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There's a reason you've never heard of this movie

Author: Wuchak from Ohio/PA border
13 March 2014

"Ashanti" has loads going for it: Released in 1979, it was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars Michael Caine with an impressive supporting cast, including Peter Ustinov, Omar Shariff, William Holden and Rex Harrison (the latter three in very minor roles). If you're into exotic women there's Beverly Johnson, not to mention great exotic locations -- Israel, Kenya and Sicily (although much of the story takes place in the Sahara Desert). Caine's co-star, Kabir Bedi, is impressive as well.

The story addresses modern-day slavery. Caine's black wife is apprehended by slave-traders and he chases them across the Sahara Desert all the way to the Red Sea. I know of two beautiful women who completely disappeared abroad. What happened to them? Were they apprehended by slavers? Did they become sex slaves? No one knows. The film illustrates this very-real possibility.

"Ashanti" plays like a wannabe "Lawrence of Arabia" but doesn't even come close. It's marred by a horribly dated 70s score whereas the score to "Lawrence" is timeless (even though it's older by about 17 years!!). Plus, "Lawrence" is believable from beginning to end, whereas I found myself mumbling "Yeah, right" numerous times while watching "Ashanti." In other words, too many scenes come off unconvincing or slightly awkward.

BOTTOM LINE: "Ashanti" sounds great on paper but they needed to take more time in the creation process to work out the kinks in the writing, acting, directing and score.

Still, the locations are great, there is a lot of action and the film provokes thought on an important subject. It's definitely worth picking up if you're a Caine fan or if you're into desert-survival flicks, especially since it's so cheap. Same thing if you favor Beverly Johnson (who's not the greatest actress). It's quite a bit better than Caine's similar African adventure "The Wilby Conspiracy" (1975).

The DVD features only a full screen version but the picture is quite good. Unfortunately the menu is cheap, featuring only "Play Movie" and "Trailer;" there isn't even a scene selection option.

GRADE: C

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A Fairly Interesting Action Movie

6/10
Author: Uriah43 from Amarillo, Texas
13 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While helping her husband, "Dr. David Linderby" (Michael Caine) vaccinate an isolated African village "Dr. Anansa Linderby" (Beverly Johnson) is kidnapped by slave traders. But before the notorious leader named "Suleiman" (Peter Ustinov) can collect his money for her his small party must first travel 3000 miles across Africa to a port in the Red Sea. Realizing that David is going to need all the help he can get to rescue his wife, an anti-slavery official named "Brian Walker" (Rex Harrison) arranges to have a mercenary by the name of "Jim Sandell" (William Holden) and later a desert nomad named "Malik" (Kabir Bedi) to assist. But time is of the essence and Africa is a big continent. Anyway, rather than detail the entire plot and risk spoiling the film for those who haven't seen it I will just say that this was a fairly interesting action movie. Both Michael Caine and Peter Ustinov performed rather well but it was Kabir Bedi who really stole the show. I also enjoyed the scenery provided by Beverly Johnson. On the flip side though, I thought the enormous talents of Rex Harrison, William Holden and Omar Sharif (as "Prince Hassan") weren't fully utilized as much as they should have been. Even so, this was an enjoyable movie for the most part and I rate it as slightly above average.

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a cheap-feeling, much-maligned revisit of David Lean territory

5/10
Author: Michael A. Martinez (aylmer666@juno.com) from Los Angeles, CA
27 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ASHANTI is one of those films that has plenty of excellent little moments (Caine rescuing the children and having to abandon them in the desert, the small boy's and the gorgeous Ms. Johnson's escape attempt, and Kabir Bedi getting revenge on an old enemy) but overall is a fairly dreadful mess of a film. The main problem is in its execution. Nobody seems too excited about this potentially quite exciting material, including the director and most of the cast.

Although he does steal the film, Peter Ustinov feels tremendously out of place to me as he channels a lot of the same larger-than-life pathetic / comedic energy he displayed as the villain in Disney's animated ROBIN HOOD and as the Caliph in THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD made around the same time. It just doesn't fit in with the dark and serious undertones of the film, and how everyone else underplays as much as he overplays.

The direction by the usually reliable Richard Fleischer is adequate but filled with moments of bizarre incompetence, such as the final showdown on the boat with Bedi just standing there waiting to get shot. There's plenty of other flaws including some bad dubbing, poor special effects involving an airplane crash, a dreary and dated musical score, and a lot of uninspired cinematography.

While the cast is certainly top notch, featuring Omar Sharif returning to LAWRENCE OF ARABIA territory along with the Indian actor he famously shot at the beginning of that movie (marking the start of his international career), most of the performances are unbelievably weak. Rex Harrison and William Holden seem wholly unenthusiastic about every bit of dialog, while star Michael Caine goes through the entire film with an annoyed wince on his face, like he just can't wait to cash his paycheck and get back to England and out of the sun.

