Hatari! (1962) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A group of men trap wild animals in Africa and sell them to zoos before the arrival of a female wildlife photographer threatens to change their ways.

  • Sean Mercer (played by John Wayne) runs a business in East Africa. He and his team capture wild animals for zoos. It is dangerous work - one of his men almost dies after being gored by a rhino. He accepts a request from a photographer to join his business and capture their experiences but is very surprised, and bit inconvenienced, when the photographer turns out to be a woman. However, over time he grows fond of her. Meanwhile, plans to capture certain animals lead to all sorts of plans and adventures.

  • John Wayne and his ensemble cast cavort over the African landscape filling orders from zoos for wild animals. Bruce Cabot plays "the Indian", a womanizing sharpshooter who is gored by a rhino in the opening scenes of the film. This becomes a running theme through the movie; their bad luck in catching rhinos, and provides the climactic ending chase. While Bruce is in the hospital, Elsa Martinelli shows up as a woman photographer from a Swiss zoo, and John wants to send her packing. She strongarms the Duke into letting her stay by promising that her zoo will buy most of their animals this season if she's allowed to go along on the hunts and take photos. Hardy Kruger, Gerard Blain, Michelle Girardon and Valentin de Vargas round out the group. They traipse over the African landscape capturing animals; Elsa also has a running gag where she collects baby elephants as the movie goes along. In the end she's acquired three of them.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Hatari!

    The film opens before the credits with the members of the Momella Game Ltd. parked on the African plains scanning the landscape for rhino. Sean Mercer (John Wayne) spots one and moves out with his men to capture it. During the chase which ensues, Little Wolf, the Indian (Bruce Cabot), is gored in the leg and the rhino escapes. Kurt (Hardy Krüger), who was driving the herding jeep, blames himself for the mishap, despite what Sean says, as he feels he was herding too close. Pockets (Red Buttons), driver of the catching car, tells Sean a tourniquet isn't doing any good to stop the bleeding, and so they head into town to take the Indian to the hospital while Kurt dives back to the compound to bring Brandy (Michèle Girardon), who technically owns Momella Game Ltd., to town to meet them.

    The credits play while Sean and the others are driving back.

    Kurt arrives at the compound in the evening and tells Brandy what happened while she dresses; they depart and join the others at the hospital where they all anxiously await news of the Indians fate. When a young Frenchman with a chip on his shoulder named Charles Maurey (Gérard Blain) comes up to them and asks Sean for the Indian's job, as he was afraid if he waited someone else would get it, the party reacts with indignation and Kurt knocks him down in anger. Sean separates them, and just then Doctor Sanderson (Eduard Franz) enters to tell them about the Indian. He sadly relates to them that the Indian needs a transfusion, but his blood type AB negative is very difficult to match, and the plasma is not doing the job. The Frenchman announces that his blood type is the same as the Indian's, but he will only give it if Kurt asks him. Kurt does, and Sean tells the Frenchman to come out to the compound afterwards, and they'll see about that job. The doctor asks them all to leave the hospital as they're only in the way.

    The party relocates to a bar where some time and several drinks later the doctor calls to inform them the Indian will be all right and should soon be on his feet again. Deeply relieved, they start back to the compound after a celebration, the men very tipsy. Saying goodnight to the others, Sean enters his darkened room and starts to undress but stops in surprise when a woman's voice tells him he is not alone. Turning on the lights he finds a woman, named Dallas (Elsa Martinelli), in his bed, who tells him no one was there when she arrived, so when it got late, she picked a room out and went to bed. Pockets comes in and mistakes Dallas for Sean in his stupor; they're then joined by Kurt. Sean, Pockets and Kurt begin to confusedly argue about what she is doing there, when they are interrupted by the mysterious guest herself who requests to get some sleep and says they can all talk it over tomorrow, whereupon they leave.

    Next morning, the men and Brady discover from her belongings that the woman they saw last night is a photographer. She was sent by the Swiss zoo that contracted to take the animals Sean and the others catch that season. They piece together that it was the Indian who had corresponded with her, not knowing by her initials that she was a woman. In the middle of their talk about her, Dallas herself appears. Sean tells her shell have to leave , as theyre behind schedule already and can't be bothered with a greenhorn, but Dallas shows them a letter from the zoo stating that they will only take the animals provided pictures of the catching come along with it. Disgusted, Sean agrees to let her stay, and that morning Dallas gets her first taste of what animal catching is like.

