The Man Who Would Be King Release Date: June 7, 2011 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Single-disc "Digi-Book" Year: 1975 Rating: PG Running Time: 2:08:52 MSRP: $34.99 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video 1080p high definition 2.40:1 Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 1.0 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, Spanish, French None The Feature: 4/5 Afghanistan's remote region of Kafiristan is the last place you'd expect to find a couple ex-soldiers from the British Army, but it's the place where Peachy Carnehan and Daniel Dravot (Michael Caine and Sean Connery) have decided to make their fortunes. Their ambitious plans consist of hiring themselves out as mercenaries to a local king or chieftain, helping him defeat his enemies, and then taking over the kingdom for themselves. With some maps provided by a journalist they've befriended named Rudyard Kipling (Chrisopher Plummer) - who will eventually recount their story - the two make their way across treacherous and unforgiving terrain to the isolated mountain region. When they finally arrive, their hairbrained idea actually seems like it might work, as they fall into favor with one of the tribal leaders and proceed to decimate the neighboring clan with their gifts of modern warfare tactics and firearms. It's when Dravot is shot with an arrow and remains unscathed that things take an even more fortuitous turn. Though his survival is only thanks to a well-placed bandolier, the locals believe him to be a god. And not just any god, but the heir to Alexander the Great, who invaded and ruled over the area over two thousand years ago. With locals far and wide now submitting to them without protest, and Alexander's treasures available to do with as they please, Dravot and Carnehan have achieved what most thought would be impossible. But finding fortune so quickly and easily has its price, as Dravot begins to believe in his own mythical status, creating a rift with his old friend and comrade, but ultimately endangering their very lives. Directed by John Huston and based on Rudyard Kipling's short story of the same name, "The Man Who Would Be King" gets off to a slow start, but becomes an entertaining adventure yarn once the main characters reach their destination. Consequently, the film could stand to lose about 30 minutes, mostly in the first act as the characters meet Kipling and establish their relationship to him. While the framing device and meta-narrative may have worked in the short story, it proves clumsy in the film, showing again that a movie adaptation need not be so slavish to its source material. The rest of the feature moves along at a good pace, featuring solid chemistry between Caine and Connery, well choreographed action set pieces, and an understated moral around the seductive power of wealth. Though certainly not on par with Huston's other, older films it does prove to be a solid piece of entertainment, notwithstanding the need to tighten up its narrative. Video Quality: 4/5 The film is accurately framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec. The transfer features strong and stable black levels, deep and well saturated colors, and contrast that displays the full range of values. Fine detail is decent, but seems to diminish some in wide or establishing shots, though overall sharpness seems to hold up throughout. There are no noticeable artifacts from excessive digital processing, though there are a couple instances of background flutter or flicker. Audio Quality: 3/5 The first 20 minutes of the 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is problematic. There is often a noticeable hiss and dialogue is either muddled, or sounds hollow and harsh. Things noticeably improve in terms of both quality and consistency once the main characters start on their journey. Dialogue then exhibits decent detail and, outside of some thicker accents requiring subtitles, becomes clear and intelligible. Being a mono track there's no surround activity, but the front sound stage has a reasonable breadth. LFE is likewise non-existent, but there is decent depth and fullness with the film's orchestral score. Special Features: 2/5 The extras are on the meager side, but aren't inconsistent with what was available on the 2001 DVD release. Call It Magic: The Making of the Man Who Would Be King (12:00, SD) is a vintage behind-the-scenes that includes a plot synopsis, a look at filming a major action sequence, and interviews with the director and lead actors. Theatrical Trailer (1:06, SD) Collectible Book integrated into the packaging includes numerous production stills, cast and crew biographies, a biography of Rudyard Kipling, and an essay about the film. Recap The Feature: 4/5 Video Quality: 4/5 Audio Quality: 3/5 Special Features: 2/5 Overall Score (not an average): 3.5/5 Warner Home Video turns in a great video presentation but a merely average audio presentation for John Huston's adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling short story. There isn't much to the special features, but it's understandable given the vintage of the film. Owners of the previous DVD edition will likely want to upgrade for the picture quality, but will probably want to wait until a significant drop in price given the audio presentation and the equivalent extras. Those who haven't purchased the title yet may also want to hold off until a suitable price point.