Nicely, this film takes place almost entirely outdoors and showcases some splendid African locations. The pacing is fairly leaden but picks up later in the film, and Kabir Bedi's performance as Caine's vengeful guide ranks among his best and gives the film an air of gravity and authenticity. Not to mention Beverly Johnson is one of the most outrageously attractive women ever filmed, so her scenes alone are worth the price of admission.

Writer Alberto Vasquez Figueroa covered similar ground involving modern slavery in the period pieces MANAOS and IGUANA which are both worth checking out for those lucky enough to find them. He also wrote TUAREG THE DESERT WARRIOR, one of the few more original Italian B-movies from the early 80's (as in not an obvious cash-in) featuring some similarly fascinating expose on North African culture, though distilled into cheap action movie conventions and the odd casting of NCIS's Mark Harmon as an African chieftain (??)! Of all Figueroa's works, this may be the one to reach the widest theatrical audience and fail the hardest, but I can appreciate it along with all his other works for their relative originality.

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Well, it certainly isn't Lawrence of Arabia but..

7/10
Author: ColonelFaulkner
21 May 2011

..it wasn't all that bad. 'Ashanti' has contrivance, plot holes, implausibility and more, not to mention plenty of cliché and stereotyping, while a single sentence can describe the plot; 'White husband pursues across Africa his hot black wife and her abductors who intend to sell her into slavery to wealthy Arabs'. Done. I wasn't expecting a whole lot, but actually I found this quite watchable and pretty entertaining.

Certainly it isn't great and I may even be being slightly generous in giving it a seven, but it was pretty light, didn't seem to take itself too seriously and if other viewers don't take it too seriously either then I doubt they'll be disappointed. Sure, this will never make any 'must see' list, but it wasn't a waste of a couple of hours and Michael Caine was far too harsh in his own criticisms of it. He must have had bigger expectations of it being some epic which it didn't live up to.

It's worth a look.

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A cracking yarn let down by the use of stereotype

7/10
Author: Andrew Wheatley from Lancashire, England
27 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There have been far too few mainstream films set in post-colonial Africa, and the ones that have are a mixed bunch. This one, with its altruistic pretensions to expose slavery in the 1970s, shows the best and worst values of Africa, which turn out not to be too different to the values of humanity as a whole. It also has shortcomings, given the undue influence of western pre-conceptions of Africans and, especially, Arabs.

Dr Anansa Linderby, the beautiful African-American wife of the English doctor David Linderby, is captured by Arab slave-traders, along with a teenage Sanufu girl and a young boy. The lead slave-trader, Suleiman, is every bit the stage Arab, with his flowery and sometimes humorous rhetoric, and gestures to match - which would not be out of place on "Carry On Follow that Camel" but are not up the standard this film deserves. Peter Ustinov of course had more than enough skills to address some of the shortcomings of the script, and he rescued what could otherwise have been a woeful one-dimensional character.

Continuing the stereotypical theme, all three of Suleiman's Arab employees are unintelligent and one has paedophilic tendencies towards the boy, which thankfully are not portrayed on the screen.

One of David's first ports of call is the local police officer, a stereotypical pompous and incompetent African bureaucrat. David then meets two stereotypical white ex-pats, an Englishman (Walker, played by Rex Harrison) and an American (Sandell, played by William Holden). Sandell is a mercenary with "conventional" views on mixed-race relationships, who initially refuses to help unless David provides payment up front. Won over by David's love for Anansa, and conscious of his own inability to find love, he agrees to take David up in his helicopter to help search for Anansa. They find Suleiman and his captives crossing the border and are unable to pursue them into the neighbouring territory - as a result of Sandell's hesitation and David's lack of experience with firearms, his helicopter is shot down but David survives.

We then see David introduced to Malik (Kabir Bedi), an African who has lost his family to Suleiman and is now only driven by vengeance. They find the Sanufu girl with a group of Tuareg and know they are on the right track to find Suleiman.

In one of the most heart-rending scenes they kill a party of slave traders only to find that it was not Suleiman's group, and have no choice but to send their captives to the Tuaregs they met earlier.

Later on we discover that the young boy who had been raped is a witch doctor and, in an excellent scene with supernatural overtones, he uses his knowledge to kill one of Suleiman's henchmen. Anansa on her part - and despite the scepticism of the boy - manages to engineer the demise of Suleiman's two other employees.

By this time Suleiman and his slaves are within days of reaching the slave market.