    They head out after giraffe, and Dallas insists on riding in the back of the catching car where she can "move around." Sean tells her she will all right, and during the bumpy chase over rugged terrain, Dallas, continually falling and yelling, makes a fool of herself, and is eventually told by Luis (Valentin de Vargas) to stay where she is on the floor of the truck.

    They capture the giraffe, and when they return to the compound, Dallas makes a very pretty apology to all of them and tells them to forget the letter she showed them. She says she would like very much to stay, but only if they'll let her; if they want her to go, she'll go. Pockets and all the others except Sean can't tell her to leave after that.

    While Dallas is getting cleaned up in a hot tub, a cheetah enters and frightens her so she screams. Pockets rushes in and, heroically getting a chair between her and the cat, tells her not to move as he thinks he can save her. Just then Sean and Kurt enter the room to see what Dallas was screaming about and see Pockets and the cheetah, whose name is Sonia, the domesticated house pet. Sean asks Pockets "What's with this Clyde Beatty routine?" Kurt stokes Sonia and shoos her out and Pockets abashedly explains how it looked like too good a situation to pass up, when an angry Dallas hits him with a wet cloth and orders them both out.

    Later that same evening, Dallas is sharing the patio with Sonia when Sean comes and tells her that the others voted to let her stay. She is glad, but asks if Sean had voted against her, which he answers in the affirmative by saying he still thinks she'll be a damned nuisance, and leaves. Pockets strolls up and takes a chair next to Dallas. They strike up a friendship, and Pockets sees right away that Dallas has fallen for Sean in a big way. She loves it there, and wishes she could become part of Sean's life, but learns from Pockets about a woman Sean almost married once. She realizes Sean has been once burned and is twice shy of getting involved again, but receives encouragement from Pockets who tells her it isn't hopeless, but that she will have to start something, because he won't.

    Next morning Sean and the others hear over the radio from the doctor that the Indian will be with them again in three or four days. When Sean asks about the Frenchman, the doctor tells them he already left with fifteen pounds he borrowed from the Indian, who borrowed it from Doctor Sanderson. Kurt is disgusted by what he sees as the mans taking money from the Indian for saving his life, and in the midst of the discussion, Pockets announces the arrival of the French blood bank himself. He says he needed the money to get his rifle, as he would need it if he is going to work for them, and Sean takes him out to shoot against Kurt in target practice to get an idea of how good he is. The Frenchman, whom Sean dubs Chips, proves himself very handy with the gun, and is told he's hired. Before accepting, Chips asks Sean to hold his gun, and then knocks Kurt down. He asks Kurt if he still wants him, to which Kurt laughingly replies "You've got the job. But you've got a strange way of asking for it."

    Out on the trail of game again, some of Sean's party stops off at a native village for water. Soon, the entire party is after zebra, which they manage to catch in a running chase with no mishaps, Dallas getting her photos all the while.

    Back at the compound again, Brandy and Chips are hosing down one of their captured hyenas under the thoughtful gaze of Kurt. Sean comes out onto the porch and discovers from Kurt a growing rivalry over Brandy between the Frenchman and Kurt, whom has stopped thinking about Brandy as a little girl, as Sean does.

    The Indian returns that night. While talking to Sean, he asks him to leave rhino alone as he is beginning to think they've got a jinx on them; Sean says they'll wait till they've filled the other orders, and then see about rhino.

    The catching goes on, and while the party is out after buffalo, they pull into a native village where a female elephant has run rampage and been shot by the game ranger. An elephant calf shows up from the brush, and Dallas, unwilling to let it be shot too, insists on taking it with them, much to Sean's annoyance. Feeding the calf wild goats milk proves very difficult, and chaos ensues when the whole party tries milking the goats, but Dallas, who has a way with the elephant, proves successful eventually.

    That night, Dallas, acting on Pockets's advice, makes her first attempt at romance with Sean by simply asking him how he likes to kiss. She succeeds in getting the first kiss, but when Pockets accidentally interrupts, Sean leaves to see about setting a trap for a leopard. Pockets, impressed, asks Dallas if he may come to her when he has a problem.

