Beyond Bengal (film #25 on Feature Films. Also, film #11 in the Documentary section of Movieflix). [Category: Hollywood]

This 30s nature adventure documentary is the Asian version of Africa Speaks. It’s somewhat less offensive than the other film, since the natives are treated respectfully for the most part (with the exception of a romantic couple that stages a silly wedding) and at least some of the animal killing does not seem to be gratuitous. This actually looks like it was quite dangerous to make, as there are tigers, leopards, panthers, pythons, and stampeding elephants around every turn, and there are some actual scenes of people getting seriously injured by them. Most upsetting is their treatment of the monkeys––in one scene we see one get captured and humiliated seemingly only because it was annoying, though they do tell us they let it go later (I think they do––it’s hard to tell because there’s a cut in the soundtrack at that point), and in another scene we see a monkey almost being squeezed to death by a python. Granted, that’s nature for you, but since they go on to tell us that they rescued the monkey and kept it for a pet, the amount of time we see it getting squeezed by the python seems gratuitous. This film certainly doesn’t meet today’s standards for animal treatment, environmental practices, or cultural sensitivity, but it moves. And it gives us a peek into the wild jungles of Asia back in the days when wild animals were really abundant, giving the film historical value.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.

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