International Crook (1974)

intlcrook

This movie is what happens when a person (producer/director/writer Pachhi) with money to burn sets out to follow his dream—a dream for which he has no aptitude whatsoever. I can’t even say I wasn’t warned. But the temptation of Dharmendra and Feroz Khan circa 1974 in a film by the awesome name of International Crook proved too much for me to resist. Even the presence of Saira Banu dressed up like a dog’s dinner did not deter me. And while I won’t *quite* say that I’m sorry I watched it, I will say that it is a bad film. A very bad film.

The plot skittered all over the place like a frightened kitten. Continuity was never even a gleam in the director’s eye. I’ll just say that Shekhar (Dharmendra) and Rajesh (Feroz Khan) are best buddies in that weirdly bromantic way of Hindi films. By day Shekhar runs a shipping company, and by night he is Tiger Singh, a renowned smuggler. Rajesh is Superindent of Police and he is sent to catch Tiger and his gang. They both fall in love with Seema (Saira Banu), who is in love with Shekhar—her childhood sweetheart—and who wears vividly patterned sarees.

intlcrook_saree

This naturally leads to much self-sacrificing on the part of both men, with nobody giving any thought to what Seema might think or want. Seema tries to take poison at her own wedding before realizing that Rajesh has bowed out gracefully and she’s married to Shekhar.

intlcrook_poison

This is So Many Kinds Of Wrong that I don’t even know where to begin. When she discovers that Shekhar is also the infamous Tiger Singh, she leaves him and tries to drown herself (I would have let her do it, but someone kinder than I stops her), then inexplicably gives birth to a five-year-old. By the end I did not care if Rajesh caught Shekhar/Tiger or not, if Shekhar and Seema and their son would be reunited or not, and there were suddenly a whole lot of new characters running around in sheikh outfits whom I couldn’t keep straight from one another. 

But as is true of most Hindi films of this era, it did give forth a few moments of pure joy. Todd has covered the awesomeness of the title song (hilariously subtitled for those of us who might not have gotten that Mahendra Kapoor is singing the words “crook crook” over and over again). I am putting it here so that you can have it stuck in your head too:

intlcrook_eyeball

The song punctuates the film throughout (whenever the bad guys spring into action), always subtitled. Shankar and Jaikishan were no more enthusiastic about this film apparently than I am: for the most part, the music is pretty lacklustre and tired.

There is one other fun song though (“Husn-e-Iraane”), which takes place in “Iran” with a very buxom belly dancer whose musicians are four awkward white guys.

intlcrook_goras

The dancer herself is barely contained inside her costume and threatens to burst through (or up over) the seams at any second.

intlcrook_husn

The white “harem girls” standing (or sitting) around are bored and embarrassed, with bad posture. My favorite is the rosy-cheeked one sitting next to Dharmendra, who never takes her deeply suspicious gaze off him. She looks like she’s thinking of pouring the contents of her carafe all over him. Dharam himself doesn’t seem too thrilled to be there either.

intlcrook_gori

There are misfit white people everywhere in this movie, I guess to give it that “international” flavor. Some of it was shot on location in actual, real Alaska.

intlcrook_alaska

Even the Comic Side Plot has its share of white people.

intlcrook_fish

Tiger Singh’s lair is dreary and disappointing:

intlcrook_lair

I mean, come on! Plain stone walls and boxes of nylon filament yarn? His henchmen are an improvement, and include Rajan Haksar, Shyam Kumar and Shetty. They all overact, and basically stand around shouting their dialogues at each other.

intlcrook3

My favorite is poor stupid Sher Khan, whose oft-expressed love for his country is out of place and enrages his bosses and co-henchmen (the theme of the film being that smuggling is bad, is traitorous, and is robbing the motherland of her precious resources).

intlcrook_patriotism

intlcrook_patriot2

According to imdb, Pachhi directed and wrote only one other film, 1967′s Around The World. I’m thinking I can probably give it a miss, unless it holds out temptation in some form:

intlcrook_feroz

in which case, I may cave. He did produce two films I like very much, Howrah Bridge and Jaali Note. Probably he should have stuck with the financing side rather than venturing into the creative.

