Director: John Huston
Writer: John Huston, Gladys Hill (based on the story by Rudyard Kipling)
Cast: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey, Karroum Ben Bouih
“We’ve all been to India. We know her cities, her jungles, her jails, and her passes, and we have decided that she isn’t big enough for us.” When Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) tells Rudyard Kipling (Christopher Plummer) of his and British compatriot Peachy Carnehan’s (Michael Caine) plans to venture beyond the Northwest Frontier and into the uncharted territory of Kafiristan – the first Westerns since Alexander the Great to step foot into what is now modern Afghanistan – the two ex-soldiers begin an epic journey that both fulfils their dreams and turns into a nightmare. John Huston’s classic is a wonderfully comic depiction of two men seeking adventure and personal riches in the 1880s, adorned with a powerful performance by Connery (the eponymous man who would be king) and Caine as his jovial sidekick.
Having told the journalist Kipling of their plans – and with the writer, a fellow Freemason, unable to dissuade them – Dravot and Carnehan begin their journey towards what they hope will be their own personal kingdom. After a series of adventures (including surviving an avalanche caused by their own raucous laughter), they reach Kafiristan, acquire an interpreter, Gurkha Billy Fish (a fantastic, scene-stealing turn by Saeed Jaffrey) and make their plans for local domination. Armed with guns, they quell the locals but then fate lends a hand.
Dravot is hailed a god by the natives when he’s hit by an arrow but is unhurt (it landed in his bandolier) and his reputation is further enhanced when summoned to the holy city of Sikandergul by the High Priest. A Masonic seal is recognised as the symbol of Sikander, leading Dravot to be hailed as the successor to Alexander and enthroned. Now he’s got a fortune in gold and jewels at his disposal and is free to leave. Despite Carnehan’s promptings, however, he’s beginning to enjoy his regal status and makes the fatal decision to stay on in Kafiristan.