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Film / Sands of the Kalahari

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Sands of the Kalahari is a 1965 British-American adventure film directed by Cy Endfield, starring Stuart Whitman, Stanley Baker, Susannah York, Harry Andrews, Theodore Bikel and Nigel Davenport. The screenplay was written by Endfield and the uncredited William Mulvihill, based on the latter's 1960 novel The Sands of Kalahari.

A small aeroplane crashes in the sweltering deserts of southern Africa, hundreds of miles from civilization. As parallels are drawn between the stranded group of seven passengers and a nearby pack of savage baboons, one of the passengers — a big-game hunter named Brian O'Brien (Whitman) — finds his survivalist nature getting the better of him, as he determines his chances of survival would be better if the other men were eliminated one by one.


  • Animal Nemesis: O'Brien develops a vendetta against the tribe of baboons that keeps antagonizing the survivors. By the end of the film, it seems this feeling is mutual.
  • Attempted Rape: In a flash of megalomania, Sturdevant decrees that he is the leader of the survivor group and that Grace is 'his woman' and attempts to rape her. It is only when he realises how cold Grace is to his advances does he regain control of himself and break off his attack.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: After being driven into the desert at gunpoint by O'Brien, Dr. Bondarahkai is saved by a group of Kalahari Bushmen.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: O'Brien, aware he will be prosecuted for murder if he returns to civilization, chooses to remain behind when the others are rescued. With O'Brien the sole human in their domain, the baboons become more belligerent. At first he is able to keep them at bay with his rifle. When he runs out of ammunition, O'Brien brazenly challenges the alpha male to a fight and succeeds in killing him with his bare hands. In the film's final shot the remaining baboons encircle the lone hunter and ominously amble towards him.
  • Crowbar Combatant: During their final showdown in the cave, Bain attacks O'Brien with a short jimmy bar.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Brian O'Brien is a big game hunter and the best survivalist of the group. Thinking his own chances will be improved by the absence of competition, he ruthlessly seeks to eliminate his fellow survivors, one by one, intending to leave only Grace Monckton alive, an "Eve" for his "Adam."
  • High-Class Glass: Kindly old gentleman scholar Grimmelman wears a monocle.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: When O'Brien attempts to force Grimmelman to walk into the desert at gunpoint, Grimmelman manages to snatch the rifle off him. Holding the gun on O'Brien, Grimmelman tells him that is not necessarily the weak old man O'Brien thinks he is, and tells him a story of what he had to do to survive during WWII. O'Brien then tells him that he unloaded the rifle while Grimmelman wasn't looking. Grimmelman pulls the trigger, but the hammer falls on an empty chamber. O'Brien then snatches the rifle back and beats Grimmelman to death.
  • Intimate Healing: When the injured Bain is shivering by the fire at night, Grace lies down next to him and wraps her arms around him to keep him warm.
  • Maniac Monkeys: The survivors of the plane crash are menaced by a troop of baboons inhabiting the area. Initially content to holler at the intruders from the distance, the animals gradually become more aggressive as they realize the people are only a physical threat to them when they have weapons.
  • Mistaken for Thief: Sturdevant survives his trek through the Thirsty Desert and collapses into the water lapping the beach he arrives at. However, he has unknowingly crossed on to the lands of a diamond mine and is immediately arrested by mine security, who mistake him for a diamond thief they are searching for.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Mike Bain is a chain smoker whose biggest regret following the plane crash—despite being badly injured—is that he didn't think to buy a fresh pack of cigarettes before taking off.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: Sturdevant sneaks up on Grace and watches from the top of the ridge as she is refreshing herself at the waterhole before he attempts to rape her.
  • Parrot Pet Position: In the early scenes in civilisation, Grimmelman has a small pet monkey that rides on his shoulder. The monkey must have perished in the plane crash as it is not seen after this.
  • The Place
  • Quick Nip: Early in the film, Bain is often seen taking a quick shot from a hip flask. Being stranded in the desert forces him to go cold turkey.
  • Repetitive Name: Egomaniac Hunter Brian O'Brien.
  • Robinsonade: A disparate and desperate group of plane crash survivors are thrust into a desolate mountainous desert region somewhere within present-day Namibia.
  • Shower Scene: Grace is shown taking a shower when she is stuck in town waiting for a replacement flight. Includes Toplessness from the Back.
  • Solar-Powered Magnifying Glass: Dr. Bondarahkai uses a lens from his glasses to concentrate the sun's rays and start a fire.
  • Thirsty Desert: A disparate and desperate group of plane crash survivors are thrust into a desolate mountainous desert region somewhere within present-day Namibia. While they locate a source of water in the mountains, they cannot carry enough water with them to cross the seemingly endless sandy desert that surrounds them.
  • Toplessness from the Back: There is a prolonged shot of Grace from behind during her Shower Scene.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: O'Brien gives his shirt to Sturdevant for extra cover when the latter sets out across the desert in search of help. He spends the rest of the movie shirtless (and in short shorts).
  • Wrench Whack: Expecting dirty tricks from O'Brien, Bain hides a spanner in the sand on the cave floor. When O'Brien is strangling him, Bain is able to retrieve the spanner and hit O'Brien in the head hard enough to knock him out.