The Wilby Conspiracy

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The Wilby Conspiracy
Wilby conspiracy.jpg
Original film poster
Directed by Ralph Nelson
Produced by Martin Baum
Paul M. Heller
Helmut Dantine
Written by Rodney Amateau
Harold Nebenzal
Based on The Wilby Conspiracy
1972 novel
by Peter Driscoll
Starring Michael Caine
Sidney Poitier
Nicol Williamson
Music by Stanley Myers
Cinematography John Coquillon
Edited by Ernest Walter
Baum/Dantine Productions
Optimus Productions Ltd.
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • 1975 (1975)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Wilby Conspiracy is a 1975 DeLuxe Color thriller film directed by Ralph Nelson and filmed in Kenya. It was written by Rodney Amateau, based on the 1972 novel by Peter Driscoll. It had a limited release in the US. This is the third film teaming Sidney Poitier with director Ralph Nelson. The first time they worked together was in 1963 on Lilies of the Field, the film for which Poitier received an Academy Award. Nelson also directed Poitier in Duel at Diablo in 1966.[1]


In apartheid-era South Africa, Shack Twala (played by Sidney Poitier), a black revolutionary who had served time on Robben Island, is freed by Rina van Niekerk (Prunella Gee), his Afrikaner defence attorney, because he would be a victim of retroactive legislation. Rina, estranged from her husband Blane (Rutger Hauer), is having a relationship with an English mining engineer, Jim Keogh (Michael Caine), who has attended Shack's trial. Surprised by the verdict, Rina, Jim and Shack go off to celebrate at her house. They are stopped by the South African Police who are conducting identity document checks and arresting everyone who does not have their papers on them. As Shack has only just been released from prison he will not receive his papers until the next day. The police Constable and Shack antagonise each other leading to Shack being handcuffed and arrested. When Rina attempts to pull the Constable off Shack, the policeman hits her, knocking her to the ground. Jim assaults and knocks out the Constable making all three fugitives.

At Police Headquarters, an SAP Brigadier (Patrick Allen) is criticised by Major Horn (Nicol Williamson) of the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS) for not only arresting Shack but continuing with their random identity checks and arrests that have infuriated world opinion.

The three fugitives are followed and monitored by BOSS to lead them to discover their escape route to Botswana and its facilitators, two Indian dentists; a stash of stolen uncut diamonds being used to fund the "Black Congress" (African National Congress) and the leader of the "Black Congress", a man named Wilby (Joe De Graft).


Additional Notes[edit]

After this motion picture, Poitier moved into both directing and acting. In addition, the film introduced Dutch actor Rutger Hauer to English-speaking audiences. Hauer went on to act in several of director Paul Verhoeven's early movies. The Wilby Conspiracy was also the western film debut of Indian actress Persis Khambatta, who would appear in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and with Rutger Hauer in Nighthawks

DVD & HD[edit]

  • The region 1 DVD was released 20 January 2004.
  • In 2010 it was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD.


External links[edit]