Flaherty and Korda work out Kipling on the screen as a massive set of images, the boy mahout Toomai, the great elephant Kala Nag, the herds gone north into the jungle, an expedition to round them up for Mysore, the difficulty of finding them, a tiger attack, death of the boy’s father, menace to Kala Nag under a new mahout, escape across the big river, discovery of the herd, beaters driving them into “the devil of a stockade”.
Kurosawa understood the significance of it, the mad dancing elephants fit to “trample the whole world” and observed by Toomai alone are the dancing foxes in Dreams.
Critics saw nothing, very little.
“A severe case of elephantiasis” (Frank S. Nugent, New York Times).
“Nothing particularly exciting for the camera, nor any plot to speak of” (Variety).
“Disappointing diminutive achievement” (Graham Greene).
“Amiable but dated” (Time Out Film Guide, following Halliwell).