Concerning a disparate group of airplane crash survivors stranded in the desert wastelands of South Africa, its a shame SANDS OF KALAHARI has never really recd. the accolades it deserves. Directed by Cy Endield, its a first rate sweaty and intense adventure film - but was always maddeningly hard to see. Thankfully this was remedied a few years back by a DVD and blu-ray release from Olive Films. It has a first rate cast including Stuart Whitman (in whats by far the best role of his career), Susannah York, Harry Andrews, Theodore Bikel, Nigel Davenport and best of all the great Stanley Baker.
After the success of ZULU American producer Joseph E. Levine approached the production team of Cy Enfield and Stanley Baker to collaborate on another picture. Deciding on a screen adaptation of William Mulvihill's African adventure novel SANDS OF KALAHARI they initially approached Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to star but Taylor refused to travel to Africa and George Peppard and Susannah York were then cast. Peppard dropped out for THE BLUE MAX and Whitman was cast at last minute.(with he and York most likely for a whole lot cheaper then Burton & Taylor).
Stranded after their initial plane flight is cancelled the group instead hires pilot Nigel Davenport to fly them to Johannesburg. Severely over loading the plane Davenport runs into a huge swarm of locusts during the flight and crashes the plane in the barren desert. Its to the movies credit that we don't get a whole lot of unnecessary back story (and soap opera plot lines) for the characters - we basically learn that Baker is an alcoholic former mine superintendent, Bikel is a college professor & Whitman is a big game hunter (with York's and Andrews story left mostly to the imagination).
The films makes excellent us of its locations with the wide screen photography (by Erwin Hillier - who also shot OPERATION CROSSBOW this same year) making great use of the wide sun baked vistas and shimmering distant horizons. The characters also become more bedraggled as the film progresses (with Whitman especially interesting to watch as he reverts to savagery) and in a nice touch there's refreshingly make up free York, who doesn't look like she stepped straight out of a beauty parlor as often in the case with female characters in movies such as this. All in all a this is great film worthy of re-discovery and perfect to watch on a hot summer's night.