Posts Tagged ‘Howard Hawks’

Movie Reviews 454 – Hatari (1962)

October 16, 2020

The name John Wayne is practically synonymous with the Western film genre, The Duke as he was known, having starred in 75 oaters over his career, from his first credited starring role to his very last film. But even The Duke strayed from the tumbleweed trails on occasion, and playing a wildlife catcher in the deepest plains of East Africa in director Howard HawksHatari is easily the oddest of his portrayals.

The irregular choice of casting for the film is echoed by the onscreen content which presents a paradox of scenes that cater to one of two almost diametrically opposed mindsets presented by the plot, or whatever is supposed to one. While the character interactions are all in the realm of corny romantic comedy it is clear that the main attraction of the film was to present sensational  actual live footage of animal captures.

Shot on-site in the plains of the east Africa Serengeti adjoining Lake Tanganyika, the cast are a team of hired catchers who supply zoos worldwide with wild and oversized wildlife. Without getting into the ethics of having zoos with caged animals, this footage is nothing short of breathtaking. There is no CGI of course but no special effects or faked animals either in any way. These captures, caught up close, are rounded between jeeps and trucks with lassos and snares, often from someone sitting on a hood mounted seat inches away from running prey, corralled running full speed. While some of the footage may have been speeded up for drama and I have to assume that professional stand-ins were used for the more dangerous scenes, it is nonetheless exhilarating to experience and worth watching the film for this alone.

Throughout the film we witness, almost in documentary style, the live captures of a giraffe, zebra, gazelle, leopard, water buffalo, wildebeest and even that of five hundred monkeys for one particular ongoing comedy routine. Some of the non-capture sequences also have animals such as ostriches, a crocodile, and hyenas. But the bookends of the film are clearly the most exciting in which they try to capture very much live, rampaging rhinos. The fierceness is undeniable and thrilling.

When the dust settles between chases this group of hunters suddenly transform into the most improbable of band romantic eyed gals and guys that tarnish the realism of the animal sequences. A trio of young men, comic Red Buttons among them, vie for the heart of a barely of-age young woman while we are led to believe that a European photographer catapulted onto the scene has the hots for non other than the reticent Duke himself in what must be the most

dubious May-December romance in cinematic history. The battle of the sexes interludes do have a few fun bits though, so they are bearable to watch until we return to beastly action scenes in short measure.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that this screenplay was yet another from the multi-talented Leigh Brackett. A prolific writer for the movies going back to Film Noir classics, other John Wayne westerns and even Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (arguably the best in the series), she was also a renown Science Fiction writer who was equally if not even more active in that genre.

If nothing else, this is the film that gave us the Baby Elephant Walk song by Henry Mancini even before he was penning The Pink Panther theme.