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One of Korda's best adventures - but go for the Network DVD
on 20 May 2010
There's no shortage of public domain copies of the Alexander Korda-Sabu live-action version, but despite having no extras, Network's DVD offers the best picture quality by far.
Like those of Samuel Goldwyn, Alexander Korda's films are usually over-produced and over-long - never mind the quality, feel the width. Although lacking the reputation of The Thief of Baghdad, The Jungle Book is a more than honourable exception. One of the most gorgeous Technicolor films ever made (albeit slightly less glorious in this print), it has the flavour and tone of Kipling's original stories down to a tee.
Sabu is the perfect Mowgli, caught between the world of the animals among whom he was raised and the one that men have carved out of the jungle where he is regarded with fear and suspicion. In this respect the film is considerably more successful than Greystoke, and admirably resists the temptation to use its setting to bang the drum for the Empire - the British are represented only briefly in the effective framing sequences.
It's typically a family affair for the Kordas. Vincent Korda's production design is one of the miracles of British cinema, a convincing and magical recreation of both the jungles (complete with a wonderful menagerie of, for the most part real, animals) and lost cities of India on the backlot of Denham. Zoltan's direction is quite magnificent, aided immensely by Lee Garmes and W. Howard Greene's superb Technicolor photography.
Miklos Rozsa's marvellous score (the first to merit its own soundtrack album) sounds rather flat on the DVD, but this is well worth tracking down and is everything you could hope for in a classic adventure.