Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Guy Rolfe, Allan Cuthbertson, Andrew Cruickshank, George Pastell
More info: IMDB
Tagline: This is true! This is real! This actually happened!
Plot: A murderous religious cult is way-laying travellers and stealing goods in nineteenth century India. As the disappearances mount and trade becomes difficult, the British East India Company is forced to act. But they give the job to an upper-class officer completely out-of-touch with the country rather than the obvious candidate who has been in India for years and well understands the people and culture.
My rating: 7.5/10
Will I watch it again? Yes.
#11 on Hammer Horror (1957-1976)
Somewhat based on the true account of William Henry Sleeman, who declared war on the Thugees in 1835 and with the hanging of thousands of its leaders and members was able to eradicate it by the 1870s. I've always been fascinated by adventure films set in India and of the Thugee cult. Very few films have dealt with this rich subject. In fact, according to IMDB, there are only four films that feature them as a subject. I'm sure there are more...but still...only four?
Anyway, TSoB features great production values, it felt like they were shooting in India (even though you know they didn't), the black & white photography looks great. Despite that, I would have loved to have seen it in color only because of the lush 1960s adventure films set in India that were filmed in color look vibrant and amazing. The B&W, though, does add a coldness to it and, considering the dark subject matter it's probably for the best.
Rolfe does a fine job as Capt. Lewis, the Sleeman equivelant in the picture, and Cuthbertson is dead-0n as his cad rival, Capt. Connaught-Smith. They both end up getting what they deserve. While it's not a graphically violent film, i.e. very little blood, it is grim. A LOT of people die. You get guys having their tongues cut out, hands chopped off and eye's gouged out with a firey poker. It ain't pretty. And the scene (you see it in the trailer) where the guy who's about to be hanged pushes his captors away and lunges forward to happily hang himself is fantastic!
There's a scene where Lewis is captured by the Thuggee and he's tied down to be killed by a cobra. It's pretty damn intense and, judging by how many people had died to that point, you're not sure if he's going to make it or not. Great stuff! It's too bad the fucking spoil the outcome in the trailer. If you look closely you can see the glass that separates him from the snake just like in RAIDERS. You can barely see it in this screenie but it's obvious when there's movement (the reflection is just above his head on the step).
The ending is VERY satisfying. Like most films of the day the ending is upbeat but not without a lot of sacrifice. I would have liked it a little darker. TSoB is taken very serious which works to its advantage. There's certainly more of a horror element than any other studio would have given it. It's just another title where Hammer lives up to its reputation.