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Paramount Studios presents
Dallas: Don't you shoot him, or you'll have to shoot me too.
DVD ReviewPicking the genre for this oddball movie was not the easiest. It's kind of an adventure, but the plot is almost entirely focused on romantic situations. There is some action, but there is plenty of comedy. We don't have a category for jungle-adventure-romantic comedy, so we'll just go with the action tag that Paramount is using to market the DVD.
One of Wayne's most popular non-war, non-western movies, Hatari! (Swahili for danger, as the trailer informs us) centers on Momella Game, Ltd., an international group of big game hunters in Tanganyika (forming, with Zanzibar, half of modern-day Tanzania). But they don't kill the animals, they capture them for zoos and circuses, in the best Frank Buck "Bring 'em back alive" tradition. Using jeeps and trucks, they run down the animals and bulldog them as if they're in a big game rodeo. Wayne stars as Sean Mercer, the head of the operation owned by Brandy de la Corte (Michele Girardon). Other participants are frustrated inventor Pockets (Red Buttons), German driver Kurt (Hardy Kruger), Hispanic Luis Lopez (Valentin de Vargas) and the aptly named Native American, The Indian, played by Bruce (King Kong) Cabot. When The Indian is gored by a rhino, Frenchman Charles 'Chips' Chalmoy (Gerard Blain) lends a hand. To complete the symbolic colonization and conquest of Africa, the Basel Zoo sends photographer Anna Maria 'Dallas' D'Allesandro to photograph and document the capture of the animals. Soon romance blossoms between Mercer and Dallas, and a love quadrilateral forms among Brandy, Chips, Kurt and Pockets (which in retrospect sounds like some kind of odd bar food order).
As mentioned above, the film is fairly plotless. Although there is a board referring to the orders needed, it's infrequently seen and the only tension that arises is from the need to capture a rhino, the unruly species that not only gored The Indian, but killed Brandy's father. The action sequences are quite repetitive and could have been reduced substantially to trim the movie's excessive running time. The story really centers on the romances. Sean Mercer was burned badly in the not-too-distant past and avoids closeness with a woman, including Dallas. Her pursuit of Sean lends most of the interest to the story. The character of Brandy is so underdeveloped that the pursuit of her by three of the others is almost an annoyance; it mostly comes off as a perfunctory appeal to the audience. Better handled by veteran screwball comedy director/producer, Howard Hawks, is the humorous aspect of the tale. There are plenty of funny lines and gags that work quite well. Even Wayne gets into the act and can be quite droll indeed as we contrast the fearless nature of the big game hunter with the complete ineptitude and panic when facing the deadly female of the homo sapiens. Red Buttons gives an effective comedy performance, although his drunk act is pretty thin. It does, however, give rise to a laugh-inducing "Who's on First"-type routine that works quite well.
Henry Mancini composed the music for the picture, including one of the most identifiable bits of film music ever, the "Baby Elephant Walk." But each of the animals gets a theme of its own, making the picture into a veritable Saint-Saens type Carnival of the Animals. Mancini artfully uses percussion to underline many of these themes, giving the picture a good "dark continent" flavor without being heavy-handed about it.
The camera is used in striking fashion here, most notably in the climactic rhino hunt, where we get a closeup of the rhino's face as it comes crashing into one of the jeeps. This is as startling and effective as anything in the Ben-Hur chariot race. The verisimilitude of the hunts is spoiled a little by some marginal-quality process shots.
Wayne gives a good performance here, and Elsa Martinelli is utterly charming in her broken English. Buttons does a fine job most of the time as the aptly-named Pockets, whose pockets are full of an amazing variety of stuff. He overdoes it a bit when one of his inventions actually works, but by and large he's quite funny and an asset to the picture. The rest of the cast is pretty nondescript, and Cabot generally just limps around and makes excuses about his leg in order to further the plot along. The stunt work with the animals (no CGI here!) is effective and impressive as well.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen presentation here marks the first time this picture has been available in its original aspect ratio on home video. The color is excellent throughout, but there are a number of problems. First, the source material is quite dirty, with constant speckling, hairs and crud throughout. Blue smears and an orange blob appear on the frame in a couple of occasions. Even if a full restoration wasn't undertaken, these major problems could have been addressed. During the action sequences, there is heavy pixelation and a generally digital appearance. This latter problem is no doubt due to the copious amounts of dust being kicked up by the vehicles. More care should have been taken in the compression. The bit rate of 4 mBps is quite low, and the use of RSDL means that there probably was room for somewhat less compression than was used (the second layer contains only about 1/3 of the movie). However, the picture is acceptable for the most part. Definition is generally clear and crisp, with some occasional edge enhancement marring the picture. A few scenes are apparently substituted from a later-generation print, as they are extremely soft and dupey, pointing out just how much better this presentation is than what we've been accustomed to see with this movie.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: The English 2.0 mono audio is clear and sounds quite good. While completely lacking in any sort of bass extension, the high ranges are good and unclipped. Dialogue is clear throughout, and no hiss or noise is audible except at extremely high volume levels.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 01h:41m:28s
Extras Review: Other than an anamorphic trailer that features a great deal of chroma noise and dot crawl, there are no extras. The chaptering is quite inadequate for a movie of this length. The layer change is well-placed at a fade-to-black and is hardly noticeable except for a faint click on the soundtrack.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsAn entertaining, though fairly fluffy, jungle-adventure-romantic comedy. While the transfer is decent, the source material has numerous problems. Definitely worth a look for those not seeking heavy material for an evening's amusement.
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