DAVID BIANCULLI

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FLICK PICKS: Silent epic from India
July 21, 2010  | By Diane Werts
 
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As so many cable channels morph to new formats that abandon their original fans, it's nice to see Turner Classic Movies getting even deeper into "classic" mode.

This weekend's Silent Sunday Nights presentation is a rarity for a showcase that tends to rely on pre-talkie standbys like Buster Keaton and D.W. Griffith. It's a 1929 epic from India, A Throw of the Dice (late July 25 at 12:30 a.m. ET on TCM), adapted from the Sanskrit poem The Mahabharata and featuring everything from a tiger hunt to death by cobra-in-bed.

Rival royals in love with the same woman bet everything on the title game of chance, as German import Franz Osten directs an Indian cast on location in the exotic land that was then still controlled by the British.

And it was the British Film Institute that restored this influential title in 2006, providing a new score by Nitin Sawhney that combines Indian and western music styles. As A Throw of Dice, the restoration subsequently played only film festivals and a couple of big cities in this country, where even cinephiles know little more of the world's largest film industry than Satyajit Ray and Bollywood.

A must-see.

For comparison's sake, here's The New York Times' original 1930 review and TCM's retrospective essay on this rare gem.

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