#21 in my ranking of Fritz Lang’s filmography.
The second half of the story that began with The Tiger of Eschnapur, The Indian Tomb is the same kind of easy adventure of good men saving women from bad men as the first half, except now there’s an actual ending. The film doesn’t elevate into grand adventure by the end, though it felt like it was laying the groundwork for the kind of controlled chaos of several storylines dovetailing at once could do, but it does remain a solidly amusing tale in an exotic locale.
Harold Berger (Paul Hubshmid) and Seetha (Debra Paget) are on the run from the forces of Chandra (Walter Reyer), Maharajah of Eschnapur. They use Berger’s wit to outrun the horsemen as long as they can, eventually finding their way into a cave that gives them cover for a time, helped, perhaps, by the god Shiva influencing a spider to spin a web over the entrance after they get in. Does the film use the idea of the Indian gods being real and having influence over real events beyond this? Nope. It’s just an event in an adventure story, so okay. Things end up going wrong, and the two get captured.
The action switches to Harold’s sister, Irene (Sabine Bethmann) and her husband Walter (Claus Holm) who were introduced near the end of the first part. Walter is the chief architect, and when Chandra demands that Walter build, not a hospital, but the eponymous tomb for a woman who is not dead, Walter chafes under the order. There are lies about Harold being dead, killed by a tiger on a hunt. There are searches for the truth when Irene finds Seetha. There are discoveries about Harold’s real state. There is a plan for escape.
The palace intrigue elements, mostly around Chandra’s older brother Ramigani (Rene Deltgen) trying to consolidate different forces around him gains a greater focus as his plan steadily moves into actual action. He has the brother of the Maharajah’s dead wife on his side, as well as the priests. The big question is the general of the armed forces in Eschnapur and his loyalties in the face of a rebellion. It’s all standard adventure in a strange land stuff.
Where I was hoping the two major storylines would intertwine would be around the revolution itself. They sort of do, but not at the kind of frenetic escalation of one piling on top of the other as I had hoped. They happen at the same time, but they don’t really affect each other as they play out. The escape through the dungeons has its own set of dangers, and the palace intrigue plays out separately, only interconnecting as they’re both ending. Also, there’s a big fight in the throne room that’s so haphazardly shot that it reminded me of John Carpenter’s action work on Ghosts of Mars: lazy. It’s also mercifully short, though, moving on to character based resolutions in quick time, so the lack of quality action is less of an issue.
Is this some massively entertaining adventure? I don’t think it rises to that height, but it is pretty consistently entertaining in a light and fluffy sort of way. It challenges nothing. No genre conventions, visions of the world, or ideas are challenged at all. It’s just a straight adventure tale, and it does it well enough. The color photography continues to be somewhat dreamy and wonderful to look at. It’s more tightly confined to sets than the first part which allows for a greater control of the camera and more interesting compositions. The acting is perfectly acceptable across the board (though the prevalence of brown-face everywhere is just as jarring to the cohesiveness to the picture as before), and Debra Paget even gets a second opportunity to dance around scantily clad in the temple.
It’s not even Lang’s best adventure movie (that would be Woman in the Moon), but The Indian Temple, both as a standalone feature and second half to a two-part film, is an entertaining romp through a boys adventure novel version of India as envisioned in the 1910s and made in the late 1950s.
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