Buttons' Pocket Rocket
Sean Mercer (John Wayne) leads a group of hunters in East Africa who each season captures animals to be shipped off to various zoos around the planet. It is a dangerous profession and one of his team, The Indian (Bruce Cabot), is gorged by a rhino during a chase. But things get tossed up in the air when wild life photographer Anna Maria D'Alessandro ("Just call me Dallas") (Elsa Martinelli) shows up as she has been commissioned to photograph the men capturing wild animals as she immediately take a shine to Sean. Trouble is ever since the woman Sean loved left because she couldn't deal with his way of life he has had a negative attitude towards women. But the longer Dallas stays the closer she gets to Sean who still needs to capture various animals including a rhino despite The Indian fearing there is a jinx on them.
The opening scenes of "Hatari!" feature the hunters trying to capture a wild rhino and not only do we see the rhino bashing in to the speeding vehicles but it was reportedly the actors in the vehicles careering along the rut ridden ground. Not only would scenes involving an animal in this sort of action no longer be permitted but I doubt many companies would insure actors to be involved in such dangerous situations. It is this sort of thing which firstly grabs you about "Hatari!" as whilst I am a fan of realism and stunt work I am also glad this sort of animal action is no longer allowed but it also makes me miss the sort of movies where actors did do some really reckless action scenes.
Beyond the scenes of animals being captured and the wonderful scenes of actors and stuntmen putting themselves in danger "Hatari!" is simply an old fashion mix of action, adventure, drama and romance as we have animal hunts, characters falling in love, romantic rivalry and all the sort of old school entertainment which is missing from modern movies and it is still entertaining. The thing is though that whilst the set up of animal hunting for zoos is a bit unique the sort of drama which fills the movie is not that unusual and many of the elements are pretty familiar and I can think of several other John Wayne movies with similar elements such as two of the team fighting over a local girl.
But one of the biggest appeals of the movie is the cast and in particular the pairing of John Wayne and Red Buttons as you have the humorous antics of Buttons with Wayne often ending up coming off worse due to his humour. In truth none of the familiar actors do anything new but each of the characters are entertaining because they all work so well together. And yes I also mean John Wayne and Elsa Martinelli as Elsa brings a nice amount of playfulness to Dallas as she flirts with Sean knowing he is an older man who feels a little awkward despite warming to her.
What this all boils down to is that "Hatari!" is a strangely familiar yet still unique movie which has that wonderful old fashioned mix of action, adventure, drama, romance as well as comedy. Yes it is a bygone product which would never get made these days which in some ways makes it all the more special.