When Disney released a live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book last year, many seemed to have forgotten that this was the second live-action version of the story that Disney had ever made. The first was released in 1994 and stars Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli, Lena Headey (aka Cersei) as Katherine and Cary Elwes as Boone. I for one, can never wholly forget this film because it has a number of disturbing moments in the second half, one of the most disturbing coming in the Monkey City.
“The Salt Trap” from The Jungle Book (1994) (start at 1:01)
Unlike the animated film, where the Monkey City is just a pile of crumbling ruins, this version is not only loaded with treasure, but is also filled with booby traps of all kinds. Mowgli is forced by Boone and his compatriots to lead them to Monkey City so they can help themselves to the treasure (despite Mowgli’s warnings that the city is dangerous). By the time they get inside the city, most of Boone’s henchmen are dead, but a hunter named Buldeo (who incidentally left Mowgli’s father to die at the beginning of the film) is still alive and he is relentlessly pursuing Mowgli, intent on killing him. But this is complicated because Wilkins (another associate), accidentally shot him in the leg shortly before he was mauled to death by Shere Khan.
Limping all the way, Buldeo seemingly has Mowgli cornered in a sunken pavilion, when a stray shot unexpectedly causes a decoration to burst out of the wall, pouring salt out on the floor. This trips a chain reaction, where more and more decorations burst out, spilling more and more salt, and the reason why becomes clear; as the salt spills out, the roof of the pavilion is slowly lowering, meaning Mowgli and Buldeo are caught in a trap! Mowgli is able to leap out of the pit to safety, but Buldeo is hampered by his wounded leg and must hobble for the stairs, but he is caught in the growing streams of salt. I’m convinced it is salt and not sand because the material causes Buldeo intense pain in his wounded leg (and salt is very bad for open wounds). All this time the ceiling is slowly but surely descending, to Buldeo’s mounting panic as it becomes clear he will NOT be able to get out in time. By the end, he is futilely pressing against the ceiling in an attempt to stop the inevitable…with a final scream the ceiling clamps down on the floor, entombing Buldeo forever in that small pit, where he will quickly suffocate (unless that salt fills up the space first).
This scene terrified me as a child, because I would have nightmares of being trapped in that kind of a situation. To this day I can’t believe this film is ONLY rated PG because, in no particular order, we have: a man drowning in quicksand; a man being mauled to death by a tiger, people being shot, falling to their deaths, etc. But of all the deaths, Buldeo being buried alive in the Salt Trap is by far the most disturbing of all. I’d actually nearly put this scene out of my mind but I’m glad I remembered it so I could share it with all of you.
What do you think of the Salt Trap in this film? Does it disturb you? Can you believe they put this in a movie for kids? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, I’d love to hear about it.
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