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Film / Jungle Book

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Patricia O'Rourke as Mahala and Sabu as Mowgli.
Jungle Book (or Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book) is a 1942 film directed by Zoltan Korda, loosely based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book and starring Sabu as Mowgli.

Despite its title, it's based primarily on The Second Jungle Book, as the plot is kicked off when Mowgli arrives to the Man-Village: the sub-plot about the treasure chamber guarded by a white cobra comes from "The King's Ankus", Mowgli's fight with Shere Khan is adapted from the fight with the dholes in "Red Dog", Buldeo accusing Mowgli and Messua of witchcraft comes from "Letting in the Jungle", and the crocodile character Mugger comes from a non-Mowgli story called "The Undertakers".

Sabu had also previously starred in Korda's Elephant Boy, which was based on one of the non-Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book. After the two films, Sabu and I got a tarzan-like comic book Sabu, Elephant Boy.


This film provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Lampshaded during the closing scene as the Storyteller (Baldeo) finishes his tale.
    Tourist: "And then? What happened then? What happened to Mowgli and your daughter? And how did you escape from the fire?"
    Storyteller: "That, a story for another time."
  • Animal Nemesis: Shere Khan to Mowgli - both of them have sworn to kill the other.
  • Artistic License – Biology: No, tigers don't actually fear water (in fact, they are noted for their enjoyment of water, as opposed to most other cats).
  • Bare Your Midriff: Messua and Mahala both wear short choli tops with high-waisted skirts.
  • Big Bad: Not Shere Khan, but Buldeo, due to the film being a Human-Focused Adaptation. In fact, the tiger is killed halfway through the film, and the rest of the movie is about Buldeo's Gold Fever.
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  • Black Comedy: Kaa tells Mowgli that he's learned where Shere Khan rests from Tabaqui. When Mowgli asks where's Tabaqui now, Kaa points at a bulge on his body.
  • Brownface: Many of the Indian characters are played by white actors in brown makeup - a major exception being Mowgli, played by Sabu, an actual Indian.
  • Canon Foreigner: Several denizens of the Man-Village, including Mahala, Buldeo's daughter who becomes Mowgli's friend, and Durga, Messua's kindly servant.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: The pundit kills the barber and attempts to kill Buldeo to get all the treasure for himself.
  • Cats Hate Water: Mowgli tries to use this against Shere Khan. (In Real Life, tigers are among the feline varieties that have no problems with water.)
  • Composite Character: This is the first of many adaptations that merge Akela and Father Wolf into the same character.
  • Demoted to Extra: Most of the animal characters, due to the technology of the time. Baloo is hit the hardest with it, only appearing in the opening narration and briefly near the end when Mowgli rescues his cubs.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation:
    • Tabaqui in the book was killed by Grey Brother. Here he is eaten by Kaa.
    • Instead of getting trampled by a herd of buffaloes, Shere Khan is lured by Mowgli into a river and stabbed to death with a knife underwater.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The barber and the pundit are only ever referred to by their professions.
  • Framing Device: The story of Mowgli is recounted to an English tourist by an old beggar man who turns out to be Buldeo.
  • Gender Flip: Hathi is played by a tuskless female elephant. Since elephant herds are matriarchal, this actually makes Hathi more believable as the leader of a herd.
  • Gold Fever: The film is a flashback told by the lone survivor of a Gold Fever Massacre.
  • Human-Focused Adaptation: Since the technology of the time didn't allow the animals to be portrayed talking, much of the story focuses instead on Mowgli's actions in the man-village and his conflict with Buldeo.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Near the end of the movie, Mowgli comes to this conclusion and decides to live in the jungle with the animals instead.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Was promoted as Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.
  • Info Dump: The narrator spends a good ten minutes introducing the various animal denizens of the jungle before getting on with the plot.
  • Kill It with Fire: Buldeo's ultimate plan to destroy Mowgli is setting the jungle on fire.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Baloo is played by an American black bear, one of Shere Khan's lackeys is a spotted hyena (native to Africa), and the ranks of the Bandar-log include a howler monkey, a capuchin (two South American species) and an orangutan (native to Borneo and Sumatra, although has existed in India in prehistoric times).
  • Naked on Arrival: When we first see teenage Mowgli running from Shere Khan, he's completely naked. When the humans capture him, they put a red Loincloth on him to cover him up.
  • Narrator All Along: The old man telling the story to the European tourists turns out to be the main villain of the story—Buldeo, the hunter who harassed Mowgli, almost killed his mother and nearly burned down the forest.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Mugger the crocodile appears in several scenes, trying to eat Baloo, Mowgli, Shere Khan, the pundit and Buldeo at various points.
  • One-Hit Kill: Even with his dagger, Kaa warned that this would happen to Mowgli if he tried to fight Shere Khan head on.
  • Talking Animal: Most animal characters only make animal sounds (although Mowgli understands them), but for some reason the snakes (Kaa and the white cobra) speak fluent English.
  • Terrible Trio: Buldeo, the barber and the pundit form one, with Buldeo as the Big Bad and the other two as his comedic lackeys.
  • Villainous BSoD: Buldeo suffers one after he gets chased out of the jungle by Mowgli's animal friends and loses all the treasure. He grabs a torch and sets the jungle on fire to destroy Mowgli.
  • Vine Swing: Mowgli's preferred way of transportation through the jungle.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: Buldeo believes for a while that Bagheera and the wolves are Mowgli, who has the ability to turn into beasts, rather than simply being able to talk to them.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Even after getting his Loincloth from the humans, Mowgli never puts on a shirt.
  • Work Info Title: Well, it's an adaptation of an actual book.