Gunga Din

Gunga Din (1939)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Joan Fontaine
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Porky Pig Cartoon, Trailer

Warner Home Video is currently on a roll releasing various George Stevens films on DVD for the first time and his 1939 action comedy ’Gunga Din’ is also part of it. Starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen in the lead, the film is a great little romp with some great action scenes as the three play colonial British army officers in India, stumbling onto a group of Thuggees, a legendary sect of killers, set on driving the British our of India and to take over the country by force. Unprepared for suddenly encountering a organized, and trained army of killers, the British find themselves in quite a predicament and only their Indian water bearer Gunga Din may be able to help them.

Warner Home Video is presenting ’Gunga Din’ in its original fullframe version on this DVD. The transfer is a mixed bag. While some shots are razor sharp and show a perfect gradient of blacks and whites, others are scratched, speckled and seemingly out of focus. Contrast jumps equally form scenes that are perfectly balanced to others that are underexposed, painting major portions of the image in black. Age has definitely taken its toll on this film, though fortunately, it is never so distracting as to dampen the entertainment. No edge-enhancement is visible in the transfer and the compression is also without flaws.

The DVD contains the movie’s original mono audio track that is generally good, though again the film’s age is evident and audible as a result of the limited frequency response and dynamic range.

The DVD contains a commentary track by film historian Rudy Behlmer who is as usual very knowledgeable in his comments, but also a bit scholarly and dry. Still he gets across a lot of valuable information and insight that help to better understand the significance of the film within its time context.

Also included is a featurette called ’On location with Gunga Din’ which is full of fairly recent interviews with some of the cast members, as well as people close to the production and the filmmakers. The DVD is rounded out by a fun little Porky Pig cartoon called ’The Film Fan.’

’Gunga Din’ is a wonderful action adventure film with some great Cary Grant-style comedy. While the film may have lost some of its luster and isn’t on the forefront of people’s minds as a classic great, the movie nonetheless proves that swashbuckling films of the era do have sustenance and are still fun to watch, even after more than 70 years. I doubt that many of today’s films will even have any sort of entertainment value that far in the future, which shows just how timeless films like ’Gunga Din’ really are.