In his 2008 autobiography "My Word Is My Bond", Roger Moore recalled that Lee Marvin got into a fight with Japanese journalists at an airport while making this film. He said Marvin still hated the Japanese because of his war experiences.
The story of the film was inspired by one of the most spectacular and adventurous event that took place during WWI, in German East Africa, later Tanganyika, later Tanzania, in late 1914 - early 1915, known as Battle of Rufiji Delta, in which the German light cruiser SMS Königsberg was blockaded and finally sunk by various British units.
This was the second of two filmed adaptations of novels by Wilbur Smith that starred actor Roger Moore. The first had been Gold (1974) made and released around a couple of years earlier. Both pictures were directed by Peter R. Hunt.
The picture was first announced in 1969, six years before it was eventually filmed. At that time, publicity stated that the film would be made by Cinerama Inc, but in the end, the movie took a number of years to get financed, and was not shot in Cinerama.
Both star Roger Moore and director Peter R. Hunt had long associations with the James Bond movie franchise, the former starring as the character, and the latter as an editor and director of one of the movies, On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), but Hunt never directed Moore when he was playing Bond.
There was enormous controversy about the film being made in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Roger Moore was also heavily criticized for making Gold (1974) and The Wild Geese (1978) in South Africa during the apartheid era.
The picture included such story elements as "exotic tropical settings, man-eating crocodiles, air and sea combat, shipwreck, big game hunting, natives on a rampage, ticking time bombs, rape and fire, malaria" according to show-business trade paper 'Variety'.
Several of the creative team on the picture had worked on the earlier Wilbur Smith adaptation of "Gold Mine" (1970) filmed as Gold (1974) which had been made and released about a couple of years earlier.
The movie's trailer declared the following written statement: "This story is based on a remarkable but true incident that took place in Africa in 1913, before the Great War when the world was very different".
Some movie posters for the film featured a long text preamble that read: "Filmed with all the spectacle of 'King Solomon's Mines', the drama of 'African Queen', the passion of 'Snows of Kilimanjaro' and the majesty of 'Lawrence of Arabia'. It is a spectacular adventure you will always remember and a beautiful love story you will never forget".