I'll be putting some of the best (in my opinion, anyway) films made in South Africa in these threads so that my friends here can get a taste of the true wonder that is SA film. Some unfortunately belong in the Bad Movies section. Space Mutiny
, anyone? SHANGANI PATROL (1970) DAVID MILLINSPOILER ALERT
Along with The Winners, this is the finest South African production of the 1970’s – the fact based tale of a detachment of 34 volunteers under the command of Major Allan Wilson who were slaughtered on the banks of the Shangani River in 1893 by the forces of King Lobengula. Based on the novel A Time To Die by Robert L. Carey and a powerful script by Adrian Steed, this film (photgraphed on a farm in the actual environs of the battle by Lionel Friedberg) explores the recruitment of the volunteers and their heroic, yet ultimately almost suicidal mission against the soldiers of the Matabele king. It is also the most requested film in the holdings of the National Film, Video and Sound Archives.
A stunning film (referred to by a client of the National Film, Video and Sound Archives as “the old Rhodesian film”) in all departments (especially the cinematography and music), but with a very, very sobering ending. Against almost undefeatable odds ~ not the least of which was their idiot commander Major Forbes’ refusal to send assistance, which resulted in their deaths ~ the 34 volunteers fought and killed twice their number, before being overwhelmed by the Matabele warriors. It was customary for the Matabele to mutilate their slain foes, but according to legend, the Matabele induna ordered his warriors to desist, saying of Wilson and his soldiers, “They were men of men, and their fathers were men before them.” An eerie legacy has been passed down as a direct result of this event 114 years ago: the descendants of those warriors who live in the environs of where the battle took place, refuse to go to that particular area as it is rumoured that the place is haunted because the tradition of mutilating one’s foes after battle was not followed.
This film is also an allegory for the Rhodesian war of 1965 ~ 1980, with the fight put up by Allan Wilson and his outnumbered band of volunteers being likened to the struggle and spirit of the Rhodesian people in fighting off hordes of invaders ~ the spirit of which has largely and sadly dwindled away. With Brian O’Shaughnessy, Will Hutchins, Anthea Crosse, Adrian Steed, James White, Lance Lockhart Ross, George Jackson and Stuart Brown as Sir Leander Starr Jameson.
An amusing footnote: my personal heritage is a little fuzzy, but the soldiers who crossed the South African border into the then Rhodesia and died at the hands of the Matabele, could well be relatives of mine, as they lived in the area where I was born 70 years later and also married and raised kids there.