The Man Who Would Be King (1975)

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Released 24-Sep-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Adventure Trailer-The Bridge On The River Kwai, Lagaan, Robin And Marion
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1975
Running Time 123:35
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Huston

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sean Connery
Michael Caine
Christopher Plummer
Saeed Jaffrey
Doghmi Larbi
Jack May
Karroom Ben Bouih
Mohammad Shamsi
Albert Moses
Paul Antrim
Graham Acres
Shakira Caine
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Maurice Jarre

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes, very brief
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Man Who Would Be King is John Huston's 1975 epic, based on Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name. It chronicles the adventures of two roguish British soldiers who have very high ambitions in life.

    The movie starts in India, during the days when the sun never set on the British Empire, and when Kipling was a journalist in India. The original short story is written in the first person by Kipling, in a manner as if it actually happened to him, and the movie similarly looks at the film as a narrative being told to him by a man he'd met a few years previously.

    This comes about when one night an almost unrecognisable Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) staggers into the newspaper offices of Kipling (Christopher Plummer) asking for a drink, and then begins to regale him with tales of what has happened since they originally met at a train station in India, almost three years earlier.

    Peachy and Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery), or Danny as his friend calls him, are two ex-gunnery sergeants in the British Army who are now wandering con-men and thieves, always on the lookout for a scam of some sort, or an opportunity for bribery. When Peachy meets Kipling on a train and discovers that he's a Freemason like himself and Danny, he enlists his aid in one of their many scams. Seeing him now as an ally, they later call upon him to get help in their grandest scheme of all. The two men believe that India is too small for them, and hence they are off to Kafiristan - a small country on the North West border of Afghanistan - where they believe they can come to power by leading one of the many warring tribes to ultimate victory over all the others. Being old army hands, they assume that their knowledge in drilling, tactics and weapons will make them unstoppable.

    This frank and honest confession that they merely want to be kings of the little nation, and loot it of all its valuables, leaves Kipling believing they are insane, but he ends up helping them nonetheless. The last he sees of them is as they head off in a caravan, disguised as a mad priest and his servant, and with camel-loads of rifles to smuggle through the Khyber Pass.

    To tell more of the story would be to give too much away, but needless to say there is a most interesting journey ahead for these two lovable rogues.

    Upon watching the film for the purposes of this review, I was most surprised that I hadn't actually seen it somewhere in the past (especially taking into account the fact that I spent some of my early years in the UK, where movies such as this are standard programming for weekend afternoons). This is an epic story, by one of England's favourite author/poets of recent centuries, directed by one of the masters of grand sweeping narrative, with first rate actors in the lead roles. I was a little disappointed with the ending, but then that's how Kipling wrote it, and who am I to argue with a Nobel Prize winner?

    Filmed on location in Morocco, Grande Montee (in the States), and the French Alps, John Huston indulges us with his usual sweeping vistas and grand visuals. Combine this with excellent chemistry between Caine and Connery, and an epic, unconventional story, and you have The Man Who Would Be King.

    If you've got movies such as Zulu, The Four Feathers (any one of the dozens of versions!), or Lawrence of Arabia in your collection, then you should go out and purchase this DVD forthwith! Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality


    For a film that is now almost 30 years old, this transfer is not too shabby. However, there is some room for improvement.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is the same ratio as the original theatrical release.

    Sharpness, as you'd expect, is not up to the standard of recent releases, but for the age of the source material is generally more than acceptable. There are very occasional shots that exhibit very poor sharpness due to excessive grain, such as at 2:00 and 15:00. There are a number of darker scenes (especially some of the interior sets), and the black levels in these shots are solid, with acceptable shadow detail. Take 87:06 for example.

    Colours are dominated by browns, due to the mostly desert setting of the film, but there are splashes of vivid, bright colours in the clothing and decor. Although occasionally appearing a little washed-out, the colours are fairly accurate and rich for the majority of the runtime, with no obvious signs of bleeding. Even the two leads' bright red shirts manage to avoid bleeding.

    Film to video artefacts include some minor aliasing, such as the window slats at 3:08 and the ropes at 103:45. Telecine wobble is very obvious during the opening credits as well. There are a number of film artefacts to be found in this transfer, but fortunately there are very few major ones, and considering the age of the film source it's been cleaned up pretty well. Some of the more obvious examples occur at 20:43 and 77:57.

    There are 19 subtitle streams on this DVD; English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, and Turkish. I sampled the English stream and found it to be pretty close to spot on.

    The layer change on this DVD takes place at 57:52, and is almost indiscernible since it takes place in a still, silent shot, just before a scene transition.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The overall feel to this soundtrack is that it's a bit "tinny" and lacking in richness. Originally released in mono, we're given a 2.0 track on this DVD.

    There are 5 audio tracks on the disc; English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). I listened to the English track.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand for the most part, despite the occasional minor hissing. The only time there is any trouble with understanding the lines delivered is when it's done in a heavy accent (such as the character Billy Fish). This is not the fault of the transfer though.

    The music by Maurice Jarre is a mixture of brass band, marching, orchestral, and native music. It can get a little over-dramatic at times (especially with the use of cymbals), and some of the music of the native Kafiris can be rather grating and tinny. Mostly, though, it's fairly suitable for the on-screen action.

    The surrounds get minimal work - a little bit during some of the battles, and occasionally with the music as well.

    I heard the subwoofer come alive during some drums, an avalanche, and some very deep trumpet sounds. That was pretty much it though.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Menus are 16x9 enhanced, static and silent.


    3 theatrical trailers all presented in varying aspect ratios, but none of them 16x9 enhanced. I assume these trailers were chosen due to a vague connection with the feature, either by genre, or actors involved. They are as follows:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Our version misses out on what is apparently a decent making-of featurette, but the Region 1 release is a flipper. Due to my dislike of flippers I'd say the two balance out, but if you want the extra features (which is understandable for such a great movie), then go with the US version.

    Update: I've been informed that the US version also has far inferior video quality to our local copy. Combined with the inherent advantages of PAL, I'd suggest our copy edges out Region 1.


    An excellent sweeping epic, which combines action, humour, likable characters, great acting, and an intriguing story. Highly recommended for anyone who likes a good old fashioned yarn.

    The video is good for something of this age, but it's not the best transfer I've ever seen from the era.

    The audio transfer does its job - nothing more.

    Extras are limited to 3 trailers for loosely related movies.

Ratings (out of 5)


© David L (Only my Mum would have any interest in my bio)
Thursday, January 22, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDOmni 3600, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS797- THX Select
SpeakersAccusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R4 much better transfer - REPLY POSTED