An early cinema staple, the chase film, is resurrected, pure and simple, by star-producer-director Cornel Wilde. He plays a tour guide in the South African bush near the end of the 19th century, leading several men on an ivory hunting expedition. Despite his warnings, the party offends
local tribesmen. Bad move. Ambushed, the men are taken back to the tribesmen's village for ritual torture and execution. (One especially horrifying, unforgettable image has a victim encased in clay except for a breathing tube, being roasted alive on a spit.) The guide, for whom the natives
presumably have some respect, is offered "The Chance of the Lion." Stripped naked, he is given a head start of a few hundred yards. Then six warriors, each of whom has killed ten lions, set out to hunt him down, and the chase is on.
Wilde's fifth directorial outing was easily his best, tautly constructed and rapidly paced. (Fewer than 15 minutes pass between the credits and the start of Wilde's race for life.) His habit of beginning or ending scenes with shots of animal predators snaring their prey is obvious and becomes
rather tiresome, but some of the imagery, such as a bird being caught or one frog devouring another, is extraordinary. The film is nothing but an extremely vivid and suspenseful chase, so pared down that there's absolutely no characterization whatsoever--let alone consideration of the
environmental or racial issues and attitudes on rampant display here. Thank heavens for those white redcoats, right?
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- Rating: NR
- Review: An early cinema staple, the chase film, is resurrected, pure and simple, by star-producer-director Cornel Wilde. He plays a tour guide in the South African bush near the end of the 19th century, leading several men on an ivory hunting expedition. Despite h… (more)