Navigation

The Stranglers of Bombay (1960)

Dir: Terence Fisher.

This little seen 'Hammer' film is (just like the little seen "Lost Continent") surely deserving of a bigger following.

Based on the true incident in India, when the rise of the cult of Kali strangled roughly a million people before the authorities of the British 'East India Trading Company' wiped them out....

 

The sets are small scale, but capture a wonderful, sweaty atmosphere. The script is also nicely structured to include the religious beliefs of 'The Thugs'.
The way they punish members of the Cult who kill and steal for their own personal gain (by cutting out tongues and burning out eyes, a torture only hinted at visually but remaining gruesome to the brief aftermath shots and the general sweat and grim- filled atmosphere), does not show any affinity towards them, but is at least honest in showing their strict religious rules to their killing.

Another good, and unusual, example of this is seen during a sequence when their nemesis Capt Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe, who would go on to play the toy maker in the underrated "Dolls") is captured and at their mercy, yet he is simply released because 'The Thugs' believing that the death of their snake by a mongoose was a sign the meant he must not be killed.

This snake/mongoose sequence is actually fascinating to watch, but surely 'Hammer' used some kind of stock footage? I can't see them setting up this fight. Whatever the origins it's a very rare (and early) bit of mondo footage in a British production. The end to the fight seemed to be cut though which brings up the film's history of limited availability. After being unavailable for nearly 40 years it was finally released in the UK on the 'Columbia' label. Sadly, despite a print of this being rare the BBFC cut it by 7 seconds. Perhaps the finale of the fight was what was trimmed, as the BBFC do not like any kind of animal snuff (witness the recent heavy cutting in "Cannibal Holocaust" and its ilk).

The Direction by Terrence Fisher is well paced and delivers some sequences of genuine suspense. The night time scenes of 'The Thugs' creeping through the trees towards their prey for example are highly effective.
The lean running time is never wasted and the film remains a fascinating watch throughout.

Well worth a look to show, yet again, that some of 'Hammer's' rarer and/or often underrated films are actually much better than their more famous and critically respected ones.