On the same grand scale of pictorial elaborateness which characterized Thief of Bagdad, Alexander Korda brings again to the screen the diminutive East Indian player, Sabu, in a film version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.
Kipling’s character, Mowgli, who strayed into the jungle as a child and was brought up by a she-wolf, is most likely to be confused by filmgoers with Tarzan. Laurence Stallings wrote the screenplay and the human-interest elements are slighted. Mowgli’s return to the native village as a grown-up youth and his subsequent adventures in civilization are handled in neither a humorous nor dramatic manner. The saga of the boy who could converse with animals is related very seriously, whereas the theme might have been better entertainment if treated in a lighter vein.
As directed by Zoltan Korda, the fiction takes secondary place to the highly interesting and sometimes amazing views of jungle animals in the brilliance of colored photography. Some of the vistas, designed by Vincent Korda, give the illusion of deep forest depths, of dank underbrush and forbidden nooks.
Some sign language between the animals and Mowgli might adequately have conveyed all the necessary dramatic values of their intimacy. When Sabu carries on a whispered conversation with his cobras, pythons and some of the wild beasts, it is a little silly.
Korda has neglected any but a slight development of the human equation. Players therefore have unimportant assignments, with the exception of Sabu, who swims and swings his way through the jungle with ease and grace.
1942: Nominations: Best Color Cinematography, Color Art Direction, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture, Special Effects