Captain Harry Lewis (Guy Rolfe) of the East India Company is the only person interested in the reports of over a thousand disappearances, attempting to bring the mystery to the attention of his superiors. However, Colonel Henderson (Andrew Cruickshank) is more concerned with solving the mystery of how English merchants' caravans are similarly disappearing without a trace. To get Lewis off his back, Henderson agrees to an investigation, but opts to hand the reigns to the inexperienced and pompous Captain Connaught-Smith (Allan Cuthbertson). Frustrated at Connaught-Smith's bungling and the general disdain he has for the Indian people, Lewis quits the Company to carry out his own inquiry, and uncovers a murderous cult who make sacrifices in the name of their god, Kali. Led by the High Priest of Kali (George Pastell), the gang's influence goes all the way to the very top, which is how they have managed to remain in the shadows for centuries.
The Stranglers of Bombay is low on horror but higher on adventure. The violence is implied rather than shown, but the film doesn't shy away from their grotesque acts. Eyes and tongues are removed, but most are garrotted with a ceremonial silk scarf. It's off-camera, but nevertheless effective. When the action is away from the thugees, the story plays out more like a period detective thriller, as Lewis plunges himself deeper into this secret world while the population denies the group's very existence. It's no surprise then to learn that frequent Hammer collaborator Terence Fisher is behind the camera, who would always shoot efficiently and make his films appear more expensive than they actually were. The absence of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is almost always felt when watching a Hammer horror, but leading man Guy Rolfe proves to be a perfectly watchable leading man, earning our sympathy as the one decent white man in a company of incompetent and uncaring fellow officers. While more attention could have been given to the suffering of the Indian people, the film's heart is certainly in the right place, making it one of Hammer's most interesting, while not their most thrilling, entries into the genre.
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Starring: Guy Rolfe, Allan Cuthbertson, Andrew Cruickshank, George Pastell, Jan Holden