Stars: Rock Hudson, Dana Wynter and Sidney Poitier
We soon see even more palpable differences, ones that McKenzie seems to understand if not have a solution for. Karanja, Kimani's father, becomes a father again, but as the baby is born feet first he promptly has it killed and buried beneath a pot because breech birth is a sign of a curse. When he gives evidence to the court, he willingly details what he did and why, further explaining that it was not murder because the child was newborn and only becomes a person, a member of the tribe, on his first birthday. For these reasons, he'd do the same thing again should the circumstances arise, thus prompting a discussion that is really the key to the film. It's one thing to bring the law of man and God to the natives, but how can the settlers make them understand it? Without understanding, McKenzie fears for the future. As the opening text tells us: 'When we take away from a man his traditional way of life, his customs, his religion, we had better make certain to replace them with Something of Value.'
Sure enough Kimani promptly leaves, and becomes caught up in a network of native resistance, people who want to throw out the foreigners and take back their own land. Kimani sees their ways as extreme but stays with them nonetheless, even as the years pass and he grows into a leader, partly because he marries their oath giver's daughter. When the time comes for them to rise and perpetrate their night of the long knives, he still has doubts, especially as the first place they hit is the McKenzie ranch, but he goes along nonetheless and while he's slapping Jeff Newton, his compatriots are slaughtering everyone else, children included. They're the Mau Mau and theirs was a particularly bloody time in African history. With six million blacks and forty thousand whites in Kenya at the time, the Mau Mau uprising saw over ten thousand killed in action and probably fifty thousand more from the civilian population.
Nobody else really gets a part that they can sink their teeth into. Rock Hudson is the star, playing Peter McKenzie, and he does surprisingly well in the African bush, looking surprisingly like Cary Grant in the rain, but he's hardly a righteous British colonist, leaving us in the strange situation of finding him believable in the country but not in the family. Why they cast an English family and then added an obvious American to be the focus I really don't understand Worse than the accent though, Peter comes off as nothing less than a saint and that gets tiring after a while. While his father has understanding of the ways of both the white settlers and the Kikuyu people, Peter appears to be blissfully unaware of the difference. It's an admirable trait but only if it's chosen; it simply doesn't make sense to have it intrinsically.
There are performances worth watching here, but they're generally pretty shallow parts. Michael Pate reminds of James Coburn and he plays a farmer called Joe Matson as solidly as Coburn would play it, trigger happy and as racist as anyone else in the piece. Wendy Hiller is excellent as Peter's sister Elizabeth, initially annoying but going on to shine in a few dramatic scenes that highlight how much better she is as an actress than Dana Wynter who may be the leading lady but gets saddled with nothing but a throwaway character. It was good to see William Marshall, albeit briefly, in a role as a Mau Mau intellectual. He was such a powerful actor it always seems a shame to remember him primarily for his two roles as the lead character Mamuwalde in Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream. Sadly this film ends up with about as much substance as they had and isn't as much fun.