Suleiman, now in no doubt that Anansa is "trouble", attempts to sell her to an obscenely wealthy Arab prince (Omar Sharif) who is corrupt but intelligent. On discovering that Anansa is an American working for the U.N., the prince rather unwisely decides to carry on with the bargaining without considering the consequences. The scene where the two men haggle is one of the best in the film.

At the slave market, the young boy is sold to a middle-aged German paedophile, and we are left to guess whether the boy will still be considered "wunderbar" when his owner is on the receiving end of his witch-doctoring skills.

David and Malik finally confront Suleiman and there is a bitter-sweet ending from Malik's point of view.

Ultimately, David and Anansa are re-united, and Malik, whose life is in ruins, can console himself with having seen the task he set himself completed.

The overall plot of the film is excellent but it loses marks for its stereotypical portrayal of nearly all the leading characters. Credit must go to all the leading actors for addressing many of the shortcomings of the scripting.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Deserves to be more widely seen

7/10
Author: HEFILM from French Polynesia
14 April 2006

An obscure film, but so what? IF you do find it give it a look

The worst element may be lousy music score really knocks this down several stars. But at least there isn't a lot of music.

Does Caine really think this is worse than BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, BLAME IT ON RIO, JAWS 4, THE SWARM, or even the recent THE WEATHERMAN? He was probably really hot on location and that's all he remembers. Good to great actor though he is, this isn't really in his worst 10, not in his best 10 either but...it's well worth watching.

He does seem to have chemistry with the wife character and there is a memorable scene with him and a bunch of slaves who don't want him to leave them. Also an early scene involving his wife's abduction is very well done--so the story gets off to a good start.

Director Fleischer was friends with Rex Harrison, who is just fine in the film, and Holden is okay too. This film always remains interesting even it may not catch fire--it actually drags in the middle but has a pretty lively wrap up--but everyone treats it with seriousness. A noble cause sort of thing.

It may well be the last really serious role Ustinov had certainly one of his few villain performances. Shariff is also good and helps juice up the ending.

The photography is beautiful and the locations are very well used, too bad it sort of stumbles around about a third of the way in. It has a good sense of place in the details throughout.

Aside from a blandly shot helicopter crash the action, what there is of it, is well done. I believe Fleischer took this over from another director and probably deserves credit for what's good about the film more than what's weak.

Worth a look, though the ancient full frame VHS doesn't do it justice in 2014 a good looking DVD finally became available.

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5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Even the actors cannot save it

Author: dbdumonteil
25 December 2007

With "Ashanti", Richard Fleischer,one of the most talented (and underrated)American directors hit rock bottom.Was it the same man who made "Clay Pidgeon" and "Follow me quietly" (early period) ,"Violent Saturday" and "the Vikings" (middle) and finally reached a breath-taking maturity with "The Boston Strangler" "10 Rillington Place " or "Solyent green" (which contains what might be the most moving scene in the American movies of the seventies:the death of E.G.Robinson)."Solyent green" was also Fleischer's death as an artist;there's simply not one movie worth seeking out afterward:"Mandingo" "the Don is dead" (A poor man's "Godfather" where Fleischer met up with Quinn he had already directed in his remarkable "Barabba" ) "Conan" or "Amytiville (3D!) are dreadful stuff.

"Ashanti" is no exception in Fleischer's dismal final years.The slave trade which still exists today was a good subject though;after "Mandingo" why not "Ashanti"?But James Mason could not save that movie ;Both Ustinov and Caine ,two veterans of the English cinema ,cannot save "Ashanti.Peter Ustinov gives a tong in cheek performance,knowing that the only way to deal with such a screenplay is not to take it seriously.Even Omar Sharif comes to the rescue (so to speak).It seems the one mistake that the slave trader made is to have abducted an educated woman (a doctor!).

Too bad a subject so serious should be botched that way.

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0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

A star studded African adventure movie

Author: Cristi_Ciopron from CGSM, Soseaua Nationala 49
27 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think there are several things that make this film worth watching:its actors (no less than six famous artists:Michael Caine,daddy Peter Ustinov,Harrison and Holden,Kabir Bedi and Sharif),its director (Richard Fleischer) and the appealing Beverly Johnson as Anansa Linderby.

Ashanti (1979) is somehow a sequel to the Victor Mature African adventure movies,and a worthy contemporary of Piedone d'Egitto (1979) and Piedone l'Africano (1978);it is also,if we want to situate it into the world of the African adventures, a prequel to a Catherine Deneuve adventure flick like L'Africain .It had the chance of a magnificent cast,and the result is unassuming,but well paced and thrilling.It certainly possesses and affirms a camp quality,a crap note,a rubbish hint that make it very enjoyable.It is the adventure,through pastures, air,desert and Touareg caravans,settlements,of the man who follows a frightful and comical merchant,daddy Ustinov,the abductor of his wife (the enthralling Negress Beverly Johnson,then in her 20s).

