"Therefore, we are going away to another place where a man isn't crowded and can come into his own. We're not little men, so we're going away to be kings."
They were once British soldiers representing the Empire in strange and exotic lands; after all that, Peachy (Michael Caine) and Danny (Sean Connery) could never consider
There's an elegant simplicity to The Man Who Would Be King. Despite its fairly epic scope, this is ultimately the story of two men...scoundrels, friends, and all but brothers. Director John Huston never loses sight of that. There's scarcely a scene in the film without either Peachy or Danny in the forefront, and once their journey is underway, Huston never cuts away from them. The Man Who Would Be King isn't distracted by any dangling subplots from back home, and no one is in pursuit. There's no need for those sorts of derailments either. Caine and Connery are nothing short of brilliant as this pair of impish rogues. They don't have any illusions about standing on the side of the angels, and their entire scheme is predicated on bloodshed, deceit, and cultural elitism, if you look down on that sort of thing. Still, there's a certain code of honor they follow. They don't revel in the deaths of their enemies, and they only kill or torment as a means to an end. They are who they are and are completely unapologetic about it. That's a delicate balance to strike, and it's executed beautifully here. Peachy and Danny are scoundrels without being watered down, but they're still likeable enough that the audience is very much on their side...that their inevitable downfall still hits viewers like a crushing blow. The Man Who Would Be King doesn't play up some kind of fish-out-of-water element, showing how hopelessly out of their depth Peachy and Danny are. In fact, it's quite the opposite; they're damned good at what they do...better than even they ever would've thought possible. They attain a level of success they could never have dreamed of by sticking to the plan they've concocted, and the denouement comes when that plan is shoved aside...that they had it right all along.
The Man Who Would Be King benefits most greatly from Caine and Connery's cacklingly
John Huston had toiled for decades to bring The Man Who Would Be King to the screen, mulling over Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, and Robert Redford and Paul Newman to bring to life the film's pair of charming scoundrels. As marvelous as any of those combinations would undoubtedly have been, it's difficult to imagine any of them packing nearly as much of a punch as Sean Connery and Michael Caine do here. It's kind of perfect, really: an epic adventure with a smirkingly dark sense of humor, rich characterization, infectious fun, and some genuine gravity when it counts. The Man Who Would Be King doesn't have quite as much marquee value as some of John Huston's other films that have found their way to Blu-ray to date, and it unfortunately hasn't been lavished with that same sort of special edition treatment, but still, this is a film that really shouldn't be overlooked. Highly Recommended.
The Man Who Would Be King was one of the very first films I'd ever watched in high definition, and although there's only so far I'm willing to trust my memory seven years and several HDTVs behind me now, I do recall that presentation on HDNet Movies being rather soft and hazy. I was expecting much the same from this Blu-ray disc, and I'm pleased to say that my expectations were completely off-base. The Man Who Would Be King looks terrific on BD. Outside of a tiny handful of optical shots, definition and detail are both robust, bolstered by a palette that packs a wallop when appropriate. The texture of its film grain is unintrusive from a normal viewing distance but doesn't suffer from any excessive filtering or processing. There's no speckling or wear whatsoever, and despite the disc's modest bitrate, no compression artifacting ever grabbed my attention. Edge enhancement is never a concern either. Though I don't have the DVD release handy to do a direct comparison, I can't imagine its level of clarity or definition could approach this. The Man Who Would Be King is a film with a number of exceptionally expansive shots, and I'm sure the characters that are so clearly rendered in the sample screenshot below would be a muddy smudge in standard definition:
I'm very pleased with the effort Warner invested in preparing The Man Who Would Be King for Blu-ray. It's not a revelation, exactly, but this is a very strong showing just the same and very much in keeping with what a film of this caliber deserves. I'm really not left with any complaints about the presentation whatsoever.
The Man Who Would Be King is presented at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been encoded with AVC.
The Man Who Would Be King boasts a reasonably effective DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 soundtrack. Dialogue sounds somewhat edgy at times, and although background noise has been filtered out of silent sections, the film's dialogue is still marred by some hiss when delivered. Still, the audio is clean and clear enough, and Maurice Jarre's score is fairly full-bodied. Nothing remarkable but perfectly adequate.
The lossless monaural soundtrack is the only audio option; there are no remixes or dubbed tracks this time out. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), French, and Spanish, though.
Very little, disappointingly.
The Man Who Would Be King arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a small hardcover book, featuring a slew of production stills, brief biographies, a page of costume design concepts, and a short essay.
The Final Word
So many classic directors are underrepresented on Blu-ray, and it's heartening to see that a talent as towering as John Huston isn't among them. Though I would have loved to have seen The Man Who Would Be King lavished with the sort of special edition treatment we've seen for The African Queen, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and The Maltese Falcon, it's still a thrill to be able to experience a longtime favorite such as this in high definition. Clever, thrilling, infectiously fun, and very much Highly Recommended.
A Couple More Screenshots...