Film Review: The Jungle Book (1967)
In 1967, Wolfgang Reitherman released The Jungle Book, based on the 1894 collection of stories by the same name by Rudyard Kipling. Starring Bruce Reitherman, Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, J. Pat O’Malley, Verna Felton, Clint Howard, Chad Stuart, Lord Tim Hudson, John Abbott, Ben Wright, Darleen Carr, Leo De Lyon, Hal Smith, Ralph Wright, Digby Wolfe, Bill Skiles and Pete Henderson, the film grossed $205.8 million at the box office.
Mowgli, a child raised in the jungle by wolves, is in danger of being killed by the evil tiger Shere Khan. To help save him, the panther Bagheera and bear Baloo try to convince him to leave the jungle for the nearby man village.
The Jungle Book is a definite classic. Its story sees a young boy on a journey from the wolf family who adopted him to his true place with man, meeting a slew of characters along the way. These characters add depth as well as personality to the film, from the marching elephants on patrol and the vultures who can’t decide what to do, only to wind up singing about friendship to Mowgli to Kaa attempting to eat the man cub and King Louis kidnapping him with the hopes Mowgli knows and can instruct how to create fire. The two main sidekicks, Bagheera and Baloo are great as well, both shining in their own special moments throughout the film. Both of them save Mowgli at different points in the story, bolstering them as friends of the boy.
As for the characters themselves, Mowgli is well characterized as a young boy. He’s stubborn and sure of himself as he does not listen to the wisdom of any other character, believing he knows what’s best for his own well-being. Many times this makes him apt to walk into trouble, seen when Shere Khan is about to give him a chance to run. Instead of taking it, Mowgli taunts him, telling the tiger he’s not afraid and can adequately defend himself. He keeps believing he’s going to be fine, only realizing how much trouble he is in when Shere Khan earnestly attacks him. Still, Mowgli continues to be somewhat resourceful as he ties a flaming branch to the tiger’s tail as an effort to get the better of his enemy.
Nevertheless, Shere Khan is a good foil and nemesis to Mowgli. He may not show up for most of the film, but the way other characters speak of him, what he is capable of and what he is looking to do to Mowgli gives Shere Khan a reputation he lives up to when finally appearing. Yet, while he has this fearsome reputation, the tiger chooses to hide the wrath he’s known for behind a gentlemanly persona. This is seen in his interaction with Kaa, initially acting very friendly with the snake and choosing to make his point known by simply showing his claws instead of outright attacking. However, the film does show Shere Khan has similarities to Mowgli, namely the haughtiness. He’s so sure he can easily kill Mowgli he doesn’t realize the man cub has gotten behind him to tie the flaming branch to his tail.
All of this is combined with some really fun music. Whether it’s watching Baloo and Mowgli cast aside their worries, opting to take the easy way in life with “The Bare Necessities,” King Louis and the rest of the monkeys looking for fire with the jazzy “Wanna Be Like You,” the vultures working to cheer Mowgli up, only to be interrupted by Shere Kahn in “That’s What Friends are For” or the soft melody of “My Own Home,” the entire soundtrack is enjoyable. Even the purely instrumental parts of the score are memorable, evoking the feeling of being on safari and exploring the jungle.
Bold indicates reception of award/recognition
- Best Music, Original Song (For the song “The Bare Necessities.”)
Gijón International Film Festival
- Young Audience Award – Best Feature Film for Children
Golden Screen, Germany
- Golden Screen with 1 Star
- Golden Screen Award
- Best Recording for Children
- Best International Film
- Golden Laurel – Comedy
- Best Youth DVD (For the two disc 40th anniversary platinum edition)