Killers of Kilimanjaro


1h 37m 1960

Brief Synopsis

An American engineer fights to build the first railroad through East Africa.

Film Details

Also Known As
Adamson in Africa
Genre
Action
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
May 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Apr 1960
Production Company
Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain; London--Shepperton Studios, England, Great Britain; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Nairobi, Africa; London, Great Britain; Nairobi, Africa
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel African Bush Adventures by J. A. Hunter and Dan P. Mannix (London, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In the late 1880s, American Robert Adamson, an engineer for the Mombassa Railroad Company, travels to Africa to help complete the railroad across the African Veldt to Lake Victoria. On board Robert's ship headed for Mombassa are fellow passengers Jane Carlton, who is going to Africa to search for her missing father and her fiancé Sexton, engineers for the railroad who disappeared while working in the veldt; and Pasha, a young Arab boy who is returning home from his studies in England. Jane and Robert are met at the docks by the genial "Hooky" Hook, the sole remaining employee in the company's Mombassa office. At the office, Hooky points to a map of the railway's incomplete route and explains that Sexton and Carlton disappeared on the outskirts of the territory inhabited by the hostile Warush tribe. When Hooky suggests that Arab slavers, led by Ben Ahmed, might be responsible, Robert goes to see Ben Ahmed. He is met at the gate by Pasha, who reveals that Ben Ahmed is his father and offers to arrange an introduction for Robert. Robert is greeted by Ben Ahmed and Gunther, who is building a rival railway to transport slaves across Africa to the coast. Robert asks Ben Ahmed to help him recruit porters for the dangerous trek into Warush country, but Ben Ahmed refuses and suggests that Robert instead hire on with him and Gunther. Bristling at the idea of working for slavers, Robert rejects their offer and leaves. Afterward, Ben Ahmed assures Gunther that he will "persuade" Robert to abandon his project. On the way back to the hotel, Robert and Hooky are accosted in an alley by Ben Ahmed's men, but Robert drives them away. Unable to find any porters, Robert decides to hire prisoners, so Hooky introduces him to the local jailor, Mustaph, who admires the railway's efforts to open up a trade route through Africa. At the jail, Robert hires Ali and several other prisoners, but refuses to give them guns. Upon returning to the hotel, Robert informs Jane that the trip is too dangerous for her to accompany them, but she insists on going anyway. The next morning, as they load their supplies onto railroad cars, they are attacked by a group of tribesmen who claim to be looking for someone. After Robert and the others push the tribesmen off the train and head out, the tribesmen shoot Mustaph. Once Robert and Ali leave the city, they discover that Pasha has stowed away on board and realize that the tribesmen were looking for him. Pasha admits that he ran away from home because he opposes his father's trading in slaves and fears that he will be pressed to take over the family business. The train is brought to an abrupt halt by an explosion on the tracks just ahead, forcing the group to continue on foot. When they camp for the night, a lion attacks and kills one of the porters, after which Robert shoots the beast. The next day, they reach the spot where Carlton and Sexton disappeared and find a marked grave. After a passing native tells them that his tribe found a white man and took him to their village, Robert and the others hurry to the village where they find a disheveled and deranged Sexton, who fails to recognize Jane. When Sexton begins to rave that he will die if he leaves the village, Robert decides it is best to leave him behind. They continue on, and upon entering Warush country, are surrounded by Warush tribesmen, who escort them to their village. In the confusion, Ali takes cover, then flees. Upon reaching the village, Pasha translates for Robert, who tells the Chief that the railroad will bring prosperity to the people of Africa by opening up trade. When the Chief demands that Robert prove his power by performing a miracle, Robert says he will "kill" the witch doctor and then bring him back to life. Robert performs his feat by drugging the witch doctor with chloroform, making the Chief think that he is dead, then brings the witch doctor back to life by dousing him with water. Next, the Chief tests Robert's courage by ordering one of his warriors to hurl spears at him. Robert passes the test by not flinching as the spears whiz past him. Impressed, the Chief gives Robert ten warriors to accompany him. Meanwhile, Gunther has also ventured into the veldt to continue work on his railroad. When Ben Ahmed arrives one day to tell him that Robert has made it through Warush country, Gunther leaves with his men to ambush Robert and his group. Ben Ahmed stays at the camp, and soon after, his men find Ali in the brush, near death from thirst. After Ali tells Ben Ahmed that Pasha is with Robert, Ben Ahmed has Ali killed, then hurries to reach Gunther before Pasha can be harmed. Their water supply nearly exhausted, Robert and the others reach a watering hole and after quenching their thirst, Robert and Jane kiss and dream of building a house in the veldt together. Continuing on at daybreak, they reach the area where Gunther and his men are laying in wait. When Gunther and his men open fire on them, Robert and his party take cover. After starting a fire as subterfuge, Robert heads out to overtake Gunther. Just then, Ben Ahmed arrives and orders Gunther to call off the attack, but Gunther shoots him. After one of Ben Ahmed's men kills Gunther in retaliation, a battle ensues in which Gunther's men are defeated. Robert then takes Pasha to see his dying father, who with his last words, admits that he was wrong and entrusts the boy to Robert's care, counseling him to follow Robert's teachings.

