Dark of the Sun

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Dark of the Sun
Dotspos.jpg
Directed by Jack Cardiff
Produced by George Englund
Screenplay by Ranald MacDougall (as Quentin Werty)
Adrien Spies
Based on The Dark of the Sun 
by Wilbur Smith
Starring Rod Taylor
Yvette Mimieux
Jim Brown
Peter Carsten
Music by Jacques Loussier
Cinematography Edward Scaife
Edited by Ernest Walter
Production
company
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • 3 July 1968 (1968-07-03)
Running time 100 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Box office $2,000,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

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.[2]

Plot[edit]

Sometime in the mid-1960s, 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 in the Congo. 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. First, the diamonds are in a time-locked vault delaying the train's departure. Second, 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 contain graphic scenes (for the film's time period) of male 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.

Cast[edit]

  • Peter Carsten as Henlein, this character was based on a real German mercenary named Siegfried Müller who fought in the Congo. Mueller was featured in a 1966 East German-made documentary Der Lachende Mann (The Laughing Man) wearing the Iron Cross that he earned during World War II.[3]

Production[edit]

The Dark of the Sun
Author Wilbur Smith
Country South Africa
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher Heinemann
Publication date
1965

Original Novel[edit]

The script is based on the second published novel by Wilbur Smith.[4][5] Both 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 conflict in Dark of the Sun juxtaposes the anti-colonial struggle in the province of Katanga within the context of the Cold War. A UN-peacekeeping operation was employed to protect civilians during this brutal secessionist war. Actual violence in the Congo resulted in the deaths of up to 100,000 people.[6]

Screenplay[edit]

Although the novel is set against the Baluba Rebellion in 1960, the film's screenplay is set during the Simba Rebellion of 1964-65, when mercenaries were recruited by the Congolese government to fight a leftist insurgency.[7] Rod Taylor claimed he rewrote a fair amount of the script himself, including helping devise a new ending.[8]

Filming[edit]

Most of the film was shot on location in Jamaica using the country's railway system,[9] taking advantage of a working steam train as well as safety and cost-effectiveness.[10] 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.

International versions[edit]

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.

Soundtrack[edit]

Jacques Loussier, a French jazz pianist wrote the film's memorable progressive score. It was initially released by MGM Records in 1968; a re-release with bonus tracks was made available in 2008.

All music composed by Jacques Loussier.

No. Title Length
1. "Main Theme From Dark of the Sun"   3:10
2. "Drive to Ubi"   3:39
3. "Dr. Wreid"   1:01
4. "The Mercenaries"   2:36
5. "Claire's First Appearance"   3:44
6. "Friendly Natives Having Fun Pt. 2"   2:19
7. "The Fight/Port Reprieve"   3:39
8. "Curry and the Diamonds Pt. 1"   2:38
9. "Claire and Curry"   3:46
10. "The Mission"   1:37
11. "The Simbas Attack/The Coach Rolls Back"   4:51
12. "Tracks Blown/Stakeout/Diamond"   1:13
13. "Infiltration"   1:22
14. "Curry and the Diamonds Pt. 2"   0:44
15. "The Doctor Is Found"   3:45
16. "Curry's Plan/Ruffo's Death"   2:38
17. "Curry's Drive With Claire"   1:57
18. "The Chase"   1:17
19. "Revenge"   3:30
20. "Curry Kills Henlein"   2:10
21. "Curry's Decision/End Title"   3:23
22. "Clare and Curry Alternate"   3:50
23. "Main Theme From Dark of the Sun"   1:20
24. "End Title Alternate"   0:42
25. "Natives Source"   1:02
26. "Friendly Natives Having Fun Pt. 1"   2:13
27. "Natives Source"   1:50
Total length:
67:03

Reception[edit]

The film was considered extremely violent for its time showing 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."[2]

Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino are two of the film's fans. Scorsese calls the film one of his "guilty pleasures".[2] 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1968", Variety, 8 January 1969 p 15. Please note this figure is a rental accruing to distributors.
  2. ^ a b c "Dark of the Sun /'The Mercenaries (1968)". Photoplay (at rodtaylorsite.com). August 1967. 
  3. ^ "The Congo: Moise's Black Magic". TIME Magazine. 19 February 1965. 
  4. ^ The Dark of the Sun at Wilbur Smith's novels
  5. ^ Smith, Wilbur (15 May 1966). Chaos In The Congo. The Times of India (1861-current) [New Delhi, India]. p. 9. 
  6. ^ Twentieth Century Atlas - Death Tolls
  7. ^ Hoare, Mike (2008). Congo Mercenary. Paladin Press. 
  8. ^ Stephen Vagg, Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood, Bear Manor Media 2010 p131
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Cardiff, Jack & Martin Scorsese (1997). Magic Hour. Faber & Faber. 

External links[edit]