Jerusalem in the Jungle
Whilst out on safari, big white hunter Ken Duffield (Victor Mature) hears that the Mau Mau are attacking near his home and on rushing back he not only finds his son dead but the man responsible, Jeroge (Earl Cameron), had been working for him. Determined to exact revenge Ken finds himself banished from the area by the police and his only way back is to lead a safari for the eccentric Sir Vincent Brampton (Roland Culver) who wants to kill a notorious lion. Along with Brampton is his fiancee Linda (Janet Leigh) who drinks too much and Brian Sinden (John Justin) who secretly has feelings for Linda. But whilst Ken has to lead them on safari he is constantly looking for a chance to find Jeroge and kill him.
As I sat down to watch "Safari" I was semi looking forward to a movie which saw Victor Mature play the big white hunter, come on who else has the physique to pull of a big white hunter than good old Victor Mature. But then it started and I was shocked as we have a song being sung which feels like it is something out of an Elvis musical and it feels wrong. It even feels more wrong when we see that the person singing is a man called Jerusalem, one of many men who work for Mature's Ken Duffield and as he leads the men in song he also plays the horn. You may like this musical opening to "Safari" but I found it cringe worthy and annoying. But then I ended up finding lots about "Safari" both cringe worthy and annoying with it ending up a rather ordinary safari movie filled with cliches.
Maybe back in 1956 the semi musical opening worked but watching "Safari" now it is the first of many cheesy elements, in fact when ever we have Jerusalem either blowing his horn or leading the men in the same song it grates. It is not the only musical aspect of the movie which grates because when ever we have some heroics be it Ken rushing to save Linda or the police charging in to the rescue the change in the soundtrack to a triumphant, 'here we come to save the day' like melody is just as terrible. In many ways the music is a big reason why "Safari" ends up grating due to it being forced and cheesy.
And in a way it is a shame because whilst "Safari" is a movie built on cliches and stereotypes the actual drama, be it Ken wanting revenge or Sir Vincent becoming delusional about Ken and Linda it works. It is all very predictable because the minute that Ken starts chatting to Linda and she flirts with him you know that at some point Sir Vincent will feel threatened by him and take action. And if you don't realise within minutes of the meeting that "Safari" is a movie where Ken gets the girl, well I suggest you watch more movies because it is that obvious.
The obviousness extends to the characters or in fact stereotypes be it Orlando Martins playing the beaming cook Jerusalem to Roland Culver playing the eccentric Sir Vincent. But whilst every character in "Safari" is a stereotype there is something about watching Victor Mature playing the big white hunter which is entertaining, probably the fact that he looks uncomfortable in the location shots and on edge. Aside from Mature well we have Janet Leigh who as Linda has been cast to be sexy, be it lounging around her tent with a drink in her hand, bathing in the pool or in any number of the unsuitable for Safari outfits she wears.
What this all boils down to is that "Safari" probably worked well when it was released in 1956 and I am sure those who saw it as young children have fond memories of it. But watched for the first time now it borders on the cheesy, be it the cliche characters or the forced musical elements which grate.