Film Details

Also Known As
Adamson in Africa
Genre
Action
Adventure
Adaptation
Release Date
May 1960
Premiere Information
New York opening: 6 Apr 1960
Production Company
Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
London, England, Great Britain; London--Shepperton Studios, England, Great Britain; Nairobi, Kenya, Africa; Nairobi, Africa; London, Great Britain; Nairobi, Africa
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel African Bush Adventures by J. A. Hunter and Dan P. Mannix (London, 1954).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 37m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Killers of Kilimanjaro


Actor Robert Taylor enjoyed one of the longest-lasting actor-studio relationships that existed during Hollywood's Golden Age, working under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1934 until 1958. He moved into television work with the series The Detectives (1959-1962), but not before first making three other films. One was the Michael Curtiz-directed western The Hangman (1959) for Paramount Pictures, and the other two were the last films Taylor made with frequent director Richard Thorpe. The House of the Seven Hawks was actually a holdover from his MGM contract, an option they exercised to have Taylor act in a film for their British studio; and Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959), an independent production of Warwick Film Productions, Ltd. of England, in association with Robert Taylor Productions. It was picked up for distribution in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures and released there in 1960. As one of the last hurrahs for the quintessential studio-created leading man, Killers of Kilimanjaro is an inept effort, an unfortunately hackneyed "Bwana"-style jungle picture, despite the color widescreen photography and location shooting in Kenya and Tanganyika.

Set in the late 1880s, the film follows engineer Robert Adamson (Robert Taylor), assigned the completion of the first railroad to cross Africa, from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in East Africa. An earlier attempt has halted and the men in charge have disappeared. On board the ship to Africa, Adamson befriends Pasha (John Dimech), a young Arab boy who has been studying in England. He also discusses his mission with the ship's Captain (Donald Pleasance); also on board is Jane Carlton (Anne Aubrey) the wife and daughter of the two missing men. Prior to landing, the passengers on the liner witness a government boat attacking an illegal slave ship; the slavers cruelly dump their human cargo overboard. Adamson and Carlton are met at the dock by "Hooky" (Anthony Newley), the remaining employee of the Mombasa Railroad Company; he repeatedly reminds Adamson that he is working at half-pay. Hooky suggests that the local slave trader, Ben Ahmed (Gregoire Aslan) is probably responsible for disrupting the previous building in the Veldt. Adamson pays Ahmed a visit and discovers that Pasha is Ahmed's son. Adamson refuses a deal from Ahmed to operate the future railroad as a means of transportation for Ahmed's slave trade; he then hires men from a local prison to bring on the safari as porters, saying "we're going to need men who have nothing to lose." The group, which includes Jane and stowaway Pasha, head out on rail but the tracks are soon sabotaged by Ahmed's men. Adamson leads the group on foot deeper into the Veldt, partially in search of the lost men, but mostly in an effort to find means to finish the railroad.

