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J. Carrol Naish
Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale is a spit-and-polish, by-the-book disciplinarian, who seems like a 19th Century anachronism in a sleepy peacetime African outpost of the modern British Commonwealth. He is ridiculed behind his back by his subordinate NCO's and must play host to a liberal female MP making a tour of the base. However, when an ambitious African officer, who happens to be a protege of the MP's, initiates a coup d'etat against Captain Abraham, the lawful African commandant, the resourceful RSM uses all his military training to arm his men despite being under house arrest and rescue the wounded commandant from a certain firing squad. When Lt. Boniface, the leader of the mutiny surrounds the sergeants mess with two Bofors guns, it looks like Lauderdale will have to surrender unless he again disobeys orders and takes the initiative. Written by
Gabe Taverney (email@example.com)
Opening credits: All people, events and places depicted in this film are entirely imaginary and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or to any real events or places, is entirely coincidental. See more »
At regimental dinners in the Sgts Mess, the Loyal Toast is always proposed by Mr Vice, the junior member of the mess, and not by the RSM. See more »
I first saw 'Guns At Batasi' several times in its butchered for television version shown mostly on late-night TV, a pan-&-scan version which also deprived the film of its Cinemascope format. But I just saw the DVD which reproduces the original Cinemascope (and which includes an entertaining commentary track by John Leyton who plays Pte. Wilkes in the film) which let's us see 'Guns At Batasi' to its deserved advantage.
It's a splendid character study of a British Army Regimental Sergeant Major set in an absorbing - and rather accurately prophetic - plot of a post-colonial African revolution.
After Richard Attenborough, properly dominant as the thoroughly professional, no-nonsense Regimental Sergeant Major, the almost uniformly solid casting gives us nice turns by the four sergeants, Leyton as Pte. Wilkes, Flora Robson as the gullible MP keen to believe her ilk's pie-in-the-sky Marxisant p.c. propaganda, Errol John as the African rebel officer, and the always splendid Jack Hawkins as Lt. Col. Deal (an apt name considering the part his character fulfils in the story). Teenaged Mia Farrow has a small role (her first in cinema, I think) as a events-stranded UN secretary who shares a mutual lust interest with Leyton's Pte. Wilkes (Farrow's scenes were re-shoots owing to the originally-cast Britt Ekland's desertion from the filming to fly to her then-paramour Peter Sellers' side while he was working in the U.S.). The writing is very good and, as I said, prescient in view of the continuing undeserved credibility placed in chiefly venal Third World leaders by Western politicians, media, and p.c. types; Guillermin's direction is sure-handed; and production design and cinematography - some very good B&W work here aided by capable lighting
are a cut or two above workmanlike.
Though shot entirely at England's Pinewood Studios on a rather low budget, the strong script and fine acting raise 'Guns At Batasi' to the level of a minor classic well worth appreciating.
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