This article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Guns at Batasi|
|Directed by||John Guillermin|
|Produced by||George H. Brown|
|Based on||The Siege of Battersea|
by Robert Holles
|Music by||John Addison|
|Edited by||Max Benedict|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|September 1964 (UK)|
16 November 1964 (US)
Guns at Batasi is a 1964 British drama film starring Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, Flora Robson, John Leyton and Mia Farrow. The film is based on the 1962 novel The Siege of Battersea by Robert Holles and was directed by John Guillermin. Although the action is set in an overseas colonial military outpost during the last days of the British Empire in East Africa, filming happened at Pinewood Studios in the United Kingdom.
Guns of Batasi depicts an erupting world where newly empowered forces, both black and white, embrace the realpolitik of a post-colonial world. A group of veteran British NCOs, headed by upright Regimental Sergeant Major Lauderdale (Richard Attenborough), becomes entangled with a coup in an unnamed African state, recently-independent and dogged by political intrigue. The unnamed country is evocative of Kenya in east Africa: RSM Lauderdale mentions the Turkana peoples (who live in Kenya), native soldiers speak in Kiswahili, the lingua franca of the Kenyan region, and aspects of the story echo Kenya's troubled post-independence era, including the 1957 Mau Mau Uprising. Throughout the story contrasts professional British NCOs and their officers with the inexperienced African soldiers and their officers.
After the post-colonial government is overthrown native troops supporting the new regime seize control of Batasi, a King's African Rifles army base. They seize weapons and arrest the newly appointed African commanding officer, Captain Abraham (Earl Cameron). With British NCOs isolated in their mess, action concentrates around their protection of the wounded Captain Abraham. This defence is complicated by Ms Barker-Wise, a visiting British MP (Flora Robson) and Karen Eriksson, a UN secretary (Mia Farrow), the latter providing some love interest.
Eventually, the country's new administration allows British officers to return to the Batasi barracks and end the siege, although not before the NCOs destroy two Bofors guns targeting their mess. The film ends with the new government restoring amicable relations with the British Commonwealth, but on condition that RSM Lauderdale leaves the country. RSM Lauderdale loses his cool (the only time he has done so throughout) and flings a shot glass, to his horror accidently breaking a framed portrait of Her Majesty The Queen, a treasured centrepiece behind the bar. Regaining his composure, the resigned Lauderdale marches across the parade ground as a military march swells.
- Richard Attenborough as Regimental Sergeant Major Lauderdale.
- Jack Hawkins as Colonel Deal
- Flora Robson as Miss Barker-Wise MP
- John Leyton as Private Wilkes
- Mia Farrow as Karen Eriksson, United Nations secretary
- Cecil Parker as Fletcher
- Errol John as Lieutenant Boniface
- Graham Stark as Sergeant 'Dodger' Brown
- Earl Cameron as Captain Abraham
- Percy Herbert as Colour Sergeant Ben Parkin
- David Lodge as Sergeant 'Muscles' Dunn
- John Meillon as Sergeant 'Aussie' Drake
- Bernard Horsfall as Sergeant 'Schoolie' Prideaux
- Patrick Holt as Captain
- Alan Browning as Adjutant
- Richard Bidlake as Lieutenant
- Horace James as Corporal Abou
- Joseph Layode as Archibong Shaw
- Ric Hutton as Russell
The film was originally to be made by Roy and John Boulting, who wanted to make a return to drama after a series of comedies. "We think the time is ripe for us to return to the serious subject", said Roy Boulting.
Roy Boulting said he intended to start filming in August 1963 at Shepperton Studios with four weeks location filming in West Africa. The budget of $1 million was to be provided by Bryanston Films and British Lion. However the film would eventually instead be made by John Guillermin and 20th Century Fox.
The film, which was made in CinemaScope, was made entirely at Pinewood Studios between February and April, 1964 although it was set in tropical Africa (it was made at the same time as Goldfinger). The exterior night scenes were filmed on a sound stage and the opening scenes were shot on Salisbury Plain.
Britt Ekland was originally cast as Karen Eriksson but pulled out three weeks into production. The Swedish actress had just married Peter Sellers who apparently was so paranoid about her having an affair with Leyton he secretly asked his old acting friends, David Lodge and Graham Stark who were co-starring in the picture, to spy on his new wife. After being quizzed nightly on the telephone by Sellers about her scenes and who she was with, Ekland left the shoot to join Sellers in Los Angeles. Her role was quickly recast and completed by Farrow. In response 20th Century Fox sued Ekland for $1.5 million; Sellers counter-sued for $4 million claiming the Fox suit caused him "mental distress and injury to his health".
Heavy drinker and three-packets-a-day smoker Jack Hawkins' voice is audibly fraying: it was almost the last film he made before surgery for throat cancer removed his vocal cords and left him with little more than a whisper.
According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $1,400,000 in film rentals to break even and made $1,845,000, meaning it made a profit.
Filmink says "A subject like this is a political minefield, with its hot topic subjects of imperialism, militarism, race, emerging democracies, etc. It works best as a siege story, on which basis it is very exciting."
The score was recorded by the Sinfonia of London orchestra.
The DVD commentary on the making of the film is narrated by John Leyton.
- "Books and Authors". New York Times. 1 August 1962. p. 29.
- A.H. WEILER (19 May 1963). "OBSERVATIONS FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT". New York Times. p. X7.
- Our own Reporter (18 February 1964). "Pinewood carries on--with £9m". The Guardian. London. p. 5.
- "He proposes to his wife eight times a week". The Australian Women's Weekly. 29 July 1964. p. 15. Retrieved 18 December 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
- Sikov, Ed (2011). Mr Strangelove: A Biography of Peter Sellers. Pan Macmillan. ISBN 9781447207146.
- "Actress Leaves, Filming to Halt". New York Times. 25 March 1964. p. 47.
- "Mia Farrow to Take Ekland Role in Film". The Washington Post, Times Herald. 1 April 1964. p. A11.
- "Sellers Asks $4 Million in Suit Against Studio". Los Angeles Times. 12 May 1964. p. 26.
- Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 323.
- Vagg, Stephen (17 November 2020). "John Guillermin: Action Man". Filmink.