The situations that Robert Taylor and his troupe encounter on safari would have seemed hackneyed and old-hat in 1959; some of it unfortunately derivative of Taylor's own earlier (and vastly superior) King Solomon's Mines (1950), in which he played Allan Quatermain. There are few surprises to be found in this African adventure; as expected, stock footage of every African animal imaginable is dutifully trotted out (zebras, elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos, hyenas, etc.), and the film even has a scene of our hero shooting at alligators during a dangerous river crossing on raft, as well as a sequence of him convincing a tribal King of his magic abilities by knocking out his medicine man with a liquid from his first aid kit. Such scenes as these must have felt embarrassingly familiar to anyone who had witnessed any jungle serial or low-budget jungle feature in the previous twenty years.

The producers of Killers of Kilimanjaro (which included Albert R. Broccoli, just three years prior to his first James Bond film, Dr. No [1962]), borrowed Richard Thorpe from MGM to direct. Thorpe was a good, if obvious choice; he had already directed Taylor in numerous period adventure films from their MGM contract days, including such box-office hits as Ivanhoe (1952), All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953), Knights of the Round Table (1953), and Quentin Durward (1955).

In The Films of Robert Taylor, author Lawrence J. Quirk calls Killers of Kilimanjaro "a mediocre combination travelogue-adventure-romance." Writing in the New York Times, Eugene Archer pegged Killers of Kilimanjaro as a "compendium of jungle cliches" and said that the film, "...like Ernest Hemingway's distinguished short story 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro,' deals with an American on safari near the snow-capped African mountain. Any other similarity between the new film and literature is purely coincidental." Archer calls co-star Anthony Newley an "inept young comedian," and has little praise for Robert Taylor, "...whose appearance has changed considerably since the days when he was a reigning matinee idol... As a lover, however, he is unlikely to disappoint his feminine admirers. He courts the expedition's inevitable blonde, Anne Aubrey, with exactly the same blank expression that once devastated Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh."

Producers: Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli; John R. Sloan (uncredited)
Director: Richard Thorpe
Screenplay: Earl Felton, John Gilling; Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum (story); J.A. Hunter, Dan P. Mannix (book, "African Bush Adventures")
Cinematography: Ted Moore
Art Direction: Ray Simm
Music: William Alwyn
Film Editing: Geoffrey Foot
Cast: Robert Taylor (Robert Adamson), Anthony Newley (Hooky Hook), Anne Aubrey (Jane Carlton), Gregoire Aslan (Ben Ahmed), Allan Cuthbertson (Sexton), Martin Benson (Ali), Orlando Martins (Chief), Donald Pleasence (Captain), John Dimech (Pasha), Martin Boddey (Gunther), Earl Cameron (Witchdoctor), Harry Baird (Boraga), Anthony Jacobs (Mustaph)
C-92m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.

