THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, 1975
Cast: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey, Doghmi Larbi, Jack May
Peachy and Daniel, best friends and adventure seekers, have a plan to become the kings of an unruled land called Kafiristan. Everything is going according to plan until Daniel is mistaken for a god. He allows the power to go to his head despite Peachy's warnings, and its only a matter of time before the truth comes out.
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Nostalgic moviegoers, especially those of a certain age, can often be heard lamenting that they just donít make them like they used to. In many ways they are correct; movies today are almost completely different than they were fifty or sixty years ago. Once the counterculture hit the big screen in the late 1960s, the old movies were seen as corny and old fashioned. Despite the fact that our culture is always moving forward, there will always be some who realize the power of looking back, of tapping into that part of every person who longs for a seemingly simpler time in their lives. With The Man Who Would Be King (1975), John Huston hearkened back to the era of the swashbucklers like Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks and Tyrone Power; an archetype that seemed to have fallen out of favor, but that audiences couldnít resist.
Based on a 1888 short story by Rudyard Kipling, The Man Who Would Be King is the story of two best friends and former British soldiers, Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) who set out on an epic adventure to become the kings of Kafiristan (now the Nuristan Province in Afghanistan). Before leaving, they meet Kipling (Christopher Plummer) who draws up a contract stating that the two men will remain celibate, sober and loyal to each other no matter what the odds. The path to Kafiristan is treacherous, and it is only by luck that they make it out alive.
Once there, they meet a man named Billy Fish (Saeed Jaffrey), a Hindu soldier who speaks English. He becomes their translator as they offer help to the chief of a local village, training his army and attacking the chiefís biggest enemy. During the battle, Daniel is shot with an arrow that hits a bandolier under his shirt. The locals do not realize this, however, and when they see that he is not injured they decide he must be a god, a reincarnation of Alexander the Great, who they refer to as Sikander. This makes their takeover of the rest of the armies of the country much easier and Daniel becomes the king of Kafiristan. He is also granted access to the treasures of Sikander. He and Peachy decide that, once spring comes, they will take the treasure and go back to England. However, Daniel later decides he wants to stay, as he has grown used to being king and has plans to modernize the country. Despite Peachyís warnings, Daniel decides to take a wife. During the ceremony she becomes afraid and bites him, drawing blood and revealing that he is human. Daniel and Peachy try to escape, but are outnumbered and Daniel is killed. Peachy, though tortured, is able to get away so he can come back and tell his story to Kipling.
Writer and director John Huston had been trying to make The Man Who Would Be King for nearly two decades by the time it was actually released. He had tried numerous combinations of actors, but fate often stood in the way. He originally wanted Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable for the leads; unfortunately Bogart died in the late 50s and Gable died in the early 60s. He then wanted Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, but the project fell through. Later on in the decade, after the success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Huston wanted to capitilize on the Robert Redford and Paul Newman chemistry.