Jack Cardiff's Dark of the Sun aka The Mercenaries is a terrific men on mission action movie that sees Rod Taylor's mercenary hired to take an armoured train into the heart of the civil war-torn Congo to make sure that $25m of diamonds doesn't fall into rebel hands and - though it's of minor importance - rescue the local mining officials. Naturally things don't go according to plan: having already had one costly run-in with a UN plane, they arrive to find the rebels advancing on the town but the time lock on the diamond vault set for three hours time, and the situation naturally goes downhill from there...
It's the kind of film that would be described as politically incorrect today, yet it's not as simplistic as it sounds. While it doesn't shy away from the tribal atrocities of the Simbas, which veer from convincingly chaotic scenes of torture to male rape even in the edited for TV version, it doesn't shy away from white tribal violence either, be it Peter Carsten's child-killing Nazi villain or even its hero's descent into self-righteous savagery in the finale, while the film's most politically articulate character is Jim Brown's second-in-command who's there for the future of his country rather than the pay. Indeed it surrounds Taylor with characters whose morality chips away at the "I'm just a hired hand" platitudes he hides behind: even Kenneth More's drunken doctor rediscovers a sense of purpose and integrity even though he's well aware of the futility of his own last stand. Not that the ongoing morality play gets in the way of the action: this is the kind of film where Peter Carsten's weapon of choice for taking on Taylor mano-a-mano is a chainsaw.
Reuniting Taylor and Cardiff after Young Cassidy, co-written by that famous keyboardist Q. Werty (actually Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ranald MacDougall, who'd traversed similar terrain on Objective, Burma!) and given A-list production values, a more than decent supporting cast - Yvette Mimieux, Andre Morell, Calvin Lockhart - and a terrific and unusual Jacques Loussier score that, along with Rod Taylor, Tarantino used in Inglorious Basterds, it's an extremely well-crafted film. The last third does lose a bit of traction, the film not taking advantage of our anti-heroes running out of gas and being stranded until they can get some more to create some tension because the Simbas just give up the chase, opting for a more personal battle as Taylor and Carsten pick up their fight from where they left off. Yet despite its flaws it's still a remarkably satisfying genre picture.
Warner Archive's MOD DVD-R release is a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer but it's the same version that plays on TCM in the States (the label's titles tend to use TV masters since their limited pressing runs makes it unviable to remaster just for DVD-R), which appears to be slightly censored for TV - though quite how heavy those cuts are is open to debate, since there may be an element of people's memories playing tricks in just how violent the original theatrical version was. Either way it's as good as we're likely to get, and throws in the original theatrical trailer as well, also in 2.35:1 widescreen.
on 27 August 2011
it's great that "warner bros" have been sifting through their archives to release the more obscure films. "dark of the sun" is one that i have been waiting for and finally, here it is.
this war film is a bit like "the wild geese" of the 1960s with the simbas, political corruption, double-crosses and slim odds of success in the operation, in evidence.
behind the scenes, it was a difficult shoot, what with kenneth more having some of his scenes cut before filming them and also ones that didn't make the finished film, plus rod taylor and jim brown engaging in arguments, turning up late for filming, boasting about what big stars they thought they were and petty "point-scoring" over each other. all the above led to moments of considerable tension throughout.
however, the results are marvellous. there is plenty of action to keep the viewer happy and occupied, the fighting sequence between the plane and the train is one of the best.
during the scene where the soldiers rescue those civilians from the clutches of the simbas, the action is both pulsating and brutal.
i wouldn't be surprised if "dark of the sun" had been granted an "x" certificate for its british release as the violence content is considerable for a film of this period as it is rather barbariac and stomach-churning.
my favourite performance is that of kenneth more, he was and is an under-rated actor. specialising in playing cheeky, happy-go-lucky, stiff upper lip characters, he plays a somewhat different one in this film as the slightly tragic and sad doctor who is a shadow of his former self, thanks to the demon drink. he does display moments of humour though, the scenes of him drunk and incapable are quite amusing and i love the bit where he enters a shooting contest in the bar. kenneth more was quoted as calling the filming of this film "the only unhappy experience i have had during my acting career."
if you love war movies, you will love this one.
on 14 September 2014
I'm a big fan of action films and especially war films, bought this after reading the good reviews and as I'd never seen or heard of it before, A bit dated at times but good action scenes and some scenes that are uncomfortable to watch as you know things like that actually happened. Would recommend.
on 27 November 2013
Rod Taylor made a lot of good action movies in the 60's, and this is one of his best, good cast including Kenneth More who I admire a lot. Not available in the UK so bought it thro Warner Archive which is a great source of Great Movies.