    Next morning, after the leopard is caught in a cage, the party heads out after buffalo, which they succeed in catching after a dangerous chase.

    While crossing a river on the way back, the herding jeep stalls in the water and Kurt takes a tow line and starts for the bank to tie to the back of the truck. When a crocodile comes up behind him, Chips shoots the animal and saves his life, to which Kurt, back at the compound, thanks him by saying, "I don't like crocodiles, especially when Im in the water with them." After this, their rivalry over Brandy, though still hot, is on a friendly footing.

    A comic interlude occurs one morning as Kurt and the native boys try shooing some escaped ostriches back into their pens.

    Dallas, much to Sean's annoyance, acquires another baby elephant which she looks after with the help of a native boy she hired, and she assures Sean the baby elephants won't be any trouble for him.

    That evening, Dallas finds Pockets mooning over Brandy who is dancing to music played by Kurt and Chips; grabbing Pockets for a dance, Dallas gets him over to Brandy and starts them dancing together, much to Pockets's joy.

    One day a native tribe comes to sing to Dallas and initiate her into the tribe on account of her baby elephants. Dallas, not realizing what she's getting into, gets carried along to their village under the supervision of Sean and the others where she is dyed and dubbed "Mama Timbo", mother of elephants. To be a good sport, she dances with them as she is supposed to.

    That evening, Sean takes some wine to Dallas in her room, who is in curlers, covered with cold-cream, and annoyed over the whole day's proceedings, especially at being caught by Sean at a disadvantage. She quickly begins to melt, however, when she perceives that Sean, in spite of himself, is becoming attached to her. But in the middle of a passionate kiss, Pockets once again interrupts by bringing Dallas her dinner on a tray, then tripping over Sonia who was lying in the way, falls headlong on Sean, dumping the dinner all over him.

    The next animal to be caught is wildebeest. During the chase, the herding jeep blows a tire and flips over with its riders. Kurt is thrown clear and gets a dislocated shoulder which Sean "fixes" for him. Chips injures his leg and is knocked out. Both of them, though rather the worse for wear, are not seriously injured.

    Throughout the incident, Brandy, though concerned, does not behave as if she were in love with either Kurt or Chips, which puzzles Sean who thought she was. The episode makes Pockets think, however.

    Back at the compound, due to being shorthanded, Sean makes Pockets, who is scared to death of animals, help with unloading the wildebeest. In order to be as far away from it as he can, he climbs up onto a fence, but then falls off.

    Brandy, who witnesses it, rushes over to him in a panic that he has hurt himself, and has Sean and the Indian pick him up to carry him to bed. Pockets, playing the role of invalid for all he's worth, is pleased with the way things are going until Sean and the Indian, by mutual consent and once out of sight of Brandy, drop him to the ground and walk off.

    That evening, a bandaged Kurt and Chips are wondering what has happened to all the ice in the house, and Sean tells them to look in Brandys room. There, they see Pockets in bed, icepacks on his head, being fondly caressed by Brandy who tells him she was so worried when he fell off that fence.

    "He fell off a fence!" Chips says in disbelief to Kurt.

    "You nearly took a leg off," Kurt replies wearily, "I got a dislocated shoulder..."

    "And he gets the ice," they sadly conclude, and go to have a nice, warm drink together.

    In the morning, when Dallas goes out to see to the elephants, she is shocked to find yet a third outside the pen. In the midst of worrying what to tell Sean, Sean himself walks up and is driven almost past endurance when he sees three baby elephants.

    Pockets too comes up, in disbelief, and Sean, exasperated, cries to him, "Were running an elephant nursery! Mother," he grumbles to Dallas, and she whispers to Pockets, "That means he can stay!"

    Later, Kurt comes into the living room where Sean and the Indian are and asks if they know what Pockets is building in the workshop. He won't let anyone in, and says Sean promised him he could work alone. The Indian tells Kurt he's working on some "Rube Goldberg device for catching monkeys," but when Kurt begins reading over a list of materials Pockets has been buying, including black powder and war surplus rockets, Sean thinks he had better have a talk with Pockets.

    On their way over to the workshop, Sean and Kurt are alarmed by Pockets and the native boys running in panic from the hut yelling "Hatari!" Just then, a rocket bursts through the roof of the hut to soar through the air with a trail of smoke behind it.