By John M. Miller

Killers Of Kilimanjaro

Killers of Kilimanjaro

Actor Robert Taylor enjoyed one of the longest-lasting actor-studio relationships that existed during Hollywood's Golden Age, working under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1934 until 1958. He moved into television work with the series The Detectives (1959-1962), but not before first making three other films. One was the Michael Curtiz-directed western The Hangman (1959) for Paramount Pictures, and the other two were the last films Taylor made with frequent director Richard Thorpe. The House of the Seven Hawks was actually a holdover from his MGM contract, an option they exercised to have Taylor act in a film for their British studio; and Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959), an independent production of Warwick Film Productions, Ltd. of England, in association with Robert Taylor Productions. It was picked up for distribution in the U.S. by Columbia Pictures and released there in 1960. As one of the last hurrahs for the quintessential studio-created leading man, Killers of Kilimanjaro is an inept effort, an unfortunately hackneyed "Bwana"-style jungle picture, despite the color widescreen photography and location shooting in Kenya and Tanganyika. Set in the late 1880s, the film follows engineer Robert Adamson (Robert Taylor), assigned the completion of the first railroad to cross Africa, from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in East Africa. An earlier attempt has halted and the men in charge have disappeared. On board the ship to Africa, Adamson befriends Pasha (John Dimech), a young Arab boy who has been studying in England. He also discusses his mission with the ship's Captain (Donald Pleasance); also on board is Jane Carlton (Anne Aubrey) the wife and daughter of the two missing men. Prior to landing, the passengers on the liner witness a government boat attacking an illegal slave ship; the slavers cruelly dump their human cargo overboard. Adamson and Carlton are met at the dock by "Hooky" (Anthony Newley), the remaining employee of the Mombasa Railroad Company; he repeatedly reminds Adamson that he is working at half-pay. Hooky suggests that the local slave trader, Ben Ahmed (Gregoire Aslan) is probably responsible for disrupting the previous building in the Veldt. Adamson pays Ahmed a visit and discovers that Pasha is Ahmed's son. Adamson refuses a deal from Ahmed to operate the future railroad as a means of transportation for Ahmed's slave trade; he then hires men from a local prison to bring on the safari as porters, saying "we're going to need men who have nothing to lose." The group, which includes Jane and stowaway Pasha, head out on rail but the tracks are soon sabotaged by Ahmed's men. Adamson leads the group on foot deeper into the Veldt, partially in search of the lost men, but mostly in an effort to find means to finish the railroad. The situations that Robert Taylor and his troupe encounter on safari would have seemed hackneyed and old-hat in 1959; some of it unfortunately derivative of Taylor's own earlier (and vastly superior) King Solomon's Mines (1950), in which he played Allan Quatermain. There are few surprises to be found in this African adventure; as expected, stock footage of every African animal imaginable is dutifully trotted out (zebras, elephants, giraffes, lions, rhinos, hyenas, etc.), and the film even has a scene of our hero shooting at alligators during a dangerous river crossing on raft, as well as a sequence of him convincing a tribal King of his magic abilities by knocking out his medicine man with a liquid from his first aid kit. Such scenes as these must have felt embarrassingly familiar to anyone who had witnessed any jungle serial or low-budget jungle feature in the previous twenty years. The producers of Killers of Kilimanjaro (which included Albert R. Broccoli, just three years prior to his first James Bond film, Dr. No [1962]), borrowed Richard Thorpe from MGM to direct. Thorpe was a good, if obvious choice; he had already directed Taylor in numerous period adventure films from their MGM contract days, including such box-office hits as Ivanhoe (1952), All the Brothers Were Valiant (1953), Knights of the Round Table (1953), and Quentin Durward (1955). In The Films of Robert Taylor, author Lawrence J. Quirk calls Killers of Kilimanjaro "a mediocre combination travelogue-adventure-romance." Writing in the New York Times, Eugene Archer pegged Killers of Kilimanjaro as a "compendium of jungle cliches" and said that the film, "...like Ernest Hemingway's distinguished short story 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro,' deals with an American on safari near the snow-capped African mountain. Any other similarity between the new film and literature is purely coincidental." Archer calls co-star Anthony Newley an "inept young comedian," and has little praise for Robert Taylor, "...whose appearance has changed considerably since the days when he was a reigning matinee idol... As a lover, however, he is unlikely to disappoint his feminine admirers. He courts the expedition's inevitable blonde, Anne Aubrey, with exactly the same blank expression that once devastated Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh." Producers: Irving Allen, Albert R. Broccoli; John R. Sloan (uncredited) Director: Richard Thorpe Screenplay: Earl Felton, John Gilling; Cyril Hume, Richard Maibaum (story); J.A. Hunter, Dan P. Mannix (book, "African Bush Adventures") Cinematography: Ted Moore Art Direction: Ray Simm Music: William Alwyn Film Editing: Geoffrey Foot Cast: Robert Taylor (Robert Adamson), Anthony Newley (Hooky Hook), Anne Aubrey (Jane Carlton), Gregoire Aslan (Ben Ahmed), Allan Cuthbertson (Sexton), Martin Benson (Ali), Orlando Martins (Chief), Donald Pleasence (Captain), John Dimech (Pasha), Martin Boddey (Gunther), Earl Cameron (Witchdoctor), Harry Baird (Boraga), Anthony Jacobs (Mustaph) C-92m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning. By John M. Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film was Adamson of Africa. The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. Killers of Kilimanjaro marked John Dimech's screen debut. According to a September 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, Peter Viertel was initially to write the screenplay. According to Hollywood Reporter production charts, location filming was done in Nairobi, Kenya where, according to an undated New York Times article, Warusha warriors were hired as extras in the film. A March 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item adds that three key scenes were shot in London. Director Richard Thorpe was borrowed from M-G-M for the production. Modern sources add Joyce Blair, Barbara Joyce and Christine Pockett to the cast.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Spring May 1960

CinemaScope

Released in United States Spring May 1960