Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Guns of Darkness (1962) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Revolutionary intrigue meets jungle adventure in GUNS OF DARKNESS (1962), a brand-new release from the Warner Archive.

It's New Year's Eve in the South American Republic of Tribulacion, and President Rivera (David Opatoshu) is overthrown in a bloody coup. The wounded Rivera manages to escape, and he turns up the next day at the home of British plantation manager Tom Jordan (David Niven) and his wife Claire (Leslie Caron).

Tom and Claire have a troubled marriage; among other things, the immature Tom is chronically rude at parties, unable to summon the tact necessary for career advancement or job security. The frustrated Claire, who has not told her husband she is finally pregnant with a longed-for child, has decided to leave him and return to France. Little does she know that she and Tom are about to embark on a hazardous journey together, attempting to get former President Rivera out of the country.

The film is a bit of an oddity, blending marital melodrama with a perilous jungle adventure -- complete with quicksand! -- not to mention a violent revolution. The movie is moderately entertaining, but it doesn't really live up to a promising storyline.

Part of the problem is that Tom is fairly unlikeable for a significant portion of the movie; he and Claire bicker even while fighting for survival, with the reawakening of romantic love for one another being a long time coming. It would have also helped if the movie had filled in more back story on their relationship.

The film seems to want to tell a story of Tom belatedly coming of age through their challenging journey; up to this point, his much younger wife is the one who seems to be the brains in the family, constantly trying to smooth things over with Tom's boss and putting up with Tom's asinine behavior. It's an interesting premise but the presentation should have been more compelling. That said, I'm a fan of both Niven and Caron and enjoyed watching them even if the material was a bit lacking.

James Robertson Justice (THE SWORD AND THE ROSE) costars as Tom's boss, who is all too willing to compromise with the revolutionary army. Ian Hunter (THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD) is also a welcome face, in one of his last screen roles.

GUNS OF DARKNESS runs 102 minutes. It was directed by Anthony Asquith and shot in widescreen black and white by Robert Krasker. The screenplay was by John Mortimer (creator of RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY), based on a novel by Francis Clifford.

The Warner Archive DVD is a fine-looking widescreen print. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


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