Stranglers of Bombay (1960)

Terence Fisher directs Hammer's grim adventure set in British Colonial India. Sony US R1 boxset DVD.

The Film

Colonial India, caravans of goods have been going missing on the roads between trading posts - Captain Harry Lewis of the East India company is convinced that these disappearances are related to the thousands of missing people across India reported each year. Despite having heavily researched the disappearances, the job of investigating them is given to the upper-class and far out of his element Captain Connaught-Smith who is completely ineffectual. When Lewis' native manservant is killed, with his hand being sent back as a warning, he tries to warn the Company about the risks this group of killers pose but they ignore him - in indignation he resigns and sets out to track down these killers himself...

First time screenwriter David Zelag Goodman handles the writing credits for the film but his work is a rather mixed bag at best. Inspired by the novel The Deceivers which was based on the true story of William Sleeman's battle with the Thugee in Colonial India, The Stranglers of Bombay takes a largely fictional approach to the whole topic despite the film's trailer heavily promoting it as a true story. The idea behind the origins of the deadly scarves is the most clever creation, twisting the legend of Kali's mythological battle with the demonic Raktabija.

As a film in its own right characterisation is fair and the dialogue is particularly impressive, unusually realistic for the Hammer period films it helps to bring a good sense of authenticity to the whole production. Unfortunately Goodman simply doesn't handle the storyline aspects very well at all - generally slow paced and largely dialogue based, the film takes a long time to get started and never really builds up any adventure or tension elements - a supposed highlight of the film, when Lewis is captured seems to be over in a moment and he suddenly reappears back home - the climax in particular is a very messy affair and is a real let down. The absence of any romantic elements is a surprise, although hardly disappointing.

Director Terence Fisher was Hammer's top man at the end of the 1950s, with an almost unbeaten run of sucesses. He brings his solid directoral style to Strangers of Bombay and the film really benefits. Combined with the black and white photography, Fisher's very straight-forward shooting style helps to bring the film a documentary-style appearance in many scenes and it is far more remniscent of their gritty war films than their colourful gothic horrors. As usual Hammer's set work is superb (particularly on the Kali statue and temple, but the exteriors look like nothing more authentic than an old quarry (as indeed they were) and the film never captures the large scale journeys that the characters must be making. Fortunately James Bernard provides one of his best soundtracks, really helping to make the film and underscore what little tension the script can offer.

Guy Rolfe had just made an impressive showing in Hammer's brutal war story Yesterday's Enemy (1959) but is still a rather unusual leading man - approaching 50 he was much older than one might expect - but seems a strong fit for the role and his performance throughout is exemplary. Andrew Cruickshank and Allan Cuthbertson are effective as his colleagues, with Cuthbertson making his upper-class officer a thoroughly unlikeable character. George Pastell makes a very effective High Priest, although it is easy to confuse him with the genuine Indian actor Marne Maitland who has another role. The Master Roger Delgado plays the assistant to the High Priest in an almost identical role to that he would play in the next year's Terror of the Tongs (1961).

Stranglers of Bombay takes an interesting topic but the script doesn't do much with it and the storyline is generally disappointing. Fortunately some solid direction, a great soundtrack and impressive performances help to make the film watchable and reasonably enjoyable. One for fans of the Hammer adventure films but not a particularly recommended title.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? No-one particularly well known.
Directed by anyone interesting? Terence Fisher - the director who helmed Hammer's breakout Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and most of their best known horror titles, including The Devil Rides Out (1968) and Frankenstein Must be Destroyed (1969)
Any gore or violence? Several scenes with blood and some gory effects (although quite hard to make out in the b&w print).
A brief scene of real animal violence between a snake and a mongoose, shot in the wild not staged, nothing vivid.
Any sex? None.
Who is it for?
Fans of the Hammer adventure films should enjoy this.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The print looks stunning with well defined shades, superb detail and only very light grain.
Audio English language mono sound - sounds strong throughout.
French dub track.
Subtitles English and French
Extras This disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with the writer David Zelag Goodman. An interesting solo track, but some silence and it might have been good to have a moderator like on the other films in the boxset - lots of interesting facts about the film documented elsewhere go unmentioned.
  • Original theatrical trailer.
Other extra features are also included in the boxset.
Availabity Only available as part of the Icons of Adventure four film boxset.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America) - NTSC
Other regions? Not available elsewhere.
Cuts? The film is believed to be fully uncut as per the US theatrical print (cuts were made by the BBFC to the animal fight sequence). Print is English language.



Return to main menu.

All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 21st June 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: