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Notable for being Eartha Kitt's screen debut, this film is a political
potboiler with heavy religious overtones. The setting is an unnamed
country in pre-independence Africa, where Obam (Poitier) is a newly
elected representative. Agitating for independence, he clashes with the
colonial government, his firebrand younger brother Kanda (Clifton
Macklin) and newly arrived missionary Mr. Craig (John McIntire).
Some of the speeches get tiresome and a ten minute flashback in the middle of the film slows the plot to a crawl, but the always watchable Poitier still manages to carry the film to it's improbable conclusion. Eartha is cast waaay against type as Obam's demure wife Renee, but then again we are treated to a rendition of her first gold record song ("This Man Is Mine") which is more than worth the wait.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Besides a short film designed to advertise war bonds, this strange,
somewhat conservative, but ambiguous, treatment of colonial politics is
the sum of Michael Audley's directorial output.
The film employs an attractive and talented cast, including Sidney Poitier, a very young Eartha Kitt, Marne Maitland, and a number of other less well-known performers. Particularly impressive are John McIntyre and Clifton Macklin. The script is a little overbearing at times, and the acting talent sometimes struggles with it. The film does a nice job of exposing the colonial politics of the unidentified African state in which the film occurs. Obam (Poitier) is a bright young man who is on the verge of becoming an important political leader. Torn between a desire to return his country to people and force out the oppressive, exploitive Britishj administration, and his country's need to follow through on the promise of the technological and social trends put in place by the British, Obam must find his way by transcending his own prejudices and becoming more than a leader.
The film is more intelligent than average, and features a surprising amount of expository dialog. However, the true motives of the film makers become shockingly obvious about half-way through the film. To this point, no particular path was clear to Poitier, and he seemed somewhat lost in the political complexities of his people's situation. At this point the film suddenly becomes a heavy-handed Christian propaganda piece. It is truly remarkable how the film segues from real-life concerns about exploitation, violence and usurpation of land to largely failed 20th century missionization attempts. It is also remarkable that the infrastructural improvements enacted by colonial administrations (schools, sewers, etc) are somehow connected to the spread of Christianity. A final amazement is the systematic denial of the history of colonialism and Christianity which permeates the film's characterization of Christianity as a religion of peace.
Although I frankly did not like where the film ended up, and though I can cite a number of technical and aesthetic problems as well, I think Mark of the Hawk is worth seeing. It is an intelligent and provocative film from a time (the 50s) when intelligence and provocativeness were sorely needed in mainstream film. Also noteworthy for Eartha's performance of one of her first hits.
Recommended for Kitt and Poitier fans. Mildly recommended for those interested in representations/discourses on colonialism and religion.
This interesting story deals about OBAMA a freedom fighter facing
colonialism and set against the backdrop of apartheid .It's a serious
colonial story about rebellion in an African country very compelling
made and deserving a fine treatment with poignant moments . The story
focuses on the segregation's opposition by Obam as well as the events
leading up a rebellion by the organization of the Mark of Hawk. Obam
renounce for living resignedly with discrimination and apartheid
confronting the system for gaining independence. It's utterly
convincing and does powerful and moving statement about the colonialism
and apartheid. This exciting and startling drama maintains a strong
grip throughout, however is urgent a digital remastering but the
copy-film is worn-out. The best scenes are referred about a flashbacks
in China where a Christian missionary, well played by John McIntire, is
prisoned by the Mao's communists and his Chinese son . Superb casting
with fine all around acting. Good ensemble actors, both Sidney Poitier
as freedom fighter to get racial equality and Eartha Kitt turn in
wonderfully performances, furthermore include song titled 'This man is
mine'sung by Kitt, the future cat-woman in Batman TV series . John
McIntire is splendid as doomed preacher and awesome Juano Hernandez in
an understated, restrained performance.This feature with hopeful
message of potential racial harmony is well realized by Michael Audley
in his first and only one.
This thought-provoking, well-meaning expose that, like many others, focuses on African and white people conflicts , such as those also starred by Sidney Potier : 'Something of value'(1957)by Richard Brooks ,again with Juano Hernandez and set in Kenia with terrible revolutionary group named 'Mau Mau' , a 'Mark of Hawk'-alike, and 'Cry the beloved country¨(version 1951)by Zoltan Korda again with Sidney Poitier and set in South Africa where the oppression,horror and destruction of apartheid system are equally exposed.
