A bronzed and Brylcreemed Victor Mature plays Ken Duffield, an American soldier turned white hunter, in this turgid colonial romance that also stars a benzedrine-thin Janet Leigh as a former showgirl on holiday with her pompous billionaire fiancé.
When the dreaded Mau-Mau horribly butcher his wife and son with the aid of one of his Kikuyu “house boys,” Jeroge (Bermuda-born actor Earl Cameron), Ken vows to avenge them. He escorts Linda Latham (Leigh) and the increasingly erratic and demanding Sir Vincent Brampton on safari, intending to use the hunting expedition to locate his nemesis and kill as many Mau-Mau as possible.
Also features Zanzibari child actor Juma as Odongo, a tagalong scamp prone to bouts of loud, forced laughter.
There are a number of British Pathé newsreels about the Mau Mau uprising available online and they’re worth screening in part because they evince clear parallels with our own moment.
It’s strange to see Dirk Bogarde– generally more well-known for the films he did with Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey or even The Night Porter— in this late imperial romance. Though there’s room here for a soft liberal critique of British colonialism in Africa– Bogarde’s Alan Howard is poisoned by his hatred of all black Kenyans in the aftermath of his brother’s murder by the Mau-Mau– the film argues for a kind of enlightened paternalism. There were a whole string of films devoted to this version of the Empire as an ultimately beneficent if sporadically violent enterprise (Zulu, Something of Value, etc.) during the era of decolonization.
Some exceptions. The mirror image; the clinch; woman in background grasping man, man in distant background, not touching.
Woman in the background, man in front. She’s at a greater distance. At least there’s no physical contact. She’s always looking at him
Man behind woman: extremely close, grasping her upper body. A common visual element with differing dramatic valences.