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  Nor the Moon by Night The Savage Plains
Year: 1958
Director: Ken Annakin
Stars: Belinda Lee, Michael Craig, Patrick McGoohan, Anna Gaylor, Eric Pohlmann, Pamela Stirling, Lionel Ngakane, Joan Brickhill, Ben Heydenrych, Alfred Kumalo, Doreen Hlantie, John Withers, Ken Oelofse, Gordon MacPherson
Genre: Drama, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Andrew Miller (Patrick McGoohan) is a game warden in Southern Africa, on one of the reserves there which do their best in the name of conservation to preserve the wildlife often under threat from poachers. He works alongside his brother Rusty (Michael Craig) who cannot believe his ears when Andrew tells him of his latest plans, all to do with his pen pal from England, Alice Lang (Belinda Lee), who he has kept up a correspondence with for many years. Fair enough, she might wish to visit him on the plains, yet Andrew's plans go further than that: he wants to marry her, in spite of the fact that they've never met. Nonetheless, he feels confident they know enough about one another to get along famously in the flesh...

Come the nineteen-fifties, there was a strain of adventure pictures which set torrid emotions against the backdrop of a safari or otherwise African wilderness location, something different from all those Tarzan flicks or efforts featuring a bloke in a gorilla suit to menace the leading lady, mostly because they were filmed on the actual places the script set them. This left all sorts of movie stars at the mercy of the flora and fauna of the continent as they fulfilled their contracts, often suffering a selection of indignities as a result, be it a dicky tummy or more serious physical harm: take this example, where star McGoohan managed to crash his car much as his character did.

That said, Patrick didn't need to fight off a cobra or a pack of hungry lions once he had suffered his mishap as Andrew does, but it was lucky the movie was finished at all. That was largely thanks to star Belinda Lee deciding it was interrupting her love life, whereupon she fled the set and headed off to Italy to continue a scandalous love affair that the gossip pages loved and the public lapped up. She may be almost forgotten now, but in her day she was big news, though one of those movie stars who made headlines for what she got up to offscreen rather than her roles, and it was only because she was tragically killed in a car accident (in a vehicle driven by Mondo Cane and Goodbye, Uncle Tom co-director Gualtiero Jacopetti, her boyfriend) at the tender age of twenty-five that she's not better known.

Who knows where her career would have headed if that hadn't happened? She may have ended up in giallos and exploitation efforts, but she may have capitalised on her fame in other ways, we'll never know, though we still have a surprising amount of films of hers to watch, if we're interested, as she may have been landed with the sexpot loose woman brand in the media, but there was no doubt she was a hard worker. Here her Alice is struggling with life in Africa on arrival, not even meeting Andrew until the story is practically over since he is trying to track a rogue elephant, and not only that but find out who murdered one of his best wardens, and not only that but stop his widow from putting a killer curse on the wrong man, and not only that but...

As you can see, this was not short of incident, but while Andrew is doing all that, as well as negotiating his way around the ardour of local landowner's daughter Thea (French actress Anna Gaylor), Rusty is making almost reluctant moves on Alice, who is equally reluctantly responding thanks to the guilt they both feel for their mutual attraction. Check out the scene late on where they are both watching a rain dance by the native women which sends them into an erotic frenzy, or as erotic as 1958 British movies would allow, for a giggle. It's plain to see who will end up with whom for our happy ending, not counting on the possible murder charge Alice is faced with (her mother's, not the warden's), but animal lovers would be alarmed to see how cavalier the film was about killing off the wildlife - you would think they were trying to prevent such things, yet we see a bunch of creatures meet their demise, some of it not looking staged either (the ferocious lions are doubled unconvincingly for cheap laughs). Mind you, it does feature Patrick McGoohan kissing a lady, for novelty value. Music by James Bernard.

Aka: Elephant Gun

[The Network DVD has a serviceable print, a gallery and some alternate titles as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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