Death by Dreary
Even taking into account the era when "Death Drums Along the River" or "Sanders of the River" as it is also known, was made it doesn't stop it from being like watching paint dry. I'm serious, this detective based action/ adventure movie set in Africa is so dull that you end up feeling sorry for the cast which includes Richard Todd, Marianne Koch and Jeremy Lloyd. What is surprising is that "Death Drums Along the River" is not the first time Edgar Wallace's story has been adapted into a movie and so obviously someone saw potential in it but what is shown in this version makes it seem almost pointless.
After one of his policemen is murdered having given chase to a man believed to be involved in smuggling Inspector Harry Sanders (Richard Todd - The Dam Busters) believes that local businessman and all round dodgy geezer Pearson (Bill Brewer) may be involved in something. Sanders' investigation leads him to a hospital run by Dr. Schneider (Walter Rilla) where it just happens the attractive Dr. Inge Jung (Marianne Koch - A Fistful of Dollars) is based. As Sanders digs deeper it seems that whilst he was right about the smuggling the rest of his assumptions were wrong.
Now when you take into account when "Death Drums Along the River" was made and so you have various attitudes from sexism to racism which are uncomfortable now, the movie still ends up uncomfortably bad. And it all starts with the storyline or at least this adaptation of it because what comes across on screen is little more than a series of events with nothing which really joins it all together. We go from Sanders discovering something, to another moment of drama, to something else and it just doesn't flow at all. It makes it feel like a movie made on a shoe string budget where film stock was short and so they only made the pivotal points of the story. The one time where we do get some connection between scenes is when the boat carrying Sanders and Jung accidentally breaks down and all we get is uncomfortable silence.
It means from an entertainment point of view "Death Drums Along the River" is dull and hard to get into especially with director Lawrence Huntington not only filling it with standard scenes but at the same time failing to create any atmosphere. When things eventually move into place for the big dramatic ending where Sanders goes after the man behind all the smuggling and murders it is such a weak climax that it feels more like a comedy. In fact with the inclusion of Jeremy Lloyd as Sanders' right hand man there is a streak of humour running through it but humour which is as dull as the movie.
Aside from Jeremy Lloyd "Death Drums Along the River" is really all about Richard Todd as Sanders and Marianne Koch as Dr. Inge Jung and you have to feel for both of these stars. There is nothing for either of them to get their teeth into and it ends up feeling like a movie they did either to fulfil a contract or just because they needed the money. It is really that bad and to be honest is full of terrible acting which far too often makes you cringe.
What this all boils down to is that "Death Drums Along the River" is a seriously dull movie which whilst technically an adventure movie is the least bit exciting. Everything about it is either poor or boring and it is literally less exciting than watching paint dry.