Monday, December 20, 2010

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

Director: Cy Endfield

Starring: Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker, Susannah York, Harry Andrews, Theodore Bikel, Nigel Davenport, Barry Lowe

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It's killed or be killed in the Sands of the Kalahari

Plot: A small plane crashes in the sweltering deserts of South Africa hundreds of miles from civilization. As parallels are drawn between the group of humans and a nearby pack of savage baboons, one of the men's survivalist nature gets the better of him, as he decides his chances of survival would be better if the others were eliminated one-by-one.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? ABSOFUCKINGLUTELY!

About a year ago I watched a crap fullscreen VHS rip of this on the recommendation of an Australian movie podcast. I was blown away. Even shitty pan & scan couldn't keep me from being riveted by this picture. It's never been released on DVD so you can image how I almost pissed myself when I found a great looking widescreen print floating out there somewhere. It didn't take a day or two of having it in my hands before I gave it a second go. Damn, this needs a proper release so it can find a new audience. It's a damn fine action/adventure/thriller and it's got one of the best endings I've ever seen. It's truly one of those, "HOLY FUCKING SHIT!" yell out loud moments and it ain't pretty.

There are lots of great scenes but there's one in particular that says an awful lot about Brian, the man whose survival, animalistic tendencies take him down a dark, dark path. There are a lot of primal parallels between the humans in this story and their simian neighbors. Grace sees Brian as the strongest of the survivors, the hunter, the alpha male. She's very attracted to that and evolution dictates that she wants him...she needs him.

GRACE: It's not just anyone is it? Tell me you want ME.

BRIAN: [sighs] Ahhhh, not anymore, Mrs. Munkton.
I want what I haven't got and I've already got you.

The performances all around are great. The hopelessly endless desert landscape is frightening and harsh. That they're so close to the very dangerous baboons and there is a limited food source (fruits and vegetables) makes it even more tense. Stuart Whitman's decent to his primal self feels natural and believable. I won't spoil anything about the conclusion but I will say that there are few survivors. This isn't your typical 60s action adventure. This is brutal.

I watch about 250 or more movies a year. There's a good balance, I think, between the crap and the good-to-really-good stuff but I do come across a film every once in a while that burns itself into my memory as one I will champion for the rest of my days. SANDS OF THE KALAHARI is one of those films. That it has yet to make its way to DVD is a crime. You need to see this. I'm not saying it's going to be your new favorite but in an age where so much is available at your fingertips, it's almost a crime NOT to speak up when something so deserving is being neglected. Maybe it will make your top 100 favorite films but you won't know until you see it. It would be an interesting thing for me to come up with my top 100 and revise and compare that list every few years. It would be ever evolving.

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