Did we like it?
A pleasing low key atmosphere, coupled with supernatural elements, gave it the beguiling appearance of one of those eerie ghost stories from the early 70s.
What was good about it?
• An excellent cast led by the reliable Jason Flemyng as hunter Jim Corbett and supported by Jay Villiers, Jodhi May, Christopher Simpson and Roshan Seth.
• The clinical personality of Corbett, who could offend natural sensibilities in his obsession to snare the leopard which had been preying on more than 100 villagers in northern India. He asked the distraught relatives of partially devoured victims if the dead could remain where they were in order to lure the beast back to its meal. But his insistence that the leopard “needed to kill again” so he could set a trap, came back to haunt him when his friend Sanji became its next victim.
• Being produced by the BBC’s Natural History department also ensured a healthy dose of educational dialogue about such things as how the leopard developed a taste for human flesh by feasting on the myriad corpses left unburied after the influenza epidemic following World War One.
• The sub-plot of the bumbling local British official William Ibbotson, who is utterly culturally alienated from the villages he is in charge of, and his lonely, frustrated wife Jean who falls in love with Corbett.
• While stretching credibility, the manner in which the leopard was assumed to adopt anthropomorphic traits – the leopard’s very human sense of revenge and tracking down the people who were hunting it – added to the tension.
• The conclusion when it was revealed why the Hindu belief that a spirit returns to a place it loves was repeated many times; and older Jim Corbett (Geoffrey Palmer) was really a ghost and was returning to the scene of his life before his ghostly disappearance into thin air.
What was bad about it?
• Most of the characters seemed to have attended the William Shakespeare School for Florid Language. Pundit described how Corbett “walked like a ghost, not a leaf moves” and how “mortals are not meant to kill spirits”.
• Because it was “based on true events”, the artificially wrought elements jarred uncomfortably and sometimes sent it spinning back in to the sphere of fictional drama such as when the leopard begins to stalk its hunter Corbett; first chasing him and Jean as they enjoy a stroll, and then killing both Sanji and Pundit.
• A few stragglers from the world of 70s horror clichés turned up – as Corbett and Jean fled the leopard, Corbett stumbled; and as they cowered in their home an ominous feline shadow was cast on the wall, but it was only a cat.