We Got Here variety.
- It Has Been an Honor:
- Peachy and Danny stuck in the Hindu Kush, where they think they will freeze to death.
- And Billy Fish, refusing his chance to escape.
"Gurkha foot soldier, not cavalry. Rifleman Majendra Bahadur Gurung wishing you many good lucks." (draws kukri and charges the mob)
- Karma Houdini: The High Priest of Kafiristan.
- Kick the Dog: Peachy throws an friendly, eager-to-please Indian out of a moving train at the start of the film, establishing himself as a Villain Protagonist.
- Lean and Mean: The High Priest of Kafiristan.
- Loveable Rogue: The protagonists.
- Mentors: Kipling.
- Nubile Savage: Roxanne and a woman who attempts to seduce Peachy at one point in the film.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Danny masquerades as a 'poor, harmless priest' in order to gain safe passage through Afghanistan.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Not quite, but omnious tribal music during the wedding sequence lets the audience know something is up...
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Peachy and Daniel dub their Gurkha sidekick "Billy Fish" because he reminds him of an Army friend of the same name.
- Pocket Protector: Used to stop an arrow with a bandolier.
- Prophetic Names: Roxanne, who shares the name of one of the wives of Alexander the Great.
- Race Lift: In the short story, Billy Fish is one of the chiefs of the region instead of a Gurkha.
- The Raj
- Scenery Porn: The remote region of Kafiristan.
- Severed Head Sports: People in Kaffiristan are shown playing soccer with the head in a bag of a chieftain who was deposed. Part of the reason the narrator takes his friend's severed head with him, is so that he avoids his dishonor.
- Sinister Minister: The High Priest of Kafiristan.
- Sole Survivor: Billy Fish of a mapping expedition years before Danny and Peachy set out.
- Tempting Fate: Danny.
- Thwarted Escape: The end of the film.
- Training the Peaceful Villagers: Peachy and Danny do a lot of it in order to build up their Kingdom.
- Unreliable Narrator: Averted at the end, when Peachy proves the tale was true by taking Danny's head out of a bag with the crown still on it.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The film is based partly on the travels of American adventurer Josiah Harlan and James Brooke, the English "white Raja" of Sarawak in Borneo.
- Villain Protagonist: Danny and Peachy qualify as this in ways - though grudgingly likeable characters you can't help but root for during most of the film, they're also bigoted, remorseless con men seeking to plunder a small nation by taking advantage of their primitive culture and deeply held religious beliefs.
- What Could Have Been: During the 1950s, John Huston tried unsuccessfully to make a version of the film starring Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable but he was never able to do so. Both of them were long dead by 1975.
- White Man's Burden: One of the main themes.