SABAKA. United Artists, 1954. Originally released as The Hindu in 1953. Nino Marcel, Boris Karloff, Lou Krugman, Reginald Denny, June Foray, Peter Coe, Jay Novello. Several sources say that The Hindu was an outgrowth of the “Gunga Ram” episodes originally seen on TV’s Smilin’ Ed’s Gang (later known as Andy’s Gang). Written produced & directed by Frank Ferrin.

   A real cut-and-paste job by a guy who also wrote, produced & directed two episodes of Andy’s Gang featuring this film, and how’s that for street creds?

   Actually Sabaka isn’t all that bad. Not very good either, but… well we’ll get to that later. For now, just to dispense with the preliminaries, the story such as it is, is about young elephant jockey Gunga Ram, played by Nino Marcel, a young actor in the Sabu mold, who gets involved with a cult of fire-devil worshipers. When the baddies kill his sister and her husband he vows to track them down — does some of this anticipate The Searchers? — which he (SPOILER!) manages with the aid of his loyal elephant and pet tiger.

   On the plus side, this was photographed in color, entirely in India amid some splendid scenery and a few rather tacky sets. The costumes splash gaudily across the screen, crowd scenes loom truly epic in scope, and the animals seem to actually interact with the people around them. Someone took care too to make the fake forest fire seem not-quite-so-fakey, and Boris Karloff as a sinister-looking police type delivers his lines with accustomed relish — unlike many cheap foreign films, this one features the actual actors saying their lines.

   Also to its credit, Sabaka offers some obscure bit players doing their thing skillfully as usual. Lou Krugman, Peter Coe (in his 2nd film with Karloff) and Jay Novello aren’t exactly household names, but they pitch right in there along with better-known Reginald Denney and Victor Jory, strutting their stuffy and evil acts respectively.

   But alas, there’s a movie to contend with here, and Sabaka ain’t much. The story moves in fits and starts, pausing frequently for the characters to stand around and explain the plot to each other, and it stops dead still for several minutes whenever a parade goes by.

   Sabaka, however, offers one unique treasure to delight in: a rare live screen appearance by the remarkable June Foray, in a meaty role as the evil high priestess of the Flame Devil. She gets to kill Victor Jory, gloat at the hero, preach violence to her minions and try to immolate an elephant, all with enthusiasm that far outstrips the meager movie around her.

   I can’t really recommend Sabaka, but I have to say I enjoyed it.