I would recommend this movie to anyone .
on 12 June 2015
One of the very best of this type of mercenary action movie, this stars of course the fantastic Rod Taylor, always one of my very favourite actors, and of course amongst cinema’s greatest ever he-men.
Like many of these movies, it’s trying to be more than it is, and frankly, it’s probably full of ‘ists and ‘isms by today’s standards, but hell, it’s vastly entertaining. Action, forced emotion, this has it all in the usual manner, and in spades!
The very lovely Yvette Mimieux in those ludicrously tight white trousers ! Peter Carsten as one of the screen’s most hissable and OTT villains ever. Jim Brown, always fun to see, and Kenneth Moore always a joy as well as Andre Morell, one incarnation of Quatermass. And Yvette Mimieux in those amazing trousers.
Oh yes, the plot. Armed guys on a train go through enemy territory to recover civilians. And not everybody knows the whole plan.
Great, simple entertainment. The good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. In the right mood, I can want for nothing more if I have this and a beer.
on 12 February 2015
Great to see this again, better than I remembered from having seen it many years ago on TV, Rod Taylor in good form, not the greatest movie ever made, but certainly watchable, and quite gripping in parts, since no one else has made a film about the Congo civil war, as far as I know. Confused moralising and violent action (but censored), I wonder if an uncut version still exists?
on 21 July 2014
This is as I remember, a truly excellent movie and this was echoed by other members of my family that I lent it to.
on 21 April 2016
Rough, tough mercenary actioner starring the underrated Aussie Rod Taylor with support from Jim Brown, Kenneth More, Yvette Mimieux, Andre Morrell and excellent boo-hiss villiany from German actor Peter Carsten. Directed by Jack Cardiff in Jamaica (standing in for Congo locations) it is based on a book by Wilbur Smith which in turn is based on real events in the Belgian Congo. The story: Curry (Rod Taylor) and Ruffo (Jim Brown) are hired by President (Calvin Lockhart) to go into hostile Simb@ country to rescue uncut diamonds held in a bank vault and as an afterthought rescue some wh ite people including Claire (Yvette Mimieux). Using an armed train to traverse the country, the mercenaries are witness to chaos, destruction, mutilation and death. With scenes of torture and r pe (albeit from a distance) as the Simb@'s run amok, it is not for the squeamish because it is rather realistic. Professionally acted and directed it is, up to now, THE mercenary film for aficionado's of the genre. Some small criticisms: The final act where a relationship based on mutual respect becomes something akin to an unrequited love affair is inconsistent with the previous two acts. The idea that Curry would have himself placed under arrest is implausible given the events in the previous two acts. There are some obvious inserts using back projection. The alternative title - The Mercenaries - makes more sense than 'Dark of the Sun, which means nothing. Lastly, there are some jarring cuts that we will come to later. This is available on the Warner's Archives Collection label, a MOD (Manufactured on Demand) DVD-R. There are stories that these DVD-R's can't be read on DVD players but this worked fine in my Sony DVD player. The colours are vibrant and consistent but there are a lot of specks throughout the picture probably due to it's age. It is presented in 16x9 widescreen. Grain is barely noticeable. Outdoor scenes are especially good, indoor ones not so. The only extra is a trailer. As this is a MOD DVD i.e. one produced in small amounts for a limited market by a company that knows that people want it but won't produce it in large enough numbers lest it be stuck with unsold stock, this is probably your only shot at owning it unless Tarantino starts a campaign to have it released on Blu Ray. As such it's worth buying as it is because it might well be your only chance to own it. Lastly, I''m yet to be convinced that this has been cut excessively. The DVD runs at 140: 26 seconds and is consistent with its 1968 running time. Tales of nuns being fed to crocodiles are legendary but that it what they are. There are obvious cuts of the fight between Curry and Carsten but were these done by Cardiff? Having read around the subject, it seems to me that the cuts were made by Cardiff before distribution although it's possible those scenes exist in the archives somewhere. I saw this on TV a few times and it seems like this version is the same as I saw then.
