Friday, September 6, 2013

DARK OF THE SUN

The poster for DARK OF THE SUN (1968), virtually screams men's adventure magazine cover art. Note: nothing like the scene depicted above actually occurs in the film but who the hell cares? The one-sheets for DARK OF THE SUN were selling the sizzle, not the steak, although the steak is pretty darned tasty.

DARK OF THE SUN is one of those movies that I always wanted to see when I was a kid but never did. I missed it on first release and never had a chance to see it over all of these years. I purchased a DVD copy of the film not long ago and yesterday afternoon, I finally scratched a forty-five-year old itch.

Based on a novel by Wilbur Smith, DARK OF THE SUN is an action/adventure film starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown and Yvette Mimieux (Taylor and Mimieux had previously co-starred in THE TIME MACHINE (1960)). The setting is the then present day Congo, a country torn apart by violent revolution. Mercenary captain Curry (Taylor) is hired by the Congolese President to rescue the European residents of an isolated small town that is about to be attacked by the murderous Simbas. But his real mission is to retrieve fifty million dollars worth of diamonds from a mining company's vault.

Curry, in the tradition of all great guys-on-a-mission movies, assembles a team. Ruffo (Jim Brown) is his right hand man and second-in-command. Dr. Wreid (Kenneth More), is a drunk who is only good at patching up wounded men. And Henlein (Peter Carsten) is a vicious ex-Nazi who, despite his murderous ways, is a much needed player on the team.

Curry and his band of mercenaries set off on a train into the jungle on their mission of mercy. Things go bad right from the start when the train is strafed by an airplane. Curry and Henlein later engage in a knockdown, drag out fight along the train tracks, with Henlein swinging a chainsaw (an image used on the main one-sheet for the film). Along the way, they pick up Claire (Yvette Mimieux), the only survivor of a Simba massacre.

Once the train reaches its' destination, there are more problems to overcome. While the townspeople are put aboard the train, Curry learns that the diamonds are in a time-locked vault which cannot be opened for three hours. Three hours he doesn't have to spare because the Simbas are coming.

There's an exciting battle and escape sequence in which the mercenaries and their passengers get away but lose the diamonds forcing Curry, Ruffo and Henlein to sneak into the Simba controlled town at night to steal the diamonds out from under them.

But when their vehicles begin to run out of fuel, Curry must leave the convoy to get to a train station and telegraph a message for help. He leaves Ruffo in command. Henlein kills Ruffo, believing him to be in possession of the diamonds. When Curry returns to find Ruffo dead and Henlein escaping, he flies into a murderous rage,. He tracks the ex-Nazi down and they engage in a brutal fight to the death. Curry kills Henlein in a vicious manner (and ends up with his shirt looking like it belongs to Doc Savage). Curry, realizing that he's no better than Henlein because of the way he killed him, surrenders himself for court-martial at the end of the film.

Directed by Jack Cardiff and filmed on location in Jamaica, DARK OF THE SUN is a pedal-to-the-metal B-movie that drips perspiration from every men's sweat magazine ever published. It's got everything: mercenaries, ex-Nazi's, a beautiful woman stripped to her underclothes in one scene, savage natives, a jungle setting, a train, machine guns and chainsaws. I loved it!

2 comments:

  1. I loved it, too, back when I first saw it in my teens and every time since. I don't know which fight scene is more brutal, this one or the one Rod Taylor did in DARKER THAN AMBER. Oddly, both films have "Dark" in the title.

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  2. Rod Taylor made a decent Travis McGee in DARKER THAN AMBER but I think if more McGee movies had been made in the 1960s, Robert Shaw would have been an interesting choice for the role.

    I've read all of the Travis McGee novels by the late, great John D. MacDonald, along with dozens of his other books. MacDonald is one of the great writers of the American mid-century. I've never read a book by him that I didn't enjoy.

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