If you truly long to be entertained by someone with far more money than talent, I would recommend checking out Florence Foster Jenkins. My dad used to listen to her recordings with tears running down his face. Listen to her rendition of Mozart’s “Queen of the Night” aria from The Magic Flute.

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40 Comments to “International Crook (1974)”

  1. Re: “Saira Banu dressed up like a dog’s dinner”

    I think the outfit in the first screencap looks pretty. Maybe I’ll regret saying that one day.

  2. OMG the crook song is stuck in my head now.

    crookcrookcrook
    INTERNATIONAL CHOOOORRRR

  3. Actually, I liked that sari too…but in many scenes she was wearing really girly frilly (or just plain tacky) things :-)

    ppcc: That’s why I put it there. It’s been in my head for two days now which is beginning to feel like a nightmare.

  4. Never, never listen to that “Crook, Crook, Crook, Crook, Crook” song.

    When this movie released on DVD I immediately bought it because I loved the title….was ever so sorry. :(

    And Greta, I have seen AROUND THE WORLD is just as bad, maybe worse….even the lovely Rajshree couldn’t save it.

  5. LOL, it is tooooooo addictive. It’s like a cancer that you can’t root out!

    And thanks for the warning re: Around the World. I am not surprised…

  6. Saira is in there? That settles it, it must be bad. Or maybe not. I remember a couple of other Saira-Dharam outings that were quite watchable. But Dharam is really, really garam here – once I’ve run out of his good movies, I might be tempted by this (his 80s and 90s flicks were a lot worse!). And Around The World has Raj Kapoor who really cant come to the rescue of a bad film in the way that Dharam-Feroz can – so you may want to avoid!

  7. It IS bad. It’s even worse than Saazish.

    You know, when I read that Pachhi had done Around The World I thought “isn’t that a Raj Kapoor film?” Then I thought “You are just paranoid.”

    Now I will run from it, fast and screaming!

  8. The “International Chor” song is my new favorite thing in the whole world. Thank goodness you’re here to find these movies for me!

  9. Yeah the saree in that screen cap does look quite good.

    I like only one song from Around the World (luckily can make do by hearing it on tape or CD) – Chaley Jaana Zara Keh DO Kissi Ka Dil ….)

    I am with you Memsaab about running far away from Raj Kapoor movies esp his later ones!

  10. Oh sweet christ, Memsaab – I went for the Mozart and am I ever sorry. And I’m going to send it to my choir listserv as a cautionary tale.

    I too am very tempted by about half of the description of this movie, but I think I’ll try to be strong and resist. If you and Todd are going to undertake such noble work, I might as well do my end of the bargain and not let your efforts be in vain!

  11. Oh, yuck. I saw this film a few years back because it was coming on TV, and sat through it only because I’m conscientious and didn’t want to get up without seeing the end of the film… makes sense? At least the film didn’t. Awful, awful, awful. I’d forgotten about the song, though, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

    I wonder how long it took them to make this film. Parts of it (like Blackmail) have Dharmendra/Feroz Khan/Saira looking older and wearing much later fashions than other parts – you know, bell bottoms and loud checks (plus that vivid sari of hers) and over-the-collar hair on the men.

  12. Crook crook crook and florence foster … just what I needed for my low mood. Thank you memsaab for these gems.

  13. Dharmendra looks so sad, at least in all the screen caps you have here. Just plain unhappy. All of them do, come to think of it. Thankfully, I’ve never seen this.

    Oh, those poor harem extras. Wondering when they will get paid and go off to the Himalayas.

  14. Hopefully, you haven’t lost faith in Dharmendra and Feroz as a team. If so, you should check out Yash Chopra’s Aadmi Aur Insaan. Not the best of films, but it’ll definitely restore some faith. It also has Saira Banu…and Mumtaz! Oh it has a killer song called Zindagi Ittefaq Hai too. And Ajit as a villain! I wish I had more time for Hindi films. School’s such a waste of time.

  15. My mouth is still wide open. I can’t get over the ‘crook crook crook crook crook’ song. WHAT????? This is why I love Hindi movies, even the terrible ones.

