Sands of the Kalahari (1965) starring Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker, Susannah York, Harry Andrews, Theodore Bikel, Nigel Davenport directed by Cy Endfield Movie Review

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Susannah York as Grace Munkton in Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

The York Sands

A small plane with a few passengers are forced to crash land in the middle of nowhere and hope that someone will come to rescue them. I could be describing any number of movies such as John Wayne's "Island in the Sky", the 90s movie "Alive" or maybe either version of "The Flight of the Phoenix". But the movie I am describing is "Sands of the Kalahari" a rather strange movie if truth be told because the focus is less on the attempts to get help or the hope of rescue but on how being stuck in the middle of the Kalahari affects people. And whilst at times strange trust me if you have ever watched "Sands of Kalahari" you will never forget it thanks to a stunning ending.

When their flight is postponed till the next day a small group of passengers charter a private plane flown by Sturdevan (Nigel Davenport - Nighthawks) to get them to their destination and joining them at the last minute is Brian O'Brien (Stuart Whitman - Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines). But a run in with a huge cloud of locusts causes Sturdevan to crash the plane in the middle of the Kalahari and into danger. As they set about finding shelter and a water supply it becomes apparent that they are unlikely to be discovered and so someone is going to have to go for help and risk the solo walk across the desert. But the danger for those who stay is closer at home as one of them decides that there are too many of them.

Stuart Whitman as Brian O'Brien in Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

So I've already mentioned that "Sands of the Kalahari" is a strange movie and I say so because it is not what you expect from a movie about survival made in the 60s, or at least not what I expect. Instead of it being about the bravery of these survivors as they work together like so many similar movies are it is focussed on the battle for survival of one of the people. It means that whilst we have scenes of semi ingenuity where they use abandoned ostrich eggs to store water the focus of the movie is on a power struggle.

I hate to do this but I have to say spoiler alert as to go into any detail means I have to tell you what happens and so if you don't want to know I suggest buying the movie and watching it before reading this or any other reviews.

So to go into detail we watch as Brian O'Brien initially plays the game going along with the group, using his rifles to get food for the masses whilst attracting the attention of the only woman amongst them Grace Munkton. You don't realise it to start with but Brian is manipulating people, manipulating Grace by being nice and resisting her obvious charms to make her even more interested and on his side. So later on when he decides he has no need for any of the others and manipulates their leaving she is on his side when one of the groups Mike accuses him of killing others. It makes it a strange and at times unsettling movie as we watch Brian take control and that is not the only unsettling aspect of the movie.

So on to the subject of unsettling there is an early scene between Sturdevan and Grace which is shocking because of what it suggests and not something you might be expecting in this sort of movie. But the most shocking scene is the ending, a memorable scene with a haunting quality as we watch Brian go up against the Baboon's he had tormented the whole time. It is to be honest the ending to "Sands of Kalahari" which makes it memorable because whilst what happens is interesting and well acted from a cast which includes Stuart Whitman, Susannah York, Stanley Baker and Nigel Davenport it doesn't feel like it comes alive until right at the end.

What this all boils down to is that "Sands of Kalahari" is an interesting and different take on a survival movie as we have a crashed plane and a small group of survivors. It is strange compared to other movies based on a similar set up but the haunting quality of the ending makes it a movie which you won't forget in a hurry.