The Man Who Would Be King is an adaptation of a similarly titled Rudyard Kipling short story from 1888. Starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine as two friends and ex non-commissioned officers of the Indian Army who leave British India and head of to current day Afghanistan in search of adventure and riches, but mostly riches. Here is a movie with equal parts “believable” action and “witty” comedy. You don’t find that combination in many films today…you rarely find either of those things in many films today.
The anonymous narrator of the movie played by Christopher Plummer goes by the name Kipling in an homage to the author. The movie begins in Kipling’s office where is approached by a sunburned scruffy nearly-dead “wanderer” who claims to be the narrator old acquaintance “Peachy” played by Caine. Kipling doesn’t believe him so “Peachy” tells him of his and Daniel “Danny” Dravot’s adventure to Kafiristan ruled a people, became gods and then lost everything.
The lead characters “Danny” played by Connery and “Peachy” played by Caine pledge a mutual contract swearing off of women and drink while on their adventure smuggling rifles to the King in Kafiristan helping him to defeat his enemies so they, Danny and Peachy, could then overthrow him a rule the entire region. Their adventure takes them North through the dreaded Khyber Pass dealing with bandits and avalanches on their way to Kafiristan.
They happen upon a Gurkha soldier who has survived a mapping expedition years earlier who acts as their translator. With the aid of the translator the two adventurers gain the trust of a local tribe who are consistently attacked, harassed and pillaged. They agree to be the tribe’s military advisors and with Danny and Peachy’s help defeat the stronger tribe. During the battle Danny is struck, but not harmed, by an arrow. The tribesmen believe this means he is a god and treat him accordingly. Danny lets this new worship go to his head and as he gets more belligerent Peachy decides to take his portion of the treasure and head back to India.
Connery decides to take a bride, played by Michael Caine’s real life wife, but she is afraid to consummate the marriage with a god for fear that she will burst into flames. She draws blood from Danny in a struggle prior to the wedding and the “gig” is up. Danny and Peachy head for the hills. Danny is trapped on a rope bridge and falls to his death. Peachy is crucified and cut down the next day.
The film cuts back to the first scene where Peachy provides a wary Kipling the head of a crown adorned Danny as proof of his story.
The Man Who Would Be King is a movie I love to love. Unfortunately it is rarely available to watch on TV so each time I get a hankering to see it I must put in my Netflix queue. I reccomend putting this one in your queue this weekend.