  16. That sound slike a great movie.
    I’ve to watch it!!!!!!!!!!!
    Just to watch the white extras with their boring faces. I just love the whit eextras. or for that matter all sorts of extras. Great are the people, who stand in a crowd and nod their heads to the song the heroine/hero sings.
    Wonderful are the people, who look at each other with hand pressed to their lips and amazed at what the hero or heroine has just sung!
    I’m sure they will inherit the earth!

    DO AVOID “around the world”. It has Walrus like Rajkapoor washing the decks. But Rajshree and Amita do look pretty in their swimcostumes teasing Raj Kapoor. and you have the wonderful screechy Sharda sing around the world in 8 dollars

    BTW, why is the belly dancer’s head smoking?
    Loved Saira’s saree in the first screen cap!
    AND Garam Dharam looks so hot!

    Yeah, I’m just going crook, ccrook, crrook, crroook
    cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckooooooo

  17. Maybe the song says crook rook, crook rook, like Crook stop!
    And maybe RD Burman & Anand Bakshi were inspired by this song as they composed “ruk jaanaa o jaanaa hamse do baatein karke chali jaana” from Warrant! (http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/2008/09/18/ruk-jaana-o-jaana-humse-do-baaten-karke-chali-jaana/)
    And maybe I’ll grow hair on my head again
    And then I’ll own an island in the Carribean and the lion will kiss the sheep and …

    As I said before:
    I’m just going crook, ccrook, crrook, crroook
    cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckooooooo

  18. Anarchivist: You are welcome. I’m glad you aren’t mad at me for it :-)

    Anonymous: That sari was eye-catching, so were some of her others. Truthfully I couldn’t sit through the film again to look for them, though.

    Beth: Oh, Florence Foster Jenkins is a scream (sometimes literally). God bless her. I love the quote attributed to her: “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

    And I think between me and Todd we’ve more than covered the few redeeming qualities. However, if you are tempted believe me—I understand!

    dustedoff: Yes, there was definitely a long hiatus between beginning the film and finishing it. Normally I might say that it was a big problem for the movie, but for this film it’s merely one more thing that went terribly terribly wrong.

    AKNYC: You are also welcome, and I hope your mood is elevated soon!

    Banno: He was most definitely aware that he was in a trashy film. And I used to think that it would be fun to be a gori extra, but none of these people looked like they were having fun. Except maybe the guy with the guitar type thing, but he also looked like he was high.

    R Singh: I’ve seen Aadmi Aur Insaan, and it’s a bit preachy for me although well-intentioned. The songs are GREAT in it though, esp. the one you mention with Mumu.

    DG: You have been warned :-)

    harvey: Yes, the white people were hilarious. The belly dancer’s head is not smoking, that is her hair. I have at least determined that I will not pay money to see Around The World!

  19. In recognition of your heroic efforts to sit through and even review this film (that extra is killing me!), I give you a present this little gem of a spoof….

    the first Punjabi film trailer in English!!! so you don’t need the subtitles, just listen very very carefully…

  20. LOL Bawa! That is FUNNY. So is Fifty Fifty Disco Chor!

  21. Crook crook crook crook crook crook

    I am sure you’ll be getting complaints from Management soon. ;-)

  22. Heh, I think it might finally be wearing off in my brain. It’s taken a while!

  23. Oh, so glad you made the International Crook song available for all to hear! All those subtitles need is a bouncing ball so that we at home can follow along.

    Also very glad that you reviewed this one, because I was too distracted by Feroz and Dharmendra’s time traveling to note some of the finer points, like the odd preponderance of white hippies in the background cast. My only complaint is that I do think you were a little too merciful on Saira with the screencaps. Where’s that yellow toga with fishnet knee-highs ensemble, for example? Bleurghh.

  24. Well, the song is both the best and the worst thing about the film.

    I feel that I am so mean to Saira in general that I didn’t want to single her out, since she actually was fairly benign (i.e. not the worst thing by any stretch) in this. That outfit was fab, but you covered it nicely already :) The time-travel thing didn’t really impinge itself on my brain—I was aware of it, but in a very off-hand way (oh look his hair is long again)…maybe a sign that I watch too many of these films? But the white hippies leapt off the screen at me: “Don’t let this happen to YOU!!!!”

