Cast & Crew
On the East African coast, in 1914, machine-guns are stolen from the H.M.S. Marlin with the collusion of Eakins, one of the officers. The ship's lieutenant, James Denham, volunteers to find the guns before they fall into the hands of the Germans, with whom the British have just gone to war. Posing as a hunter, Denham assumes the name of Shelton and goes to Mombasa. At a hotel run by Englishman Bill Cunningham and his daughter Jennifer, Denham encounters Lt. Saxon, a member of the King's African Rifle Corps, who is having a drunken liaison with Karen Van Stede, wife of the town doctor, Franz Van Stede. When Dr. Van Stede comes to retrieve his wife, Saxon is verbally abusive, until Corporal John, an African member of the corps, comes for him, saying that all leaves have been cancelled. Later that night, Denham, who is suspicious of the Dutch Van Stede, enters his cellar, but is interrupted by the doctor before he can find any of the stolen guns. Although Van Stede knows that Denham suspects him, he lets him go when Karen plaintively calls for him. The next day, Denham and his native bearers arrive at Trading Post No. 2, which is also owned by Cunningham. Denham is advised that hunting is no longer allowed near the army post, but he pretends not to pay attention. At the military post, Denham reveals his true identity to Colonel Burke and instructs him to have all cargo being carried through the territory searched. That night, Saxon apologizes to Denham for his drunken behavior. When Denham shares his suspicions of Van Stede and his wife, Saxon immediately jumps to her defense. The next day, Denham, Saxon, and Corporal John go into the jungle to search for cargo that left Trading Post No. 2. Hearing the men approach, the traders quickly hide the suspicious cargo and when the soldiers arrive, they cannot find the guns. Denham pretends that he has just come along "for a lark," but after they leave, one of the traders, who had been hiding, is revealed to be Eakins. Some time later, in Mombasa, Denham observes Saxon leaving the Van Stede house and confronts him. He accuses Saxon of making a fool of himself over a woman and arrests him for leaving his post. Saxon and Denham then come to blows, but are stopped by Corporal John. When Denham enters the house, he discovers Karen's dead body, and Corporal John and Saxon reveal that she had had a heart condition, and that Van Stede and Saxon had both been trying to protect the woman they loved. Denham then apologizes to Saxon and they leave. A few minutes later, the traders, led by Cunningham, break into Van Stede's cellar to retrieve the guns. Van Stede is waiting for them and threatens to tell the local authorities. Van Stede, who has been blackmailed by Cunningham because he has a forged passport, says that he no longer cares, now that Karen is dead. As Van Stede starts to go upstairs, Cunningham kills him and his men take the boxes of guns. Later, Cunningham tells Jennifer that they must leave immediately for a nearby Uatti village because there will soon be a German attack. She does not want to leave, but he insists. At Trading Post No. 2, Jennifer learns the truth about her father, but he blackmails her into continuing with him by saying that the English would assume that she knew about the guns. He also tells her that he has no loyalty to a country in which he was reared in poverty. The next day, Cunningham is stopped by soldiers who demand to look through his cargo. He reluctantly agrees, but as the soldiers start their inspection, Cunningham and his men massacre them. A short time later, when Denham, Saxon and Corporal John return to the trading post, they are suspicious that it is deserted and follow a trail of footprints, which leads them to the massacred soldiers. Denham then tells Saxon to return quickly to the military post and summon Colonel Burke and as many troops as possible. Denham and Corporal John then follow Cunningham's tracks. Corporal John reveals that he is from the Uatti village, which is peaceful, but has undoubtedly been tricked by the Germans. That night, Jennifer sneaks out of her father's camp and doubles back on the trail. Early the next morning, she encounters Denham and Corporal John, and the three follow Cunningham's trail together. At his camp, Cunningham sets up a machine-gun when one of his men hears a noise. The gunners, not knowing how many people are attacking, start blindly spraying the outer areas with machine-gun fire. Two of Cuningham's men are killed by Denham, after which Cunningham and the others disassemble the gun and head toward the village. There the Germans set up the guns, with the help of the natives. Just then, the British troops arrive and a melee ensues. The British are victorious, thanks in part to Saxon who, though wounded, successfully throws a grenade at one of the machine guns. When the battle stops, Cunningham sneaks off. As Corporal John interprets, the Colonel tells the Uatti chief that he has nothing to fear from the British and the chief apologizes for trusting the Germans. When Denham realizes that Cunningham has gone, he asks permission to pursue him. At the river's edge, Denham finally catches up with Cunningham, who is killed by alligators while he attempts to swim away. At the army post, Colonel Burke and Saxon say thanks and goodbye to Denham. As Denham and Jennifer ride off together, Corporal John wishes them good luck.
Arthur G. Porter
Robert G. Shannon
Allen K. Wood
The working title of the film was The Queen's African Rifles. Although the film was released in color, the print viewed was in black and white. A short, written foreword establishes that the story begins in spring, 1914, but the plot reveals that the action began days before the start of World War I, in August 1914. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, The Royal African Rifles was the first production of AFA, Inc. (also known as Associated Film Artists, Inc), a company owned by actor Louis Hayward. The news item went on to state that it was also the first film under Hayward's new contract with Allied Artists with whom he would produce and star in two films a year. No other AFA, Inc. films were made and Hayward made no additional pictures for Allied Artists. Although actor Woody Strode is included in the cast list in reviews and copyright records, he was not in the viewed print, which May have been slightly incomplete.