Harry Sanders returns to England after losing his job as a police inspector in West Africa. However, he soon returns to the continent to investigate the offshore diamond operation of a shady American tycoon.
Private detective Edward Mercer goes to Venice at the request of a French insurance company to locate a brave Italian whom they wish to reward for his part in the rescue of an Allied airman... See full summary »
A young wife is becoming very distraught over the fact that her husband, a secret service "spy" for England, has changed his mind about transferring away so that he can spend more time with... See full summary »
Luke Billings and his four reprobate sons ride into a small South African settlement in search of revenge on Police Sergeant Sam Hargis. Hargis knows he cannot outgun the five outlaws and ... See full summary »
Bill Brewer is dubbed by Francis De Wolff. See more »
When Sanders, with doctor and sergeant, visit the village a side shot shows them passing the first hut. Their shadows are clearly seen on the ground, yet in the following approach shot the shadows are considerably lengthened and reach halfway up the side of the hut. See more »
An interesting setting but the almost entire lack of action lets it down
There's something appealing about low-budget British thrillers of the early '60s. Despite the lack of action they always seem to contain worthy scripts, strong acting and enough twists and turns in the plot to stay interesting. DEATH DRUMS ALONG THE RIVER is no exception. The film itself is based on a character created by top krimi writer Edgar Wallace in his book Sanders of the River. Inspector Sanders is a hard-nosed, no-nonsense river policeman whose job is to keep things quiet at his station in Africa. Of course the location of the film means that we get plenty of appealing backdrops to the story and a wider variety of nationalities than you might expect from a more typical British-set movie. The plot is fairly simplistic and tends to drag out the most minute detail into a ten minute subplot with lots of talky static moments. Yet the script is interesting, giving life to some larger-than-life characters and there's a whodunit angle to keep the audience guessing.
Richard Todd takes the role of Sanders and makes it his own. Sanders isn't a very approachable or appealing hero in the same way, say, James Bond is. Instead he tends to keep himself to himself and doesn't take action unless he needs to. Todd puts in an accordingly subtle performance. The story includes some light comedy relief in the form of an officer in Sanders' command who is always put down by Sanders and comes across as slightly stupid. This doesn't really make Sanders a very likable character though, instead he seems quite selfish and unfeeling.
The script offers some nice characterisations. The best is Bill Brewers as vagabond Pearson who may or may not be the villain. With his familiar face and bear-like manner, Brewers is a delight in the role and it's just a shame he isn't more predominant instead his character is pretty extraneous to the central plot. German Euro-crumpet Marianne Koch is on hand as the female lead, Doctor Jung, but she doesn't have a lot to do other than romance with Sanders. The film offers the minimum of suspense and a couple of nice moments (the stand-off at the native funeral) but the lack of action hurts. Despite being book-ended by two good chases (the opening police hunt and the closing speedboat race) the middle of the film drags a little and cries out for some incident. This isn't a bad film but it could have been so much more had it been a little livelier.
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