The Stranglers of Bombay

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The Stranglers of Bombay
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe
Jan Holden
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by Alfred Cox
Release dates
4 December 1959 (UK), May 1960 (US)
Running time
80 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Stranglers of Bombay is a 1959 adventure/horror film directed by Terence Fisher for Hammer Films dealing with the British East India Company's investigation of the cult of Thuggee stranglers in the 1830s. The movie stars Guy Rolfe and Jan Holden and, some believe, influenced Steven Spielberg's 1984 film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It may also have influenced "The Deceivers", a 1988 film with Pierce Brosnan as the officer determined to put an end to the practice of Thuggee. This film featured a thug named Gopal, whose name is very similar to that of Gopali, a thug in the 1959 version.[1]


Captain Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe), of the British East India Company, is investigating why over 2000 natives are missing but encounters a deaf ear from his superior, Colonel Henderson, who is more concerned with the local English merchants' caravans which are disappearing without a trace. To appease them, Henderson agrees to appoint a man to investigate and Lewis believes it will be him. However, he is sorely disappointed when Henderson gives the job to the newly arrived, oblivious Captain Connaught-Smith, the son of an old Henderson friend.

Lewis believes a gang is murdering both the men and animals of the caravans and then burying the bodies. He presents the haughty new man with his evidence, his theories, and later his personal experience of actually seeing the cult but the captain is antagonistic and derisive towards Lewis who eventually resigns his commission in frustration to investigate on his own.

Meanwhile, the merchants decide to band together and create a super-caravan whose size will discourage the bandits, they believe. Ram Das, Lewis' houseboy, believes he has seen his brother, Gopali, who disappeared some years ago, and receives permission to search for him. Lewis learns that Ram Das has been captured by the Thugs when his severed hand is tossed through the window of his bungalow. Soon after, the Thugs compel Gopali Das, a new initiate of the cult, to kill his brother, the dismembered Ram. The hidebound Captain Connaught-Smith leads the caravan and foolishly allows the stranglers in the guise of innocent travellers to join them. That night, the Thugs strike with their usual success.

Lewis and Lt. Silver, a cult member, investigate the caravan's disappearance. Lewis sees the scar that marks Silver as a Thuggee follower of Kali and shoots him in self-defence. Lewis then discovers the buried bodies and goes to the cult's outdoor temple where he is caught and set to die on a burning pyre. Gopali Das, however, now haunted by his brother's death at his own hands, frees Lewis and they escape in the ensuing tumult.

Based on Lewis' evidence, Henderson brings in soldiers to wipe out the cult as he and Lewis confront Patel Shari, the merchants' local representative. Patel's identity as a Thug leader is revealed and Lewis, who now knows the complete plot, kills him. The film ends with Lewis receiving a promotion from Henderson for his help in wiping out the Thuggee cult.


Historical accuracy[edit]

Unlike most Hammer films, Stranglers of Bombay is somewhat historically accurate in describing the religious cult of Kali and the deaths of thousands — some believe millions — at the hands of the Thugs (also known as thaga, pronounced "tahg"). Using modern methods, the British succeeded in wiping out the cult, which may have originated as far back as the 6th Century.[2]


The Stranglers of Bombay currently holds an average three star rating (6.2/10) on IMDb.


  1. ^ "The Stranglers of Bombay (1960) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast". AllMovie. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  2. ^ The Stranglers: The Cult of Thuggee and Its Overthrow in British India, George Bruce

External links[edit]