The cast of Ashanti (1979)is plainly Pantagruelic and fairy like:six vigorous,experienced and virile actors,that can be distributed into three couples:1=the leading tandem (Michael Caine vs. Ustinov);2=the colonial couple (the oldish Holden and Harrison);and 3=the exotic couple (Kabir Bedi and Sharif).Except them,there is the beautiful woman, Beverly Johnson,and countless lesser roles and bit parts.

William Holden was 61,and towards the end of his career,when he appeared in Ashanti (1979). Sir Michael Caine was very involved in the adventure movies at the end of the '70s:an actor in the middle of his 40s, Michael Caine made The Eagle Has Landed (1976), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Swarm (1978), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979),many physical roles.But after The Ipcress File (1965), Alfie (1966), Battle of Britain (1969), The Italian Job (1969) and Get Carter (1971),he must have felt his work in the late '70s as a decline and a humiliation,an underbelly of his career.Anyway, "Ashanti" is not his undermost film;I would suggest that this shame belongs to the inane and inadvisable The Last Valley (1971).I guess there are few the actors that have made roles in so many films that are now considered as cult movies,from The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966) to Educating Rita (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) ,his career is the very career of a cult actor ;unavoidable fact,he also made a few very wrong choices,with movies that are worst than unassuming .Again anyway,in the late '70s he began to dislike his physical roles,and this is visible in "Ashanti".While his role in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) is excellent,he is viscous,stark and insipid, starchy, involuntary displeasing in "Ashanti".Whenever he dislikes a role or film,Caine shows it:he looks contemptuous,aloof and quaint.In this respect, Ustinov and Sharif are more professional.But Michael Caine felt he was underused;for a long time this man was the favorite for B action movies,a privilege that he not always enjoyed.In Ashanti (1979),Caine manages to give his lines an insulting imbecility.Ashanti (1979) is not his worst movie,in fact it is certainly and frankly better than his The Last Valley (1971) made at the peak of his career;but it seems to be one of his worst roles.

The plump,merry and ruddy wag Peter Ustinov is a dumpy,gesticulating slave trader.Caine is,as I said,sullen and bored.Sharif is fine as the abominable rascal;the well shaved and suffering Rex Harrison,the brawny ,keen and revengeful Kabir Bedi as a wild adventurer complete the cast.The exoticism is brought in this thrilling masquerade mainly by Beverly Johnson,Ustinov and Bedi.Ashanti (1979)contains also a pleasing brimful of nudity.

Richard Fleischer was 63 when he directed this film.He is,however,the author of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954),Violent Saturday (1955),Crack in the Mirror (1960),Fantastic Voyage (1966),The Boston Strangler (1968) and Mr. Majestyk (1974),Amityville 3-D (1983),Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonja (1985);so,hail him!

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Compelling Underreported Current Subject Matter, Good but Misses the Mark

6/10
Author: commortis from United States
20 March 2006

My rating considers the subject matter, modern-day slavery (!), some good photography ( captives walking through Lawrence's desert, a couple of good cameos), and gives Caine, and the director, a pass for execution. I agree that there could have been a much better musical score, however, this film tickled my imagination when I first saw it in 1980; not just about how it could have been a better film, but simply by the fact that slavery, and a slave trade, continues to exist: a fact later confirmed and documented by activists as recently as 2001. As this film was originally released in 1979, I wonder how much of a budget the film would have had it been made more recently, in light of current knowledge about this phenomenon. I have ordered this film to be included in my collection. Some films' impact is only realized over time, perhaps with repeat viewings, or some time after viewing to consider their whole; some have their greatest impact upon first or second viewing, with subsequent consideration or viewing either reducing said impact, or by that impact's simply not continuing to swell. This is a film that, while it didn't continue to grow in significance for me, neither did its significance decline. It could certainly have been better, and it's unfortunate that Michael Caine, an actor whose work I largely admire, wasn't happy to have worked on this film, but I do believe that it is much better than many other b- films to be found.

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7 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

I found every moment of this film interesting and thought provoking.

Author: (chemiche@yahoo.com) from Cambridge, MA
12 April 2000

This is a film about modern day slavery and slave trade. At the same time it is a tale about love and how a person would go to all lengths to get back their loved one. Inter-racial marriage may be a touchy issue for some, but I found that it worked perfectly here. Dr. Anansa (a black woman) is kidnapped, and her husband ( a white man) spares nothing to get her back). When I watched the horrors that the captives endured it reminded me of the horrors that African captives endured over the centuries. This film brought out my emotions as I despised the human injustices portrayed. At the same time I could feel the love that the Linderby's had.

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