- Directed by Howard Hawks
- June 19, 1962
A group of men in Africa that trap wildlife for zoos find their lives complicated when a wildlife photographer arrives.
Hatari! (Swahili for “Danger!”) is a fun John Wayne vehicle. It has its roots clearly in jungle adventure films. Hawks reportedly wanted to make a film about people that caught animals for zoos, so he gathered together his cast and sent them off to Africa to shoot some footage with the story written by Leigh Brackett AFTER the production crew returned to the US. That shows as well. Hatari! was entertaining but lacked focus at times.
This is an adventure yarn with the usual romances one would expect at the time. Of course John Wayne’s character of Sean Mercer, the man in charge, gets one with attractive wildlife photographer Anna Maria “Dallas” D’Alessandro (Elsa Martinelli) but what I find interesting is the secondary romantic story. It was the usual goofiness, but the interesting thing is at least in my view is that the character of Brandy (Michèle Girardon) ends up with the character of Pockets (Red Buttons) rather than Kurt Müller (Hardy Krüger) or Charles “Chips” Maurey (Gérard Blain) who are also trying to win her over. Why is this interesting? Because despite Kurt and Chips being more stereotypically masculine, Pockets treats her more as a human being than as a female to be seduced. Given the era this came out it this element stood out to me.
Sean Mercer is a gentleman who is afraid of love after a relationship gone bad but finds himself immediately drawn to the photographer sent by the local government to photograph things. Dallas is immediately smitten with Mercer’s extreme manliness and most of the film is about the two of them fighting against their feelings with the occasional humorous interlude tossed in.
Bruce Cabot is the only Wayne regular I can think of that appears here. In Hatari! he plays a Native American named Little Wolf who is often referred to by characters as “The Indian”. Unlike other films from the time, they appeared to make him look the part. He looks as Caucasian as Wayne or Krüger. He is the wise man that keeps Sean on the romantic track when the character appears about to get off it.
Henry Mancini composed the score and debuted the song “Baby Elephant Walk” in this movie but without the lyrics. From the first few notes I knew it was him behind the music before I saw his name.
The real reason to watch Hatari! though are the animal action set pieces. They are rather exciting. The actors reportedly did it all themselves with just enough supervision to keep them safe.
Hatari! is a fun little film. There’s nothing really deep or too special about it. It is just plain down entertaining. Hatari! may not interest the serious film fan but for the John Wayne fan or someone that just wants to be entertained this will be time well spent.