The Man Who Would Be King

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: John Foreman
  • Writers: Rudyard Kipling, John Huston, Gladys Hill
  • Genres: Action, Adventure
  • Actors: Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Saeed Jaffrey

While working as a correspondent at the offices of the Northern Star newspaper, Kipling (Christopher Plummer) is approached by a ragged, seemingly crazed derelict, who reveals himself to be his old acquaintance Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine). Peachy tells Kipling the story of how he and his comrade-in-arms Danny Dravot (Sean Connery) traveled to remote Kafiristan (in modern-day Afghanistan), became gods, and ultimately lost everything.

A few years earlier, the pair of rogues had met Kipling at his office. After signing a contract pledging mutual loyalty and forswearing drink and women until they achieved their grandiose aims, Peachy and Danny set off on an epic overland journey north beyond the Khyber Pass, “travelling by night and avoiding villages”, fighting off bandits, blizzards and avalanches, into the unknown land of Kafiristan (literally “Land of the (Non-Muslim) Infidels”).

They chance upon a Gurkha soldier who goes by the name Billy Fish (Saeed Jaffrey), the sole survivor of a mapping expedition several years before. Billy speaks English as well as the local tongue, and it is he, acting as translator and interpreter of the customs and manners, who smooths the path of Peachy and Danny as they begin their rise, first offering their services as military advisors, trainers, and war leaders to the chief of a much-raided village.

The angry natives pursue him and Peachy. Billy tries to buy time by courageously charging the mob singlehandedly, but the pair are soon captured. Danny is forced to walk to the middle of a rope bridge over a deep gorge; he apologises to Peachy before the ropes are cut. Peachy is crucified between two pine trees, but is cut down the next day when he miraculously survives the ordeal. Eventually, he escapes, though his mind has become unhinged by his sufferings. As Peachy finishes his story, he presents Kipling with Danny’s head, still wearing its crown, thereby proving the tale is true.

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