Dark of the Sun
|Dark of the Sun|
Original film poster by Frank McCarthy
|Directed by||Jack Cardiff|
|Produced by||George Englund|
|Screenplay by||Ranald MacDougall (as Quentin Werty)
|Based on||The Dark of the Sun
by Wilbur Smith
|Music by||Jacques Loussier|
|Editing by||Ernest Walter|
|Running time||100 minutes|
|Box office||$2,000,000 (US/ Canada)|
Dark of the Sun (also known as The Mercenaries in the UK) is a 1968 adventure-war film starring Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Jim Brown, and Peter Carsten. The film, which was directed by Jack Cardiff, is based on Wilbur Smith's 1965 novel, The Dark of the Sun. The story about a band of mercenaries sent on a dangerous mission during the Congo Crisis was adapted into a screenplay by Ranald MacDougall. Critics condemned the film on its original release for its graphic scenes of violence and torture.
Sometime in the mid-1960's, mercenary Bruce Curry (Rod Taylor) is hired by Congolese President Ubi (Calvin Lockhart) supposedly to rescue the European residents of an isolated town about to be attacked by rebel Simbas. But in reality his pressing mission is to retrieve diamonds, worth fifty million dollars, from a mine company's vault. Curry's subordinates include his friend Ruffo (Jim Brown) and alcoholic Doctor Wreid (Kenneth More). Reluctantly he also takes ex-Nazi Henlein (Peter Carsten) on the mission because he needs his military expertise and leadership skills.
The Congolese president provides Curry with the use of a steam train along with government soldiers. On the way, the train is attacked by a United Nations peacekeeping plane. The mercenaries then pick up Claire (Yvette Mimieux) after they find her house burned down and husband murdered by Simbas. Meanwhile, Henlein, who resents Curry's leadership, begins to cause trouble because the German knows about the diamonds. Things come to a boiling point when the ex Nazi kills two children who he suspects could be rebel spies. Afterward, Henlein makes romantic advances towards Claire, which Curry interrupts. Curry and Henlein then fight an inconclusive duel which involves a chainsaw. Curry is prepared to kill Henlein but is stopped by Ruffo.
Further complications arise when the mercenaries reach the town. Firstly, the diamonds are in a time-locked vault delaying the train's departure. Secondly, Dr Wreid who went to a mission hospital to help a pregnant woman, refuses to abandon his patient. After travelling into the bush to get him, Curry reluctantly agrees to let the doctor stay behind. Back in town precious minutes tick by as everyone waits anxiously for the vault mechanism to open.
The delay eventually allows the Simbas to catch up and begin attacking the town and station. Finally the heavily-laden train, which is loaded with the diamonds and the residents, slowly leaves the station under small arms fire. But just as it's nearly out of range, a mortar round destroys the coupling between the last two carriages. Agonisingly as the rest of the train picks up speed and steams away, the last coach with the diamonds and most of the Europeans on board slowly comes to a stop before rolling downhill back into the Simba-held town.
Curry then stops his part of the damaged train. He and Ruffo lead a raid to retrieve the diamonds from the rebels at nightfall. Using a Simba disguise, Ruffo carries Curry's 'lifeless body' into the town's hotel. Its rooms are now full of sickening scenes of (for the film's time period) rape, murder and torture. Following a diversion by government soldiers, they get the diamonds and escape in some vehicles. When they run low on fuel, Curry leaves to find some more. Henlein uses his absence to kill Ruffo in the mistaken belief that he had the diamonds. Empty handed, Henlein flees into the bush. When Curry returns to find his friend dead, he is filled with murderous revenge. He pursues Henlein and kills him after a vicious fight. Curry then returns to the truck convoy. With his job done, Curry reflects on himself before turning himself in for a court-martial to answer for his actions.
- Rod Taylor as Curry
- Yvette Mimieux as Claire
- Peter Carsten as Henlein
- Jim Brown as Ruffo
- Kenneth More as Doctor Wreid
- André Morell as Bussier
- Olivier Despax as Surrier
- Guy Deghy as Delage
- Bloke Modisane as Kataki
- Calvin Lockhart as Ubi
- Alan Gifford as Jansen
- David Bauer as Adams
Original Novel 
|The Dark of the Sun|
The book and the film are a fictional account of the Congo Crisis (1960–1966), when Joseph Mobutu seized power during the First Republic of the Congo after national independence from Belgium. The conflicts in Dark of the Sun are based on the anti-colonial struggle, a secessionist war with the province of Katanga and a United Nations peacekeeping operation within the context of the Cold War. Actual violence in the Congo resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people.
However the novel was set during the Baluba Rebellion in 1960. The movie is set later on during the Simba Rebellion.
The Henlein character was based on Siegfried Müller, a German mercenary who fought in the Congo wearing the Iron Cross that he earned during World War II. Mueller was featured in a 1966 East German-made documentary Der Lachende Mann (The Laughing Man).
In the German version, Curry was renamed Willy Krüger and was portrayed as a former Wehrmacht officer who had already clashed with Henlein during World War II because of the latter's fanatical Nazism. The German version also cuts the scene where Henlein murders two Congolese children and is misleadingly entitled Katanga, implying the film takes place during the first Congo emergency in 1961-64, when mercenaries like Müller and 'Mad' Mike Hoare were involved. In fact, the film takes place during the Simba Rebellion of 1964-65, when mercenaries were recruited by the Congo government to fight a leftist insurgency.
Most of the film was shot on location in Jamaica on that country's railway system, taking advantage of a working steam train as well as safety and cost-effectiveness. Interiors were completed at Borehamwood Studios near London. At the same time, MGM was filming Graham Greene's The Comedians (1967) in Africa, though the original took place in the Caribbean.
Rod Taylor claimed he rewrote a fair amount of the script himself, including helping devise a new ending.
The film's score was composed by Jacques Loussier.
The film was considered extremely violent for its time and the scenes of civilians being raped and tortured by Simbas. One contemporary reviewer was moved to comment that the director's main objective appeared to be to pack as much sadistic violence into the film's two hours as he could. On the subject of violence director Jack Cardiff commented: "Although it was a very violent story, the actual violence happening in the Congo at that time was much more than I could show in my film; in my research I encountered evidence so revolting I was nauseated. The critics complained of the violent content, but today it would hardly raise an eyebrow."
Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino are two of the film's fans. Scorsese calls the film one of his "guilty pleasures". The film was a particular influence on Tarantino, who used several tracks from the score for his movie Inglourious Basterds, which features Rod Taylor in a guest role as Winston Churchill.
- "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
- "Dark of the Sun /'The Mercenaries (1968)". Photoplay (at rodtaylorsite.com). August 1967.
- The Dark of the Sun at Wilbur Smith's novels
- Chaos In The Congo Smith, Wilbur. The Times of India (1861-current) [New Delhi, India] 15 May 1966: 9.
- Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls
- "The Congo: Moise's Black Magic". TIME Magazine. 19 February 1965.
- Hoare, Mike (2008). Congo Mercenary. Paladin Press.
- pp.129-130 Horsford, Jim THE RAILWAYS OF JAMAICA: Through The Blue Mountains To The Blue Caribbean Seas - A History Of The Jamaica Government Railway 2011 Paul Catchpole Ltd
- Cardiff, Jack & Martin Scorsese (1997). Magic Hour. Faber & Faber.
- Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media 2010 p131
- Dark of the Sun at the Internet Movie Database
- Dark of the Sun at the TCM Movie Database
- Dark of the Sun at AllRovi
- The Complete Rod Taylor Site