RPM Film Studios Ltd, 1970
Trevor THE CHARACTERSMajor Allan Wilson: Brian O'Shaughnessy
: fearless leader of the British South Africa Company Patrol: gets killed in a heroic but suicidal battle, but not before demonstrating the kind of leadership that any person would willingly follow and that enemies would praise. Major Forbes: Adrian Steed
: Proud, whistle blowing, cowardly, idiot commander of the British South Africa Company: runs away from the battle and is praised for his actions. Frederick Burnham: Will Hutchins
: Wise cracking American frontier scout: one of two survivors of the massacre. He was later one of the founders of the Scouts. Dr Leander Starr Jameson: Stuart Brown
: Prissy British imperialist: wants the gold mines in Rhodesia for South Africa and, ahem, an end to slavery. Put on trial but hailed as a hero. May Wilson: Anthea Crosse
: Allan's wife to be: pretty background filler and wearer of false eyelashes in 1893.Captain Indy: Lance Lockhart-Ross
: Mute lackey to Forbes: says nothing, takes orders and carries them out. Obeys order to run away from the battle and gets himself court-martialled.Trooper Dillon: Ian Yule
: a whiz with a Maxim machine gun: runs out of ammo and gets killed.LESSONS LEARNED
False eyelashes were a fashion statement in 1893.
Do not entrust your life to an idiot commander who blows a whistle for fun or just to show his men who's the boss.
Do not blindly accept a suicidal mission.
Do not EVER take on the Matabele army with a few men. You. Will. Lose.
Do not trust a man wearing a three piece suit in the searing Rhodesian heat. If he tells you to go kidnap the Matabele King Lobengula, tell him to go to hell.
Do not ever assume that "natives" do not know how to use weapons other than spears.
Do not ever underestimate your opponents in Africa, whichever side you are on. STUFF TO WATCH FOR
1 min 10: Those weird balancing rocks are in the wrong place: that is Matabeleland, not Mashonaland.
1 min 47: Whoa, hide the children! Did he just say procreate?
6 min 10: Ouch, ouch, ouch! Damn Rhodesian thorns!
6 min 21: Hey, it's Sugarfoot! Ol' Will Hutchins himself!
7 min 34: Nice, a conservationist killer!
8 min 29: This is 1893: why is she wearing false eyelashes?
10 min 49: Be rude to the Major and you get your ass punched out.
13 min 50: Old fat ugly white boy with a rifle......whoooooo, scary!
14 min 09: "He says they also have rifles, sir."
14 min 22: Again with that damn whistle!
15 min 00: RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE AGAINST BOTTLES!
17 min 36: Behold! The Shangani
24 min 00: Simple answer to that question: No.
29 min 57: What on earth are those guys doing?
32 min 00: Could this commander be any more of an idiot?
35 min 00: That is one weird rock indeed.
42 min 00: That was an awful limerick: turn up the painkillers!
59 min 00: That could possibly be a trap.......errr, yes, it is.
82 min 00: An exciting sound, yes: it'll be the last sound you ever hear.
83 min 00: The beginning of the end.
84 min 00: Now that's the way to inspire your troops, Forbes: pull a gun on them!
90 min 00: No, you don't want to go back to Bulawayo: Trevor was born there!
94 min 00: The last bullet: literally.NOTABLE QUOTES:
Wilson (to Dr Jameson): “They also have rifles, sir.”
Dr Jameson: “See to it, gentlemen.”
Wilson (angrily, to Burnham): “About the one thing you knew would get my goat!”
Burnham: (sees Wilson’s problem) “Goat? Sure you don’t mean your boot?”
Wilson: “He [Jameson] can sort this lot out.”
Soldier (patting gleaming Maxim machine gun) “Won’t take long with one of these, sir.”
Induna: (tribute) “They were men of men and their fathers were men before them!”
Wilson: “He says this time they’ll kill the Shona in the bush so as not to dirty the water.”
Burnham: “Good thinkin’ chief: musn’t dirty the water.”
Forbes (gibbering in fear behind a rock) “The sooner we’re back in Bulawayo, the better!”
Jameson (to the "natives"): "Tell them to watch."
Burnham (referring to the Chief): "Why should I be worried? He's not mad at me."
Wilson's volunteer: "I found your boot, sir."
Wilson: "Oh, thanks very much."
Volunteer [withdraws boot] "I thought there might be a reward, sir."
Wilson: "Of course.
[Hands the volunteer a coin] Buy yourself a beer."
Volunteer: "Thanks, sir. [sees May] You shouldn't be so careless, Major when you've....been visiting."
Forbes [screaming at Burnham and threatening him with a gun]: "I said no!"THE PLOT
Locale, Mashonaland, Southern Rhodesia, 1893. The British South Africa Company (later to become the illustrious British South African Police) is based in the encampment of Fort Salisbury. The film starts with a sepia toned trial of two AWOL volunteers and later deserters who were eventually dismissed from the army for stealing gold which was given to them by Matabele warriors. In this trial (which is solely represented by archive drawings and voice-overs) the voice of TV anchor man / journalist Adrian Steed is heard as the judge (later to be seen as Major Forbes) and that of Stuart Brown playing Leander Starr Jameson.
