Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Heatwave movies: Hatari!

Director Howard Hawks reteams with John Wayne, who heads a group of highly skilled professional game hunters in Africa. Only they don't use bullets - they capture the ferocious big game with strong rope and cameras for zoos and circus attractions. It is an exciting business that pits man against beast. HATARI means "danger" in Swahili, but HATARI also means a spectacular adventure film.

Well yes, though some judicious editing could have removed most of Red Buttons' annoying character, Pockets - a little of him goes a long way. Nowadays we look at animals and game hunting in a different light to what we did 50 years ago .... but this remains an amiable, good-natured film, even if at least half an hour too long, at over 150 minutes! 
We see our hunters chasing all these animals - giraffe, zebra, water buffalo etc - only with the rhino does the danger element come to the fore. What is it with these macho directors and big game hunting - John Huston was always after big game too during his forays in Africa for THE AFRICAN QUEEN, THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN etc.
Wayne faced up nicely to young Sophia Loren a few years earlier when he was Joe January in another of our favourites, LEGEND OF THE LOST - here another Italian girl Elsa Martinelli is effortlessly chic as she and Wayne play out that Hawksian courtship - as we see from all those other Hawks items like ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, RIO BRAVO, MAN'S FAVOURITE SPORT etc. This time she doesn't actually say "I'm hard to get, all you've got to do is ask" (as Dickinson and Bacall said) but its the same situation. With Hawks, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I was stunned in MAN'S FAVOURITE SPORT - essentially the same movie as BRINGING UP BABY - the same ripped dress scene replayed by Rock Hudson and Maria Perschy, while Paula Prentiss was another delicious Hawks heroine, like Jean Artur or Angie D. Elsa Martinelli's Dallas here has to become part of the group and show she is a good sport before that romantic climax - she even gets co-opted by the local native women for that dance!. 
The baby elephants are a nice touch - as Henry Mancini provides one of his best scores, with that "Baby Elephant Walk". The protracted climax as the elephants run through Nairobi (?) looking for Dallas is joyous fun too.

So, its the usual Hawks fare - the group of men doing dangerous work and their code of comeraderie - and the outsider, the smart woman who has to prove her worth. Basically HATARI is ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS set in Africa, with added humour. 
I like too the names of Hawks' characters - the girls here are Dallas and Brandy, then there is Pockets the side-kick, RIO BRAVO had Feathers and Colorado, EL DORADO young James Caan as Mississippi. There is often an attractive younger guy in the mix in Hawks films too: Dewey Martin in LAND OF THE PHAROAHS, Ricky Nelson in RIO BRAVO, Caan in EL DORADO (virtually a remake of RIO BRAVO) and here we get two of them - European actors Gerard Blain (The Frenchman) and Hardy Kruger (The German), who head off together to Paris. HATARI too has that 1962 look in spades - its nice to pour a long cool drink or three, and settle down for a couple of hours in that Hawksian universe.  I hope no baby elephants were harmed during its making. Right: BRINGING UP BABY redux?

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