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When the great potato famine hits Ireland, the diaspora begins as thousands emigrate. Among those leaving the Emerald Isle is Katie O'Neill and her husband, who decide that the promised land is South Africa and make their way there. Once there, they discover the hardships that are the reality of the homesteader experience. To complicate matters, Katie meets up with the love of her life, Paul van Riebeck. Will there be betrayal on the veldt? Written by
With the end of the South African apartheid government and the events leading to that end of the past 50 years or so, Untamed was consigned to the 20th Century Fox vaults and has rarely been seen for a generation. Not that it was anything all that great to begin with.
Taken on its own terms and divorced from racial politics, Untamed is a sprawling Edna Ferber like saga of the founding of the Orange Free State and the journey of that group of Dutch settlers called Voortrekkers that made it happen. Tyrone Power is the leader of this group who has dreams of an empire. Dreams so big that Susan Hayward and their romance come in a definite second.
Power meets Hayward in Ireland where he's come to buy horses and the sparks fly at first sight. But he returns to South Africa and Susan marries good old reliable John Justin.
Later after the potato famine hits Ireland, the great Irish diaspora occurs and the Irish scatter throughout the globe. John and Susan go to South Africa and Sue not only meets Power again, but she also comes under the lustful eye of Richard Egan. Justin is killed, Sue wants Ty, Richard wants Sue, but Sue can't see him for beans.
I get the impression that there is a lot more to the original novel than what is shown here, but the story is poorly adapted. Using the comparison to Ferber, Richard Egan plays the Jett Rink part here. It's as though Jett Rink was crushing out on Scarlett O'Hara. Maybe they should have gotten Edna Ferber herself to adapt this work by another author, Helga Moray.
The action sequences are done well however. The Zulu attack on the laager is as well staged as in any John Ford western and the final battle between Power's commandos and Egan's outlaws is also exciting.
By the way the word laager is the South African term they gave for the circle of wagons that the voortrekkers made when camping for the night. We've seen many a western where they circled the wagons, but in South Africa they had a name for it. Voortrekker is the name of the Dutch pioneers who made the journey.
If you are a fan of the two leads as I am, make every effort to catch Untamed in the infrequent times it is shown.
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