The Stranglers of Bombay

The Stranglers of Bombay
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Guy Rolfe
Jan Holden
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography Arthur Grant
Edited by Alfred Cox
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
4 December 1959 (UK), May 1960 (US)
Running time
80 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 295,011 admissions (France)[1]

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.[2]


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 friend of Henderson's.

Lewis believes a gang is murdering both the men and animals of the caravans and then burying the bodies, and suspects that the culprits have secret informants among the merchants of the city. He presents Connaught-Smith with his evidence and his theories, but is dismissed. He is also later caught by the Thugees and sentenced to die by the bite of a cobra, but is rescued by a pet mongoose, forcing the cult's high priest to release him. However, Connaught-Smith remains 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, as they believe, will discourage the bandits. Ram Das, Lewis' houseboy, believes he has seen his brother, Gopali, who disappeared some years ago, and receives permission to search for him. Lewis later 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 hidebound Captain Connaught-Smith leads the caravan and foolishly allows the stranglers (in the guise of travellers) to join them. That night, the Thugs strike with their usual success; Connaught-Smith survives only until the Thugs start burying the bodies, whereupon he is killed too.

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, who casts the high priest onto the pyre instead, and the two men escape in the ensuing tumult. Lewis and Gopali race to meet Patel Shari, the merchants' local representative, who is dining with Henderson. Gopali identifies Patel's chief servant as a Thug; Patil kills his follower to hold his tongue, thereby exposing himself. Following this, Lewis' resignation is revoked, and he receives a promotion from Henderson for his help in exposing the Thuggee cult. The film ends with a narrative display detailing that the Thugee cult was subsequently wiped out by the British, and a quotation by Major General William Sleeman: "If we have done nothing else for India, we have done this one good thing."


Historical accuracy

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.[3]


The Stranglers of Bombay currently holds an average three star rating (6.4/10) on IMDb.


  1. Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
  2. "The Stranglers of Bombay (1960) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast". AllMovie. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  3. The Stranglers: The Cult of Thuggee and Its Overthrow in British India, George Bruce
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