Sunday, October 4, 2015

Colonialism Watch: Dark of the Sun (1968)

For some time, SimonUK had been insisting I see this movie after we'd watched Wild Geese (1978).  He assured me Dark of the Sun (1968) would be manly, but I also knew it would have some fairly serious overtones as, like Wild Geese, it's a movie about the end of colonialism, in this case, it's in the revolutionary period in The Congo.  As the colonists gave up and lost power, locals who were trying to maintain their place all across the continent were surprised to find that maybe the locals had taken exception to being under the European boot heel, and maybe that meant, well...  Fast forward to 2015, and check in on the Congo now.

The movie was made when people weren't really sure what would happen, and so takes place as a new President has taken power, but lost the backing of European banks and other supporters.  He calls in a mercenary, played by The Time Machine's Rod Taylor in a role that could not be more different from his starry-eyed scientist, who arrives with Jim Brown, playing a Congolese native who has been educated in the US but is in The Congo trying to lend support where he can to the right causes.

All of this takes a bit to sort out, as our mission is to board a train, get to a mining colony a day's-plus ride away, and get back to the Capital in 3 days with $50 million in diamonds (that's about $340 million in today's dollars).  Oh, and bring back the colonists safely, too.

He recruits a German ex-Nazi soldier working Congolese security and his forces, and a drunkard doctor for color, and they're off.

The movie doesn't pull punches with the risks, the moral compromise or the bodycount.  It also looks both backward at the patriarchal society crumbling and burning (and doesn't seem to have a positive opinion of those stewards), and forward toward the potential for The Congo through the eyes of Jim Brown's character - even as he sees the chaos all around him.

So it's an interesting film for what sometimes wants to be an action film, but at the end of the day has a conscience and a heart.  Curry, Taylor's character, has been taking from the situation for so long, profiting as a mercenary, that when he's asked about how he actually sees the situation around him, you get the feeling he really hasn't thought on it, not in those terms.  He's always had the ability to walk out and go live anywhere else when he wants to, there's nothing at stake for him here.

All this, and gun fights with Spitfires, fistfights that involve trains and chainsaws, and drunk doctors to sober up.  It's a heck of a movie, really.  Highly recommended.

No comments: