Safari (1956 film)

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For the 1940 film, see Safari (1940 film).
Safari 1956 UK trade ad.jpg
British original 1956 promotional poster
Directed by Terence Young
Produced by Irving Allen
Albert R. Broccoli
Screenplay by Robert Buckner
Anthony Veiller (story)
Starring Victor Mature
Janet Leigh
John Justin
Roland Culver
Earl Cameron
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography John Wilcox
Edited by Michael Gordon
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (UK)
Release dates
  • 6 April 1956 (1956-04-06) (UK)[1]
Running time
90 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $1.4 million (US rentals)[2]
1,764,445 admissions (France)[3]

Safari is a 1956 British film, directed by Terence Young and set during the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya. Starring Victor Mature, Janet Leigh, Roland Culver, John Justin and Earl Cameron, it was intentionally cast to attract an American audience, by making both the hero and the lead female character Americans played by American actors.


When American white hunter Ken Duffield (Victor Mature) is off leading a safari, Mau Mau terrorists attack his farm; slaughtering the labourers and livestock. Duffield's son Charlie and Aunt May (Estelle Brody) defend their home against the mass attack but they do not know that their houseboy Jeroge (a poor transliteration of Njoroge) (Earl Cameron) is actually a Mau Mau general. From inside the farmhouse, Jeroge murders Aunt May with a machete and Charlie by repeatedly firing May's rifle into the child.

When Duffield returns to his destroyed homestead, the police have obtained information about Jeroge's role in the affair. Surmising that Duffield will use his hunting expertise to track down and revenge himself on the terrorists in general and Jeroge in particular, they escort him back to Nairobi and revoke his hunting licence until the situation and Duffield cools down.

Duffield spends his exile in Nairobi drinking and gathering information about Jeroge from his African friends. He gets his chance for revenge when the powerful Sir Vincent Brampton (Roland Culver), accompanied by his flunky Brian (John Justin) and his young American trophy fiancée Linda (Janet Leigh), arrive in Nairobi determined to hire Duffield to lead a safari so Sir Vincent can bag a legendary man-eating lion named "Hatari". Duffield knows that Hatari resides in an area that Jeroge is known to frequent and that Sir Vincent can use his influence to get his hunting licence back.

Setting off on safari with his boss boy Jerusulem (Orlando Martins) and Odongo (Juma), Sir Vincent suspects Duffield is not interested in hunting lions when he carries a Sten gun; Duffield explaining "you never know what kind of animals you may find". Sir Vincent has his suspicion confirmed when Duffield jumps out of his Land Rover to join the police in a firefight against the Mau Mau and is keen to extract information from the prisoners.

Duffield keeps his promise to bring Sir Vincent and his party to Hatari's turf in the land of the Maasai where the audience witnesses a traditional Maasai lion hunt. But his plans face peril when a police radio report reveals that an unknown member of the safari is a Mau Mau plant, the obsessive Sir Vincent is determined to get sole credit for killing Hatari and therefore unloads Duffield's rifle, Linda decides to take an excursion down a crocodile infested river in a rubber dinghy, and when another police radio report warns that 200 Mau Mau prisoners have escaped and are headed towards Duffield's safari to link up with Jeroge.

Main cast[edit]


Rhonda Fleming was originally announced for the female lead and the producers were hoping to get Humphrey Bogart to star.[4]

The film was made in made in CinemaScope and Technicolor and filmed on location in Kenya by Warwick Films, which filmed it simultaneously with John Gilling's Odongo[5] with the Zanzibar-born child actor Juma repeating his role as Odongo.[6] In an interview in 1997, Janet Leigh recalled that the film's second unit was actually attacked by the Mau Mau.[7]

Studio work was done at Elstree.[8]


The film premiered on 6 April 1956 at the Empire Cinema in London, and the reviewer for The Times was not very favourable, in a review titled "Safari": An American film about the Mau Mau:

"Surely it is neither priggish nor pompous to find something disagreeable in the idea of so horrifying an episode as the Mau Mau terrorism in Kenya serving as material for a film whose purpose is solely to entertain – another film, made with a British cast on the same subject, has a purpose above and beyond that. Again, it is not intolerably insular to take the line that it is all wrong that an American, played by an American actor, should be the hero, and shown as the only one capable of dealing with the situation. Finally, there are those squeamish enough not to feel altogether comfortable at the sight of an elephant, a lion, and a rhinoceros being shot – it is to be hoped the scenes were faked – to give the audience a vicarious thrill. -- A film that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth."[1]


  1. ^ a b The Times, 6 April 1956, page 2, and 9 April 1956, page 3: Safari - first cinema advertisement (6 April) and film review (9 April). Found in the Times Digital Archive on 2014-05-18
  2. ^ 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, 2 January 1957
  3. ^ French box office for 1956 at Box Office Story
  4. ^ Mary Murphy, a Cinderella, to Star with Milland Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 01 Mar 1955: a4.
  5. ^ Harper, Sue & Porter, Vincent. British Cinema of the 1950s: The Decline of Deference 2007 Oxford University Press, p. 129
  6. ^ Jet Magazine, 3 November 1955, page 60: African boy, 12, Gets Title Role in New Movie Re-linked 2014-05-18
  7. ^ Interview with Janet Leigh, made in 1997 Re-linked 2014-05-18
  8. ^ "These Are the Facts", Kinematograph Weekly, 31 May 1956 p 14

External links[edit]