Cast & Crew
B. Meredith Smith
In Africa, New York newspaper reporter Clayton visits renowned American adventurer John Kenyon at his home, seeking John's story about his search for the legendary elephant graveyard. John, a native Californian, recalls arriving in Africa twenty-five years earlier: After six fruitless months in Africa, John encounters British ivory poacher Harley Barlow, and trades ammunition with Barlow in exchange for Barlow's African tracker, whom Barlow had been using for target practice. The tracker, whom John dubs Baobab, quickly earns John's trust. One night while John and the porters are asleep, Baobab is awakened by a friend, who warns that Barlow has told a local chieftain that John is responsible for the death of the chief's cow, and that the chief is now seeking revenge. The next day, while the chief leads his people in a ritual dance in preparation for attack, John shows Baobab and the porters how to rig some dynamite. When confronted by the angry chief and his tribesmen, John pretends to work some magic and the dynamite explodes, scaring off the would-be attackers. Sometime later, Baobab, unaware that Barlow and a comrade are following them, leads John to a herd of mature male elephants. The next morning, Barlow and his partner shoot and kill numerous elephants. John is awakened by the noise and confronts Barlow, who aims his gun at him. John kills him in self-defense, but is then shot and wounded by Barlow's comrade. After Baobab catches the man robbing Barlow's body, he kills him with a knife. Baobab and the porters then attempt to treat John's wounds with local remedies, but when John grows ill, they transport him to a small village to be treated by a Canadian physician, Cameron. Cameron, resentful because the British authorities revoked his medical license, refuses to help any white man. However, Cameron is not at home when Baobab arrives with John, and his daughter Pamela agrees to treat the injured man. Although he is upset by his new patient, Cameron treats John, who recovers and falls in love with Pamela. One day, John attempts to thank Cameron, but the doctor rebukes him. After revealing that he is dying of an incurable disease, Cameron says that John can repay his debt by helping Pamela leave the country after he dies. Later, while walking alone in the veldt, John encounters an elderly American named Gideon, who is guarding some caves. Gideon at first appears friendly, but banishes John when he takes an interest in the caves. On his return to the village, John saves a small child from attack by a crocodile, and kills the reptile in the process. When John offers to help Cameron leave the country for his health, the doctor becomes enraged because he still resents the civilization that rejected him. John leaves the village on bad terms, unaware that a short time later, the doctor commits suicide by allowing himself to be attacked by crocodiles. Later that night, Baobab saves John from a murder attempt by Simba, a young villager who holds John responsible for the doctor's death. Baobab then warns John that Simba's tribe will soon destroy the village where Pamela lives to kill any lingering evil spirits. In the morning, John rescues a reluctant Pamela, who also blames him for her father's death, and tells her about his agreement with Cameron. Shortly after they leave, Swazi tribesmen burn the village. After a long trek, John makes camp, and Pamela takes a walk alone, ignoring his warning about lions. Soon after, Pamela is stalked by a huge male lion as she reads a letter left by her father, in which he explains his arrangement with John. John is drawn by Pamela's screams when she sees the beast, and he kills the lion to save her. Several days later, Baobab finds elephant tracks, and Pamela, who has forgiven John, insists they abandon their plans to leave the country and instead follow the elephants. Gideon, meanwhile, purposely tries to thwart them by causing a stampede of wild animals. After avoiding the stampede, they continue on and Baobab discovers that rampaging bull elephants have destroyed his village and killed his family. John kills three of the deadly elephants, and mortally wounds a fourth when it nearly attacks Pamela. They then follow the elephant, suspecting it may head for the fabled graveyard. The elephant leads them to Gideon, who is the self-appointed protector of the elephant graveyard. When John and Pamela follow the elephant through a narrow rock passageway, Gideon follows them on a cliff above. John and Pamela discover a small valley dark with sulphur smoke, but as they walk along a narrow trail, Pamela slips and clings to the edge of a cliff, which overlooks a deep pit filled with elephant bones. As John grabs Pamela's hand and pulls her to safety, Gideon plots to kill them by pushing a boulder downhill. The boulder narrowly misses John and Pamela, and when it crashes into the pit, it causes a volcanic reaction. Gideon then topples from the cliff and falls to his death on the rocks, and as the crater erupts with molten lava, John and Pamela flee to safety. After John concludes his story, Clayton observes that despite the many hardships, he never found his treasure. However, John disagrees, and moments later introduces his wife, Pamela, his real treasure. Having obtained his story, Clayton departs on the same small plane that brought him in.
B. Meredith Smith
The African Swazi Tribesmen
Jimmy The Chimp
The viewed print was titled Beyond the Sahara, and bore a copyright statement dated 1985. The following acknowledgment appears in the opening credits: "Sincere appreciation to the governments of Mozambique, R.S. Africa & Kenya E.A." The print included opening and closing segments featuring the character "John Kenyon" as an older man, recalling his experiences in Africa in a flashback. However, contemporary reviews do not refer to these sequences, and it is probable that producer John Calvert added them when he re-released the film as Beyond the Sahara. In addition, contemporary reviews credit the producer-writer-director as John Trevlac, Calvert's pseudonym; yet he was credited on the viewed print as John Calvert. Additional credits on the viewed print are as follows: Jerry Reed's TSC (Video transfer), Eddie Hales (Video technician), Jamie Campbell (Video editor). It is probable that the video crew worked on the 1985 version of the film. Dark Venture was filmed on location in East Africa in 1955. Modern sources add Assistant Director Lindsley Parsons, Jr. to the crew.
In 1997, John Calvert prepared another version of Dark Venture, entitled The Great Expedition to the Elephant's Graveyard, for an intended video release. That version, which had a running time of 90 minutes, features new opening and closing sequences which starred Calvert and Ann Cornell as they were in 1997. The new material, in which "John Kenyon" is visited by a documentary filmmaker to whom he relates his earlier adventures, runs slightly over eight minutes. Actor David Carradine also supplied a brief introduction in tribute to his father John, who appeared in the original film, and noted that many of the great herds of animals seen in the 1950s footage are now greatly diminished. The first known public exhibition of the 1997 version of the film was on March 10, 2004 at the Williamsburg Film Festival in Williamsburg, VA. Calvert himself appeared at the screening and introduced the film.
The 1985 and 1997 versions represent very rare instances of actors naturally aging in roles over real-time.