The Rains Came has some very impressive special effects. This took me completely by surprise since I was only watching it as a Myrna Loy film. It deservedly won an Academy Award for its special effects and they still hold up today.
The India of The Rains Came is one that I suspect could only exist in romantic fiction. Its setting, Ranchipur, is not a real place. Accepting this, the film itself isn’t that great for most of its first half, and is perhaps only notable for being extremely cheesy. With perhaps one exception (George Brent as Tom Ransome), the characters aren’t particularly interesting… or even likeable.
Something happens coming up to half time that turns everything on its head and tests everyone’s character. From here things get better and it turns out to be quite an entertaining film. It doesn’t go for tired clichés like making all the British or natives either ignoble or noble. There’s a mix of characters from either side, although the main focus is on the colonials. It’s still a cheesy enough film but one that engages as its characters develop. I found myself enjoying it quite a lot by the end even though I can’t think of too much to recommend it beyond the special effects, George Brent and Myrna Loy. As a disaster film it comes out quite well seeing as it’s a decent drama that happens to feature a disaster as a plot device, and isn’t just a one-trick pony.
A bit of an aside, but disaster films go back quite a way. Some of the earliest ones were about the sinking of the Titanic. One of these, In Nacht und Eis was from 1912 (the year of the tragedy). It’s not quite feature-length and is available to view online (presumably it’s out of copyright). Couldn’t find a version with English intertitles, though.