We then cut to a glorious sunset shot of the then Southern Rhodesia where the camp is. After a glurgey encounter between the fearless leader and his wife in which the FL professes the fervent wish to bump uglies with his wife in order to make dozens of little pioneer Rhodesians, we cut to the titles of the film, all based on scenes from the forthcoming film. Major problem here and the only blooper in the film: the horrific and ultimately unavoidable demise of the Patrol is shown. Fort Salisbury (now the bustling city of Harare) has a serious problem: it is surrounded by hordes of menacing Matabele warriors, one of whom demands the release of the Shona people under the protection of the BSAC and promises that his warriors will kill them in the bush and not in the Shangani River so as not to dirty the water.
Nice guy. Here’s a thought for you: How about not killing anyone? Then you won’t bugger up anything, not the bush and certainly not the water. After this profound statement, there is a tense standoff and the tension is occasionally broken by the smart ass comments from the American scout Burnham mostly directed at Major Allan Wilson who has lost one of his boots and is now limping around the Central African bush, wincing and cursing at every stone and thorn his foot comes into contact with. His other embarrassment is that his pretty wife May is the only woman in the fort and he has to take the comments of his volunteers with a Gymkata
-sized salt mine’s worth of salt.
He eventually gets his boot back from one of his soldiers, whom he punches senseless as a show of thanks after the man makes some uncalled for remarks about Wilson’s wife. He also doesn’t seem to mind knocking the hell out of someone in front of his wife, either. Wilson, Burnham and their whistle loving / blowing commander Major Forbes are awaiting the arrival of Dr Leander Starr Jameson, one of those stiff upper lip colonial types who detests the so-called “natives” and would like nothing better than to slaughter the lot of them. He is also very prissy, dressed as he is, in the searing Rhodesian heat, in a three piece suit. He would not, of course, do any slaughtering and get blood on his hands: oh no: he would much rather leave the dirty work to his troops.
After a heated exchange in Ndebele between Wilson and the Matabele induna (leader) of Lobengula’s troops, Dr Jameson decides to show the natives how good whitey
can shoot, taking out a bottle with a rifle blast at a hundred yards. The leader laughs, produces his own rifle (much to the visible dismay of the BSAC) and shoots the pieces
, telling the hapless Jameson that “we also have rifles”. Jameson takes a serious puff on his cigarette, sniffs, says “All right!” and then orders up more bottles and the camp’s fearsome Maxim machine gun, almost a cousin to the Gatling gun seen to be used by Messrs Holden and Borgnine in The Wild Bunch.
The vicious onslaught and hail of bullets decimates both the bottles and some of the Matabele confidence, who are then, by order of Jameson told to either bugger off willingly or be forced across the river’s dry bed. Once on either sides of the river, one of the volunteers gets scared and starts shooting at the natives, who shoot back instead of running away in terror. Many of the Matabele are cut down by the Maxim’s merciless fire, but many more are left to fight another day. Some of the patrol have been killed and it is time to beat a hasty retreat.
The BSAC re-group and under orders from Jameson, are to pursue King Lobengula’s troops all the way down from Fort Salisbury to the south of Rhodesia, at that time the kingdom of Lobengula. Here we have another of Jameson’s bone-brained ideas: to send one of the BSAC’s patrols under command of Wilson to capture King Lobengula and hold him to ransom. Yeah, right. Less than forty volunteers against over a hundred warriors who can run all bloody day and still fight a battle at the end of it? That’ll work.
Wilson kisses his wife goodbye and leads his troops on what is become an heroic but ultimately futile quest to capture the King and hope that his troops will surrender. One by one, the volunteers begin showing signs of their inexperience and sometimes even lack of courage, one even loses his nerve, runs away and gets shot for his trouble. Eventually, with ammunition and morale running low, Wilson dispatches Burnham to ride back to the fort and alert Major Forbes that reinforcements are required. After much argument, Burnham complies and the Shangani Patrol is minus another volunteer.
Burnham alerts Major Forbes of the peril that the Patrol is in, Forbes gallantly refuses to back his troops up and there we have it, Forbes, you worthless bastard: you’ve just killed them all and not laid a hand on them. The Patrol is eliminated by the Ndebele after Wilson fires his remaining bullet. Yes, bullet. That one cartridge was all they had and now they have nothing: killed by the Matabele, whose alleged final act in battle was to mutilate the corpses of their slain foes. Not this time. According to legend, the Matabele did not mutilate this brave band, instead, they praised them as being “men of men”.
The final slaughter of the vanquished is shown in quick fire frame flashes (almost like still pictures) and with no sound, right up until the moment when the Matabele induna screams “Touch not their bodies! They were men of men and their fathers were men before them!”
I know of no-one who doesn’t jump when that man screams, especially because you think that because all is silence, the movie is over.