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The great American director John Huston shifts his focus to India and the Middle East for one of his last truly great films. The Harvard Film Archive is screening THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING as part of their Late Huston series, which stars Christopher Plummer, Michael Caine, and Sean Connery, all in their prime and delivering solid performances.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING is a sweeping adventure story through India into Kafiristan (now part of Afghanistan) in 1885. Two former members of the Queen’s light infantry have come to claim land and riches for themselves so they can return to England as victors. Caine and Connery are perfectly cast as the lying, blackmailing, warrior-adventurers whose plan is to help local villages defeat their enemies in hopes of placing themselves on their throne. After taking an arrow to the chest and surviving, Sean Connery is believed to be a god and descendant of the last white man to conquer their lands, Alexander The Great. As luck and fortune turn into delusions of grandeur, Connery begins to believe this truly is his fate and that, soon enough, the Queen of England will be his equal.

The film is based on the novella by Rudyard Kipling, which itself is based upon the true stories of adventures James Brooke and Josiah Harlan (both of whom ended up in places of power in foreign countries). Harlan, who took the throne of Ghor in Afghanistan for himself and his descendants, is more closely linked to Connery in this film. What starts as a fun high adventure story turns into a cautionary tale about greed and explores the dangerous nature of colonization.

The trailer below is unfortunately very low quality so you miss the beautiful images that the great cinematographer Oswald Morris captured. His wonderful body of work was awarded with BAFTAs and Academy Awards for almost 30 years and this is truly one of his greatest works in my opinion. The landscapes alone are gorgeous, but his unique vision and the way he moves the camera to capture these ancient cities gives the film a much-needed otherworldly feel and a sense of doom that helps drive the film towards its climax. However, the trailer does have a special appearance by John Huston himself, so press play and allow him to take you into the world of THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING.

THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING (1975) dir. John Huston [129 min]
Harvard Film Archive
Saturday, February 8 at 9:00 pm
$9 regular admission // $7 students and seniors

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