on 3 May 2016
As another reviewer has commented this is an ultra macho film about mercenaries in 60s Africa. Rod Taylor is perfect and convincing in the lead ably supported by Jim Brown who was probably the best American football player in history and also a pretty decent action hero. The film is very taut and focused much like the lead character in the movie and stands up very well to the test of time. Warner Archives dvds are region free I understand so anyone with a British or European dvd player should be able to watch this brilliant film.
on 29 August 2011
This movie was first released in 1968(2011) in Widescreen 2.4.1, Metrocolour and runs 101 minutes. The sound and picture quality are very good and the extra is a Widescreen trailor. The film starts at the airport in Congo where many people are checking out to leave the country, some claiming their families were killed by 'Simbas'. A plane taxis the runway where the UN army is guarding. Waiting passengers rush the gates. Captain Bruce Curry(ROD TAYLOR) and his sergeant Ruffo(JIM BROWN) come out of the plane and the UN troops reluctantly allow them in, seeing orders from the President. At President Ubi's(CALVIN LOCKHART) residence, Curry is introduced to the Belgium Mining Company and Ubi tells Curry to get a train together for Port Reprieve, north, 300 miles through rebel territory. The mining company has diamonds there worth $50 million which the President also needs. Curry is given 3 days for his mission. Curry is offered $50 thousand and a pass to get through UN lines. At the pub Curry and Ruffo plan the train, troops, guns and money. They take Captain Henlein(PETER CARSTEN) and ask him to get 40 of his best men. Curry persuades alcoholic Doctor Wreid(KENNETH MOORE) to come along, after offering him Whisky and money. Whole night is spent getting the train ready. The news spreads in town that the train was going north for $50 million worth diamonds. Next morning the train leaves loaded with men, ammunition and guns into the Congo jungle. Their first hurdle comes when a plane attacks the train, but the tunnel saves them. Next they pick up Claire(YVETTE MIMIEUX), a suvival from Simbas. The train arrives at deserted Mbapa Junction, where Henlein shoots 2 children and a fight breaks between Curry and him, which Ruffo breaks. Finally at 3pm, they arrive at Port Reprieve, where people are waiting. The Superindentent tells Curry that the radio had announced that the train was coming and that the diamonds were locked in a safe, which won't open until 6 pm. As they load the train with people, the Simbas are not far away.
This story of WILBUR A SMITH is beautifully photographed in Metrocolour and Widescreen by EDWARD SCAIFE and briskly directed by JACK CARDIFF. There is good background music by JACQUES LOUSSIER. The action scenes are very good, and some of the very violent scenes have been removed. The actors give good performances.
ROD TAYLOR(RODNEY STURT TAYLOR) was born on 11.1.1930 in Lidcombe, Sydney, Australia. His great-great grand uncle, Captain Charles Sturt, was a famous British explorer of the outback Australia in the 19th century. Taylor decided to become an actor after seeing Sir Lawrence Olivier in Australia. He worked on radio and stage. While visiting Los Angeles, he signed up for MGM in 1954. He did many TV westerns like Cheyenne, Maverick and Wagon Train. After many films, he returned to TV in the 1970's, like The Oragon Trail, Murder she wrote and Walker Texas Ranger. He returned to Australia and did some films there in 1977, 1983 and 1997. His first wife was PEGGY WILLIAMS(1951-1954), second wife model MARY HILEM(1963-1969) and 3rd wife CAROL KIKUMURA(1980). Rod Taylor is now 81 years old.
Some of Rod Taylor's films are:-
(1) King of the Coral Sea, 1954
(2) Top Gun, 1955
(3) The Birds, 1963
(4) The V.I.P's, 1963
(5) 36 Hours, 1965
(6) Hotel, 1967
(7) Chuka, 1967
(8) The Train Robbers, 1973
(9) Trader Horn, 1973
(10)On The Run, 1983
Watch and ENJOY.