    Kurt grabs a hose, thinking the place is on fire, but Pockets convinces him the fire is out. Sean insists on knowing whether Pockets launched the rocket, or if it went off by itself, to which Pockets, stammering, only falls back on Seans promise to leave him alone.

    Sean eventually leaves it at that, telling Pockets disgustedly to get the roof fixed.

    That night, Pockets, very pleased with himself, tells everyone that in a few days the invention will be ready. He intends to trap five hundred monkeys in one tree under a net for the others to catch, but he suggests that they get together some homemade armor to keep the monkeys from sinking their teeth into them.

    Sean and the others, not willing to take the chance that Pocketss invention won't work, begin getting together their armor, looking a very odd assortment indeed.

    Pockets, with the help of a native tribe, bribing them with Seans cigarettes, gets the monkeys into a chosen tree and ties two dogs there to keep the monkeys in the tree until morning. He informs Sean and the others that night that tomorrow is the big day.

    The morning of the great monkey catching comes and the entire party goes out to the tree. Pockets, very nervous about the success of all his planning, has everyone get behind trees as he lights his rocket.

    He himself hides behind a tree with his hands over his eyes, too worried to watch. The rocket, the fishnet attached, soars over the tree, dropping the net over the monkeys, just as Pockets said it would.

    Everyone, especially Pockets, is shocked the invention actually worked, and soon Sean and the others, except Pockets, are under the net catching monkeys.

    That evening back at the compound, an inebriated Pockets, sobbing because he didn't see the launching, forces Sean to tell him over and over again about the rocket and how it worked.

    Next morning, Dallas takes the baby elephants to the watering hole for a bath; Sean follows her with a rifle to see nothing happens to her. On their way back, they are nearly charged by a female elephant warning them to stay away from her calf. Sean fires in the air and scares the elephant away, and he and Dallas return to the compound.

    That evening, the Indian remarks he sees only one order left to fill: rhino. Sean, in spite of the Indian's objection, decides to head out for them in the morning, which they do.

    A long, dangerous chase of a big, aggressive rhino ensues the next morning, but the rhino, after escaping from Sean and his men once, is at length brought down and the animal catching for that season is finished.

    That evening, the whole party is going into down to celebrate, except for Dallas, who Pockets finds crying in her room. She confides to Pockets that she is giving up about Sean, she doesn't think he can ever get over that girl who burned his fingers once. Pockets leaves and tells the others she isn't going, giving as an excuse that she has a lot of work to do, and when Sean tries to persuade her to come, she drives him out of her room with tears and sobs.

    "Now what the hell did I say?" Sean mutters to himself, completely mystified.

    Next morning, Sean is shocked when he comes to breakfast and his friends tell him that Dallas has left early, leaving a note saying goodbye. Sean declares that he did not want her to go and was intending to ask her to stay. The others, glad to hear it, join with Sean in organizing a search party to find Dallas in town before she departs on the plane.

    Luis suggests for one of the baby elephants to track her down like a bloodhound, but they have difficulty in getting it into the truck until Pockets, using an outfit of Dallas's which she left behind, lures it into the truck and the chase is on.

    Sean, Pockets, and Luis drive one jeep with Timbo, the baby elephant, in the back, and Kurt, Brandy, and Chips drive another; the Indian stays behind at the compound to phone ahead to the airport and tell them not to let Dallas on the plane as she robbed the bank of England.

    The search for Dallas goes on throughout town, through shopping markets and crowded streets, Timbo's two brothers following on foot, looking for Dallas as well.

    Dallas, catching sight of Sean and the others following her, tries to run away, but Timbo and the other two baby elephants keep after her until Dallas is cornered in the lobby of a hotel where she sinks to a chair crying as Sean and the others come up and the scene fades out.

    That night at the compound, we see Dallas turning out the light and getting into Sean's bed. Sean, leaving his friends in the midst of some celebration, comes into the room and he and Dallas repeat the lines they said when Sean first met Dallas in his room, in his bed.

    A bleary-eyed Pockets, just like before, comes into the room to talk, and Sean pushes him out, informing him that he and Dallas were married that afternoon.

    Just then, all three baby elephants enter the room and try to climb into bed with Dallas, breaking it and ending the scene, and the movie.

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