DARK OF THE SUN
U.K. - U.S.A. | 1968
Directed by Jack Cardiff
Starring
Rod Taylor
Yvette Mimieux
Jim Brown
Color
| 101 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD-R(NTSC)
Warner Archive Collection
Music from the film
Main Theme
MP3 format - 7.3 MB
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Review by
Troy Howarth


Film:9
DVD:5
Tough-as-nails mercenaries Curry (Rod Taylor) and Ruffo (Jim Brown) lead a dangerous mission into the Congo to secure $50 million in diamonds...
    After establishing himself as one of the world's premiere cinematographers thanks in large part to his work on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's feverish Technicolor gems Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) Jack Cardiff made the switch to directing in the early 1950s. His output as a director was comparatively sporadic not to mention minor but he did make a few memorable pictures in diverse genres. His 1960 smash Sons and Lovers was arguably his biggest critical success, but in terms of cult value, nothing comes close to Dark of the Sun. This energetic, muscular, sometimes downright nasty action film is a 'guy film' like few others, and has not surprisingly been referenced by filmmaker/pop culture jukebox Quentin Tarantino as a particular favorite he even used a snatch of the film's soundtrack in his recent hit Inglourious Basterds (2009).
    The film stars Australian leading man Rod Taylor as the proverbial mercenary with a heart of gold. Taylor is best remembered for his appearances in George Pal's The Time Machine (1960) and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), but he was never better than he was here. Taylor clearly relishes the opportunity to play such a strong-willed man of action, and he responds with a performance of genuine depth, humor and humanity. He is well paired with NFL-great-turned-actor Jim Brown (The Dirty Dozen, Black Gunn), who plays the more conscience-oriented of the two mercenaries. While Taylor's Curry is more-or-less in it strictly for the money, Brown's Ruffo is driven by a sincere desire to help his people. The two ideologies inevitably clash, upping the film's dramatic ante considerably, but the warmth and affection that exists between the two men helps to make Dark of the Sun uncommonly touching in parts, as well. Taylor and Brown have great chemistry, making one regret that they didn't go on to do other pictures together. The supporting cast is headed by lovely Yvette Mimieux, Taylor's Time Machine love interest, who seems poised to fill a similar function in this picture. Happily the film avoids bogging itself down with a gratuitous love story (this is a 'guy film,' after all!) and their relationship is very much of a 'what could have been' variety. Mimieux doesn't actually have a lot to do, but she does a capable job and holds her own in context. Kenneth More (A Night to Remember) is terrific in a fairly cliché role the alcoholic medic who makes good while Peter Carsten (The Sins of Madame Bovary, Zeppelin) makes for one of the most utterly despicable villains in action cinema history. Carsten's cold-blooded, by-the-book martinet comes off as fairly vile right from the get-go, but by the end of the picture the audience is truly rooting for him to get a well-deserved comeuppance. Andre Morell (Plague of the Zombies) and Calvin Lockhart (The Beast Must Die) round out an excellent cast.
    Given Cardiff's background as a cinematographer, it comes as no surprise that Dark of the Sun is a very handsome production. Cinematographer Edward Scaife (with some uncredited help from Cardiff himself) gives the film a gritty texture, but the use of color and scenery is still very impressive. The use of the wide frame helps to give the film an appropriately larger than life look, as well. To say the film is fast paced is a bit of an understatement there is literally no fat on display here, and the film moves fairly breathlessly towards its big action set-pieces. Only some shoddy bluescreen work lets the film down on occasion, but that is a minor complaint at best. Dark of the Sun is a classic of its genre and deserves to be far better known by a wider audience.

Warner Bros. have finally issued Dark of the Sun to DVD, albeit as part of their made-on-demand Archive Collection. The program has taken a lot of flak for making use of DVD-R technology, but let's put things into perspective the quality is still very good, and it's great that the film is finally available, period. The 2.35/16x9 transfer looks very good on the whole there's some dirt and print damage, especially during the opening reel, but for the most part the image is sharp, colorful and relatively blemish-free. There was some initial confusion about the disc offering an abbreviated edit, but it does in fact run the whole 101 minutes. The mono English soundtrack is clean and clear, as well; there are no issues with hiss or background noise to report. The only extra is a theatrical trailer. 8/25/11
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