Everyone knows that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (a) isn’t very good and (b) is largely borrowed from/an homage to Gunga Din.

Now, it is almost as widely assented that Gunga Din is good, or at least not very bad. Why is this so?

Partly, I think, this is because it was made in the 1930s, instead of set in the 1930s; set in the c19, a story about British imperial rule over India and crackdown on Thuggee makes some sense. Whereas the same story set in the 1930s (hi, Gandhi) and made in the 1980s, doesn’t.

Partly I think this is because, well, even if you don’t think Cary Grant is obviously cooler than Harrison Ford, you must concede that Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. are cooler than Willie and Short Round.

But here is my question: Gunga Din is actually not much based on “Gunga Din”. What is it based on/ripped off from? Partly Soldiers Three, I gather, but is that all of it?

And how is it that the Wikipedia page on Gunga Din omits to mention the Beatles’ Help (which is also very good, or at least not very bad) among its descendants?

Finally, we should note that “Gunga Din” gives this post its title, in a phrase that George MacDonald Fraser used for his memoirs of World War II—in case you thought he was funning you with Flashman’s value system, he wasn’t.

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