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  Mozambique The Planes Down In Africa
Year: 1964
Director: Robert Lynn
Stars: Steve Cochran, Hildegard Knef, Paul Hubschmid, Vivi Bach, Martin Benson, Dietmar Schönherr, George Leech, Gert van den Bergh, Vic Parry, Harold Berens, Peter Maxwell, Sophia Kammara, Bill Levisohn, Josh du Toit, Madeleine Usher
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lisbon, and pilot Brad Webster (Steve Cochran) is cooling his heels there while he tries to get another job, though the issue there is that in his previous post he crashed the plane he was flying and emerged the sole survivor, which understandably makes potential employers thin on the ground. He drowns his sorrows in bars in the Portuguese capital, and gets into brawls as well, so after the latest of these he is arrested and brought to the local Commandant (Paul Hubschmid) who is taking an interest in Brad’s case. This is thanks to a man being murdered in the city that day, who was carrying a letter for him offering that much-needed job: the official more or less orders him to take it, and head off to Mozambique for an investigation…

Harry Alan Towers was your man behind yet another international adventure taking advantage of filming tax breaks around the world, in this instance one of his earliest exploits in South Africa whose apartheid-era authorities welcomed moviemakers who would portray their troubled nation, and perhaps more importantly their fascist government, in a beneficial light. You got the impression Towers wasn’t particularly interested in politics, he was in the business to turn a profit, and that explained the sheer volume of cheap and cheerful, but not that cheerful, efforts from his stable at least ensuring an interesting-looking location that more or less excused the experience of watching the whole thing.

That location in this case was Victoria Falls, the spectacular African waterfall, though you had to hang around till the end of the story to see it, and even then the anticipated sight of witnessing a hapless character take a tumble over the cliff was undercut by use of a bridge a dummy was thrown from, and not the more striking possibility. To find out who was the unlucky recipient of a dramatic bath time, you had a few characters to take your pick from, but our hero was played by an actor who remains to this day a minor cult figure perhaps more for his offscreen exploits than his acting appearances. Steve Cochran was that man, in his second last film before his untimely demise, a very strange tale of expiring in his yacht off Guatemala with his all-female crew spooked until they docked.

He was branching out into making his own movies by that point, and had already completed one before he died, supposedly from a medical condition he picked up when shooting Mozambique, though there is some dispute about the facts, but you were more likely to catch this than his sole directorial effort. As often with Towers, he gathered an unusual cast of up-and-comers and more established, but in need of the money, performers, so in support to Cochran was second-billed Hildegard Knef, the much-respected in her native Germany star who made waves by being the first leading lady from that country to appear nude in a film. By this time, she was establishing herself as a singer in the mould of her good pal Marlene Dietrich, which explains why the action halted for her to croon.

Towers did like his nightclub sequences, especially in the nineteen-sixties, mostly thanks to them being a handy method of padding out his films with a song or cabaret act (a band of African dancers and drummers get their chance in the limelight here), but Knef wasn’t the only singer in this, as Danish starlet Viva Bach showed up as well, having held Cochran’s hand on the flight down, with a nightclub job to see about. She somehow got wrapped up with white slavers, but Brad was more interested in seeing about his own pilot’s position as given by recent widow Knef who is involved with dodgy dealings herself, though the exact minutiae of the plot grow hazy thanks to a lack of urgency endemic to many of this producer’s works. All you really needed to know was that these were the big screen equivalents of contemporary episodes of The Saint or Danger Man, potboilers whose faked exotic backdrops were the real deal when Towers was concerned. Music by Johnny Douglas.

[Network's DVD in its British Film line boasts the sort of print you'd expect from a Towers production of this vintage, but the colour is good, and a trailer and gallery as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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