Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Where No Vultures Fly (1951)
Anthony Steel
These days, when we think of Ealing Studios, we tend only to think of the period during which Michael Balcon and his team produced a series of comedies which are so often seen as defining so much of English life.
Yet at the same time, Ealing Studios produced a wide range of other films including this colonial tale set in Kenya which was actually one of the company's greatest hits.
Where no Vultures Fly is the fictionalised story of Mervyn Cowie who was the driving force behind the creation of Kenya's National Parks. Bob Payton (Anthony Steel) is a game warden who grows sick of the wanton destruction of the country's wildlife by big game hunters ...

... who do nothing but kill animals for trophies ...

 ... who successfully lobbies for a game park to be set up. As he describes it "the stink of death was everywhere", courtesy of the hunters, who leave carcases to rot, thus attracting vultures. His aim is to drive away the hunters and see a sky where, without carcases to gorge on, no vultures fly.
Of course, life isn't that easy. He faces the local tribes ...
 ... opposition from the authorities, the farmers and the game hunters. He also faces opposition from his wife Mary (Dinah Sheridan) who doesn't want to live in a tent in the middle of nowhere and would prefer their son Tim (William Simons) to attend school.
Anthony Steel, William Simons and Dinah Sheridan
Anthony Steel and Dinah Sheridan
Of course, Bob thwarts the opposition ...
... and the National Park finally becomes a success.
One has to wonder why this film was such a success. I'm tempted to say that the British public were enthused by the film's sense of post-colonialism/imperialism - that they felt sympathy for Bob Payton and his quest to establish a place where the white settlers and local tribes could work together for the good of the natural world. Or maybe audiences recognised themselves in Bob: a man who is wholeheartedly sick of war and killing and just wants to live in peace.
Or maybe audiences flocked to the cinema simply because all the family wanted to see lions, snakes and elephants in colour?
I'll let you be the judge.
Available from Amazon.

This original poster from the film's British release is currently available from Greg Edwards:


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