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Snooze. This is just a TV pilot film for the Ivan Tors series 'Cowboy in Africa.' O'Brian and Nardini play Texas cowboys who are hired by local wildlife caregiver Mills to corral big game as part of a wildlife saving effort. O'Brian is the real Texan, while Nardini is actually a Navajo. The bad guy is a South African hunter-rancher at odds with Mills. He's played by Nigel Green who offers the only lively performance in the lead cast. There's little humor, characterization or strong drama. But there are a few good points: 1) some excellent animal scenes, especially one with a rhino that gets up close and personal 2) A cameo in the first scene by Hayley Mills. Her light, bewitching presence in thirty seconds of screen time makes one long for her to remain throughout, but sadly she's gone in a flash. She always works well with her father John Mills and it's too bad they couldn't associate in this film. Oh, well. Otherwise this film is a bland time-killer.
Animal adventure show producer Ivan Tors ("Flipper," "Gentle Ben," "Sea Hunt") had great success with his other African film "Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion" which served as the pilot for the TV show "Daktari". The feature film "Africa -- Texas Style!" served as the pilot for his TV show "Cowboy in Africa." "Cowboy in Africa" is a much better title since the film borrows heavily from the John Wayne's "Hatari," and is basically the story about ranchers, range wars, poachers, and cowboys (doing it "Texas Style!") with the element of the protection of African wildlife thrown in. Not as fun or with as much comic relief as most of Ivan Tors other work. Watch for star John Mills' daughter Hayley Mills in a quick cameo at the airport. Not a bad film at all, and if you are a fan of the above mentioned works, it's worth a look.
This is about the quality you'd expect from a TV pilot film even one that received a theatrical release which means that, for most of us, it's pretty dull viewing. A past-his-sell-by-date Hugh O'Brian plays Jim Sinclair a brawny Texan cowboy clad in white and with a Native American sidekick (Tom Nardini) to prove just what a decent, honourable chap he is. That doesn't prevent him from nicking Adrienne Corri from her stiff-lipped fiancée without a moment's hesitation, however. Sinclair also takes Samson, an orphaned black boy under his wing. Samson, of course, is Africa, a vulnerable waif in need of guidance and aid; he's cute as a button, but serves no real purpose other than to pad out the running time which, at 109 minutes is about 108 minutes longer than it really needs to be. John Mills obviously fancied a holiday in the sun back in '67, because there's clearly nothing about this project in terms of artistic or creative merit that could have attracted him, and his character, like little Samson's, serves no real purpose other than to admire Sinclair. He even manages to bag a freebie for daughter Hayley by having her make a 30-second cameo appearance in the first five minutes, the sly old dog. Only Nigel Green as a bullish Saird-Efrikan adds any kind of spark to the proceedings, but he isn't on screen long enough to redeem this dud.
Africa: Texas Style finds Hugh O'Brian and Tom Nardini over in Africa
after the rodeo season has finished. They are there at the request of
John Mills who has an idea to give up cattle ranching in Kenya and go
in for domesticating the native animals there. Though they eventually
might wind up food on humankind's dinner plate, the species will be
preserved. Mills sees this as the best way to satisfy both his needs
and the survival of some Africa's game animals. There are a lot of
points of view expressed here.
One of those is that of fellow rancher Nigel Green who raises cattle and is not looking to go into a new business. Curiously enough Mills accuses Green and his cattle of doing exactly what in a few hundred westerns the cattlemen accuse the sheep of doing, leaving the ground barren and eroded.
O'Brian is there for his roping skills and Nardini is his hazer in rodeo events. Roping a wildebeast or a zebra is a whole other proposition.
I'll leave the zoologists to debate the points of view the film has. For viewers it's a nice look of Kenya post independence and the acting is just fine. Looks at the Masai tribal culture is also interesting.
This will not rate with The African Queen or King Solomon's Mines as an African adventure, but it's pleasant enough.
This also served as a pilot for a short lived TV series where Chuck Connors and Ronald Howard play the roles that O'Brian and Mills do.
When his own ranch in Texas is gradually eaten away by the population
boom and the unstoppable urban sprawl that is called "progress", Jim
Sinclair seeks some more unspoilt country to carry on his skills.
Following an invitation from Wing Commander Howard Hayes (retired) he
travels to Africa with his friend and partner (not like that) John
Henry to look into a job offer. Hayes plans to capture the wild animals
of the African plains, tame them and breed them as others do with
cattle. However the idea has its critics and Sinclair finds he has to
contend with threats on two feet as well as four.
I don't know what I expected from this western pilot for a TV series I have never seen or will ever bother to try and see. I assume it was the weirdly comic title screaming out of the TV guide at me because even after watching it I couldn't find anything else that would encourage me to watch it again. The film opens with sweeping landscapes but after a while the shots of animals being roped start to get dull and it exposed the fact that the plot, about catching wild animals, is actually pretty boring as well. Essentially the plot has been thrown together to get a central "ranch" for the story to happen around but, as a pilot, the film put more effort into creating this base than it does into delivering a story. Occasionally the dialogue gets into interesting areas on hunting, catching animals, racism etc but generally I think these were in my mind because the film doesn't do anything of real interest with the themes are the script dismisses the subjects as soon as they threaten to be more than words.
The cast can do nothing to reverse this because they are fairly TV standard. O'Brian sleep walks his way through the film or at least he looks like he is asleep but I got the impression that he was acting flat out to come across as wooden as he did. Nardini is just as bad a Mexican sidekick who cannot do anything add anything in the way of comic value. Mills takes the money for nothing while Corri is as dull as dishwater and a very bad choice for a sort of love interest. Green is a solid villain while Malinda offers an acceptable cute kid to represent Africa while also allowing lots of non-speaking performances in colourful paint.
Overall a rather dull film that is a very obvious pilot due to how little it does other than set up a couple of cowboys, a ranch, some relationships and a bad guy. The plot and the action are fairly dull and I cared less and less the more the film went on. The cast don't do anything to help matters and generally turned in the type of performances you get when the material just requires actions from their characters instead of emotion. Not worth the two hours it will fill.
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