Run time: 99 min
Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
Writers: Anthony Perry, John Baines
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Virginia McKenna, Basil Sydney
When Alan Howard, a young Englishman, arrives in Kenya to visit his older brother on his farm he finds the latter has been brutally murdered by the Mau Mau. He decides to go on exploiting the farm and to fight the rebels with all his energy. He falls in love with Mary, the daughter of a settler who lives close to his estate. Although the young woman shares his love she disapproves of Alan’s hatred of Blacks. Alan will eventually mellow after Dr. Karanja, a native physician, sacrifices his life to prevent the slaughter of a group of white settlers. Written by Guy Bellinger
Release Date: 9 September 1955 (USA)
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This movie has just been issued on an R4 PAL disc available through Australian retailers so it’s nice to see a pristine copy of it at last rather than a very well worn Beta tape. It has come in for some unfair criticism as a racist tract which it isn’t at all. The good or bad old Colonial days existed, like it or not, and its just anachronistic to apply todays values to life some 50 years ago.The film makes the Mau Mau out to be the villains, the Hamas of their day,and so thought the settlers. Only the most prescient of them saw independence ahead; this is set several years before McMillan’s Winds of Change speech. Rank stalwarts Borgade and McKenna give good performances as lovers and besieged farmers and Donald Sinden looks great as the local police chief. View it for what it is. We can’t erase history, good or bad, like we can airbrush cigarettes from old photos.
This movie may be accused of racism.Perhaps so.But you could also blame "stagecoach" and a lot of westerns before "broken arrow" as well :the Indians were the villains,just as the natives are here.Let's be serious!It was half a century ago and at the time the writers had not the hindsight we have today.The precedent user saw the movie through the eyes of the 2004 audience obviously the politically correct one.Judging by the rating,there are users who disagree and I'm one of them.
First of all,"Simba" is not poorly executed,it has a good screenplay,fine actors (Bogarde and Virginia McKenna),beautiful landscapes…That the Africans should be shown as primitive,cruel and mindless does not prevent some of them from becoming educated and wise:"I studied for six years ,the black doctor says,to save lives ,not to destroy them".Two years later in "something of value" ,Richard Brooks showed a native afraid of thunder!"Simba" is the British forerunner of Richard Brook's work.In "Simba" anyway ,the White are not necessarily the heroes.See how Bogarde refuses to shake hands with the doctor.And the last picture of the movie is a black child's face ,a curious choice for a would be racist flick.
Some of the reviews of this movie are too absorbed with the alleged racial content. Although racism was prevalent in the white community, a better approach would be to recognize the white settlers' concern for their safety from murder and home invasion. Some people don't know much about the history of the period, and are too preoccupied with being politically correct by today's standards. The Mau Mau rebellion was an early example of terrorism through brutality and atrocity. Many Kenyans lived in fear of a Mau Mau raid and more than 2,000 were killed by Mau Mau. The blood oaths and secret society of the Mau Mau made the terror all the more extreme. Although few of those murdered were white, many settlers were extremely scared. They were particularly scared at night, and of being betrayed by their household employees. Simba accurately depicts the fear and tension of the period. There are fine performances and the movie is absorbing and exciting.
One of my biggest complaints about American cinema films concerning Africa is that they are complete pulp fiction and give us no real understanding of the continent. How could it since we have no real ties, even colonial ones with Africa. Simba however which is British made and shot on actual location in Kenya Colony which it was at the time this film was made is a good insight to the problems of an Empire in its last gasp and they knew it.
Kenya took longer than most of sub-Saharan Africa to be free because of the Mau Mau rebellion. But it free it became within a decade of Simba reaching the screen. Dirk Bogarde stars as a young man come to Africa to work with his brother on the family farm in Kenya. But on his arrival he discovers that the brother has been murdered by the Mau Maus.
This does engender some racial attitudes in Bogarde, understandable to say the least. Seeing the better angels of Africa's nature is Virginia McKenna the daughter of neighboring farmers Basil Sydney and Marie Ney. Dealing with it from a military point of view is Donald Sinden in charge of the local constabulary which also is staffed with native troops.
These players and the rest of Simba's film crew took their lives in their hands going there to make this film. Another American film on Africa, Safari with Victor Mature and Janet Leigh, also dealt peripherally with the Mau Mau movement and was shot there a year later. This is the better product by far.
Mention must also go to Earl Cameron playing the European educated black doctor who is caught between the white colonials and his own natives and this violent outbreak which is harming all. Cameron delivers a fine performance, his is the voice of emerging Africa and Kenya in particular.
Don't miss this one if it's broadcast.
It is on record that the British didn’t want Kenya, Southern Rhodesia(Zimbabwe) and South Africa to be given their independence until much, much later. If the Mau Mau uprising didn’t occur, Kenya would not have been granted independence before 1975.Nelson Mandela himself said on his first visit to Kenya that he was inspired by Dedan Kimathi the leader of Mau Mau to fight for freedom.