Much has been made of this being Eartha Kitt's first role both in the
Trivia section of the IMDb page for the film and in some of the
reviews. In fact here first screen role was in the 1954 CinemaScope
film New Faces.
Interestingly this does not appear on Eartha's IMDb profile page but if you look up the IMDb entry for New Faces (1954) you will see her listed.
Some reviewers have mentioned the somewhat religious overtones of the ending of this movie. Not surprising when you consider that the production was sponsored by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apartheid rears its ugly head in this powerful drama of the struggle
for independence after years of suppression in the white governed
Africa. On the thrust of stardom, the now legendary Sidney Poitier
gives an impassioned performance as am educated African native elected
into public office, considered an outcast by most of the white men and
a traitor by his own people. Sudden violence against his people opens
his eyes to what he needs to do to really see his people freed from the
bigoted intruders who obviously don't see the black Africans as people,
rather as lowly paid workers, barely better than slaves.
The beautiful Eartha Kitt is Poitier's French born black wife, with the gentle Juano Hernandez as Poitier's wise mentor who saw the early days of the missionaries before the oppressors arrived. John McIntire plays a missionary who shares his own political horrors with Poitier in a lengthy flashback that is parallel to what is going on in Africa. Helen Horton is lovely as his loyal wife who suffered silently as McIntire was imprisoned in revolutionary China.
Made with a spiritual backdrop endorsing the importance of world freedom and the end of oppression everywhere, this is interesting and timely as more cultures seem to be regressing than progressing. It doesn't minimize the horrors of the world, and the message is loud and clear. One thing I saw on this that must continuously be promoted is the fact that even in the seemingly most evil of cultures are those who know what is going on is wrong and that the destruction of one race doesn't end hate, but increases it as trial destruction gets closer.
Cheaply made and often badly staged, The Mark of the Hawk is
nevertheless a worthwhile venture despite its failings.
With its wordy script, in some hands it can seem poetic, notably Sidney Poitier's. (Still a year off his first star billing, despite being the nominal lead in this, his tenth movie). Yet in lesser hands it can seem leaden, ham-fisted and trite. Certainly David Goh was unlikely to take any Academy Awards for his work here, and he's not alone. Parts of the film look like one of the best dramas Poitier was ever involved with... other parts look like an amateur home movie.
The film begins with an air of sophistication, but the longer it runs, the more it starts to unravel. Poitier's intelligent militant Obam begins to turn his back on the idea of independence when he learns of the love of Jesus, the film's concept of exploring all sides of the argument evaporating for a syruppy get-out. While many of the themes are looked at from a mature perspective, the film's tagline "Against Voodoo Fury... The Flame of Faith!" was something which set out to unintentionally undermine it.
We go from a manor house party with elegantly crafted lines and gradually descend through the ranks of amusingly kitsch flashbacks, all the way down to Eartha Kitt deciding to make this political message film a light musical. A rare British movie appearance for Poitier, his future forays into this arena - A Warm December, The Wilby Conspiracy and, particularly, To Sir With Love - all reaped richer rewards. Ultimately The Mark of the Hawk goes from a lesser- known gem in his career and down to something of a missed opportunity.
This movie is ultimately about a black African selling out to white colonialists. Not exactly the kind of part that you might expect Sidney Poitier to take on. Considering the year made (1957?) it may just have been that Sidney needed the work. In any case, he does a fine acting job as Obam, a newly elected representative. The same cannot be said for Eartha Kitt - who plays Obam's wife. In a sequence that seems rather out of place she sings her first hit song. A much better acting job is done by Clifton Macklin as Obam's revolutionary brother, Kanda. The tension between the two carries the movie through to it's rather sappy religious-tinged ending. If you are a Poitier fan, it's a must see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(There are Spoilers) Refreshingly honest, for it's time 1957, movie
about the horrors that were facing the African countries who after the
Second World War were emerging from the colonialism imposed on them by
the European Colonialist Powers.
