Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dark of the Sun (1968)

Jack Cardiff was one of the best cinematographers that ever graced our little earth, but he was also a fine director - which he proved with Dark of the Sun (aka The Mercenaries), a very gritty and brutal war-adventure from 1968. For the first time on DVD, from Triple X in Thailand, it's far from a perfect release (widescreen and anamorphic, but weak picture quality and still has the same old cuts that has been following this movie for years), but gives the world a chance to see what a great flick this is.

Rod Taylor is Captain Curry, a mercenary that takes on himself an almost impossible job i Congo - to save 50-60 people belong to a diamond mine, but also and most important - diamonds worth 50 million dollars! He brings with him the local warrior and soldier Ruffo (Jim Brown) and an alcoholic doctor (Kenneth More). Because of some very bad luck they're also forced to bring with them old nazi officer Heinlein (Peter Carsten) and his private army. After a few minor setbacks, they finally arrive to the village - only to find that the diamonds has been looked into a huge safe that will open automatically in three hours! And it's impossible to open it any other way... and at the same time the rebels are on their way to the mine, and Heinlen is getting more and greedy...

Okey, it's cut and the quality is like VHS - but this dosen't stop this movie from being a fantastic war-adventure with both strong action and emotional content. Jack Cardiff never stays away from the brutality of war, and what's left after censorship is graphic and disturbing. Shot on Jamaica, it looks fantastic with cool jungles, a even cooler train (which much of the action revolves around) and spectacular and realistic action-scenes. Rod Taylor is one of the most underrated leading men I know (together with James Franciscus, Bradford Dillman and Rock Hudson) and sheds a lot of realism to his character. His chemistry with Jim Brown is perfect, and Brown makes one of his finest performances. To be honest, everyone in front of the camera is excellent.

Train-movies has always been one of my guilty pleasures, and Cardiff utilise this location to perfection. Most of the stuff is made without back-projection (except a few longer dialogue-scenes) and it actually seems like Rod and the others are jumping around this train with explosions and gunfire all around them. Very impressive. There's a couple of major action scenes, all very good. I guess the sneak-attack on the rebels orgy is the most famous one, and I guess it's where most of the censorship was done too. But it's hard to notice, it's so good damn fantastic anyway.

You'll have everything here: explosions, graphic violence, action, fine acting, a good story, cool locations and music. It's a movie that someday MUST have a restored DVD release (or Blu, even better!), reconstruction like it should be watched. I'm sure this will happen, but until then I'll stick with my Thai-DVD!


dfordoom said...

I agree that Jack Cardiff was a fine director. I'm especially fond of Girl on a Motorcycle.

Ninja Dixon said...

Haven't seen that one actually, but now I have to!

Have you seen Dark of the Sun?

dfordoom said...

I think I may have seen Dark of the Sun years ago. It sounds vaguely familar.

Bill the Butcher said...

I watched it about 20 years ago. All I recall is the Simba rebel attack on the train station (because of how ridiculous they looked), Henlein rafting down a river, and that Taylor surrendered to his soldiers at the end. That impressed me, because it's the opposite of what normally happens in this kind of movie.

The film was also ten thousand times better than the book, by the way.