Sunday 31 July 2011

The Southern Star [1969]

A bit of an oddity this one.  A French / British co-production from 1969, it's one of those adventure films which don't seem to get made much these days.

Set in Senegal, it's about the chase for a ginormous stolen diamond - the Southern Star of the title - which is coveted by various people: George Segal, who wants it to prove his worth to his fiancee's (Ursula Andress) curmudgeonly father (Harry Andrews); Ian Hendry, who wants it to frame Segal for its theft and thereby win Andress from him; Johnny Sekka, Segal's friend, who is a 'jackdaw' who loves shiny objects; and Orson Welles, who wants it for its value.

Harry Andrews (R) presents the Southern Star to his guests, as Ian Hendry (L) looks on
The problem is that the film isn't funny enough or thrilling enough.  The interplay between Segal and Sekka is good but it all comes right at the beginning of the film; after the diamond is stolen they are separated, Segal teams up instead with Andress and they just don't have the same chemistry.

George Segal and Ursula Andress, burning up the screen
Similarly, the film's central section - Hendry chasing Segal and Andress through the jungle - is hampered by the miles of stock footage through which the actors have to hack their way.  It's no exaggeration to say that there's more stock footage in this movie than there is in any of Edward D. Wood Jr's oeuvre.  To be fair, some parts of the film were shot on location in Senegal, which is fine, but even then it isn't made to look particularly photogenic.

Some stock footage of apes from the library.  The footage is from the library, not the apes.  Oh you know what I mean.
According to imdb, the opening sequences were directed by Welles with Sidney Hayers responsible for the rest of the film.  I wasn't aware of that when I saw the film but can honestly say that the first ten or fifteen minutes are by far the best and most interesting.  The rest is as anonymous as an episode of the TV series TARZAN, the one with Ron Ely.

George Segal pretending, unsuccessfully, that he's in Africa and not standing in front of a rear projection.
Film buff notes: the cinematographer was Raoul Coutard who worked with Jean-Luc Godard on a lot of his pictures, including the previously reviewed ALPHAVILLE (1965).  The screenplay was adapted from a Jules Verne novel by David Pursall and Jack Seddon who wrote many scripts together, without creating anything particular notable.  Former Beatles producer George Martin arranged the title song which, of course, is sung by Matt Monro.

Orson Welles interrogates Johnny Sekka (L)j

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