  25. That 50-50 used to be good, one of the highlights of the week. Lots of others are worth seeing like 50-50 One way ticket

    or the sputnik

    Meanwhile I am trying to digest corok crook crook..which is going to become a contagious brain disease…

  26. “…and who wears vividly patterned sarees.”

    So now we know where Madonna (or, rather JPG) got the idea of her famous conical bra from.

  27. Ha ha! The conical bra has been a staple of Indian womanhood since they started making movies! Probably before! I think it’s safe to say we can blame the British for that.

  28. Oh, I have (not-so-fond) memories of this movie. :-)
    I saw it sometime in the mid/late 70s.
    And I also saw Saazish around the same time.
    How pathetic is that !!!

    I remember that “International crook, crook, crook, crook, crook…” song coming on repeatedly throughout the movie. Especially during the fight scenes.

    I seem to vaguely remember a character called P.K. Murray ? Which of course is an Indian spoof on “Pee ke marey” (i.e dead by drinking). Am not sure whether it was this film or Saazish.

    See, how even my memory after 30 years, picks on these 2 movies and finds them indistinguishable. I think a masala of these two might be a new movie that one can propose to Pachhi or somebody who has taken over from him.

    Well, at least you sat through the movie. Kudos for that !

  29. Ha ha, and I sat through Saazish too. What on earth does that say about me?? :-D

    (PK Murray was Rajendranath’s character in Saazish, but I of course didn’t get the whole “death by drinking” thing :-) Better late than never!)

  30. The name Murray became known in India in the mid-70s because of a West Indian cricketer by that name who toured India at that time. So PK Murray seemed a not-very-strange name to have (though totally un-Indian). Just like the name “Kalicharran” which was also the name of a very popular cricketer at that time. And was made into a movie.

    It is fun to watch movies of the 1970s now if only to sometimes laugh at yourself. I know I do that all the time when I watch some movies of that period. But I do respect the movie in the context of the time that it was made.

    Every chance that SRK and co will be laughed at 30 years from today. Hey, am not sure they are not laughed at today already. ;-)

    Anyway, fun to read your reviews – as always.

  31. That’s an interesting screen-cap of the belly dancer – was there a scene that showed her face as well as her…umm…garment-escaping, freedom-loving assets? With her hair obscuring her face, the attention directly goes to her boobs.

  32. Believe me when I say that even with her hair not obscuring her face your attention would go right to her boobs. I liked that screen cap because it showed all the hippie harem girls and her hippie band in their glory.

  33. Oh I know my attention will go there. :)
    It’s just that in that screen-cap she looks like a character from a Japanese horror film.

  34. It’s really something when a person hasn’t even seen the movie, but the movie is emblazoned in one’s brain. Just checking in to inform you that, days later, I am still singing “International Chor!” to myself, and it’s still amusing me. I think half the initial attraction of Hindi films was my life-long propensity to get songs stuck in my head. Now, I have a ready supply of super-catchy tunes that I actually LIKE.

    Better late than never!

  35. LOL Anarchivist :) I am with you on that!

    Crook.crook.crook.crook….

  36. Even though I have been warned by people I trust, even though I have seen and disliked Saazish, I STILL have a near-undeniable temptation to go ahead and watch International Crook. When, O when, will I learn to stop plunging my hand into the fire?

    I guess sometime after I answer the question, “What diabolical plan did he have for that nylon filament yarn???”

  37. Well Keith, I too was warned by people (or person) I trust, and could not resist…so no judging you here. I will enjoy your review more than I did the film, I am sure. IMHO it is worse than Saazish (e.g. no chaddis, no Helen).

  38. watch kallicharan..madan puri is a serial killer who doesnt kill any more ’cause hes already killed his quota of 50 people,his son has killed 34.5 people,why half? cause he killed the last one half since he got only 50%payment classic.

  39. Dear Memsaab,

    I watched this movie on tv. Darmendar is so hot, never mind the quality of the creativeness. He has always been a fashion icon.

  40. i read somewhere that pachhi married dharam’s sister..dunno how far it’s true though

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