The Man Who Would Be King

DirectorJohn Huston
StarringMichael Caine
Sean Connery
Christopher Plummer
Based on a novel byRudyard Kipling

The King
This film could easily have been classified under the adventure category but for the simply superb and witty dialogue between the two main characters (played by Sean Connery and Michael Caine). This film version does Rudyard Kipling proud in its portrayal of two wily British soldiers who are intent on travelling to one of the most inhospitable places on earth in order to claim a kingdom for themselves. They are then supposed to enrich themselves quickly and then return home as millionaires. The storyline can be read at many levels. It probably works best as a parable of how awe inspiring and mystical it must have seen to natives of far off lands to see a white man for the first time. The colour of the skin probably meant little, but the modern armaments, technical knowledge and organisational skills that they could call upon would have been impressive indeed to peoples unaware of Europe's existence. I am reminded of Arthur C. Clarke's quotation that any suitably advanced civilisation would seem as aliens to any less developed nations. The two soldiers in this story take full advantage of the gullibility of the peoples that they meet in the mountains. They encourage the idea that they are gods in order to claim sovereignty over the kingdoms there. Unfortunately, one of the characters takes a liking to his divine role which causes all sorts of complications for the pair.

Rudyard Kipling had another level of understanding for his story. He used the storyline to promote the antiquity of his beloved Freemason organisation. The story is riddled with allusions to and about Freemasons. All three of the main characters are Freemasons who help each other as much as it is humanly possible to do so. But the most interesting aspect is how the symbol of the Freemasons is linked to Alexander the Great (who features prominently in the storyline). Now, Freemasons are Reformation era protestant organisations. Secret societies were the only way that many protestants could meet together in order to discuss their religious feelings and thoughts with one another. Had the Catholic authorities discovered them they would probably have been branded as heretics and imprisoned or possibly executed. However, for some reason some Freemasons prefer to claim a much older lineage and structure of organisation. Hence the terms The Ancient Orders of ... Kipling was one such Freemason and he used this story to claim that no less a figure than Alexander the Great had a connection with Freemasons. Unfortunately for Kipling there is little basis for this connection, but it still makes for a riveting story.

This film has incredibly high production values and is, without doubt, one of the finest films that you will find set in the British Empire and with such overtly imperial themes. If you haven't seen this film then you should, you won't regret it.

Buy this DVD at: Amazon


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by Stephen Luscombe