Obam,Sidney Poitier, has been doing his best for his people through the all black or African political labor party he's been leading and has now been accepted by the white colonial government as a member of it's legislator. Feeling that his brother has sold out to his country's colonial establishment the hot headed Kanda, Clifton Macklin, is now not only stirring up hatred against the government but implicating his brother Obam, who's name in African means hawk, by hanging dead hawks all over the countryside. To make things even worse Kanda has been hanging the dead hawks in front of white settlers homes.
Obam trying to get his brother to see that violence will only beget violence later ends up seeing things his brother way instead. This happens when the government refused to give his people the right to vote with the exception of land owners! Land which Obam's people by law are not allowed to own!
As Obam, seeing that there's no hope in negotiating with the white establishment, turns radical his good friend and mentor Christian Missionary Bruce Craig, John McIntire,tries to get him to see that he's, as well as his brother Kanda, being manipulated by the Communists in his labor party. The Communist who's aim is rule by violence not freedom only want power for themselves not freedom for Obam's people. At first Obam is anything but receptive to Craigs pleas for love and understanding and goes full tilt into revolutionary mode. Going along with the radical Kanda in stirring up trouble Obam's wife Renee, Eartha Kitt in her first major movie role, also tries to get him to to see that what he's doing will only lead to death and destruction for his people and nation!
With the dye now cast for an native uprising against the colonial powers in control of their country Craig in a last desperate effort to get Obam to see his way reveals what happened to him and his wife Barbara, Helen Horton, back in China before and after the Communist took over. Obam is shocked to hear what happened there, after the Communist takeover, and now knows what will happen now when the Communists, who have now taken over Obam's labor party movement, take control of his country!
Bittersweet ending with both Obam and Kanda getting caught up with the madness and violence that swept across their country. It was Craig and his fellow Christian Missionaries Amugu and Sandar Lei, Juano Hernandez & Marne Mathland, that in the end get Obam to see the light in that what he, and Kanda, were doing will only play into the hands of the terrorist-controlled Communist elements. With the Communists getting their way they in the end, like in Communist China, will destroy everything that both Obam & Kanda fought for all these years.
Obam now seeing what he's done in lending a hand in his brother ill conceived revolt tries to stop the uprising against the colonialist government before it's too late. Craig for his part put his life on the line running out into the line of fire, between the rampaging Africans and defending white settlers, to stop this madness from getting out of control!
Outstanding performance by the 30 year-old Sidney Poitier that was as good if not better as his Academy Award effort in "Lillies in the Field" or as a back Philadelphia detective in the deep south in the film "In the Heat of the Night". The fact that "The Mark of the Hawk" is almost unknown to the movie going public in not being shown on TV for at least 30 years or available, until recently, on DVD or video tape has people not realize what a great and timely movie it really is.
P.S The multi-talented Eartha Kitt in her first staring movie role as Obam's wife Renee also sings the movies team song "this Man is Mine" referring of course to her husband in the film Obam.
To answer the above users question "What was Sidney thinking?", Poitier did not in fact "need work" but was a student of the writer H. Kenn Carmichael. I would also like to reiterate the time period. It was 1957 and the movie should be viewed in that way. I believe viewers should see for themselves. Carmichael has a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D from the University of Minnesota. He was head of the theater department in the 30's and later worked at City College in Los Angeles. Later in life he did end up becoming an associate pastor and missionary for the Presbyterian Church, USA with his wife. He also became an accomplished song writer.
Although Sidney Poitier was not first billed, his character was
definitely one of the main 3, and if it wasn't for him this movie would
never make it past the 2 star mark. His acting carried this movie. It
has a decent story about the Africans wanting freedom in their own
country and although it didn't really have a B movie feel to it, there
wasn't much there. The story was told well and the camera work was OK
but you never really care about any of the characters. Sidney Poitier
and his character's brother were the only ones who had any believable
emotions. The rest of the cast had the same "look at me act" feel I got
when watching the 1934 version of "The Scarlet Pimpernel"
After watching this it is not hard to see why Sidney Poitier was nominated for an Academy Award the next year, he is just such a good actor in a time where acting was less about believability and more about stage presence.
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