Spectacular. Absolutely spectacular. The amount of overall ass-kicking on display in this reckless, exceedingly entertaining action-adventure film from 1968 can’t be underestimated or denied. For nearly 100 straight minutes, director Jack “I’m More of A Man Than You Are” Cardiff brought the full-throttle action with hardly any relenting, and yet was still able to dole out important character beats and have everything make coherent sense thanks to a terse, extremely macho screenplay by Adrian Spies and Ranald MacDougall, who based their work on Wilbur Smith’s novel. Rod Taylor gave one of the most masculine performances that I’ve ever seen as a Soldier of Fortune who accepts a dangerous job in the Congo — guard a train that’s carrying $50 million in diamonds that needs to make an extremely dangerous journey through the jungle with hostile rebel troops armed and at the ready for battle. And make no mistake, most of the blunt-force narrative consists of massive combat scenes on and off the train, tremendous shoot-outs with huge body counts, hand-to-hand violence galore, and as the all-time great one-sheet suggests, you DO get to see men fighting with chainsaws.
The full-bodied, richly textured widescreen cinematography by Edward Scaife is glorious, the rousing musical score by Jacques Loussier is bold and triumphant, and the extremely tight editing by Ernest Walter kept a rip-roaring pace but still allowed for a few small grace notes. Jim Brown tore it up as Taylor’s right-hand man on the battlefield, while Kenneth More played a hard-drinking doctor who provides key help along the ride. Peter Carsten turned in a very memorable performance as a former Nazi who wants to help the group, and the beyond sexy Yvette Mimieux was on full display as an innocent caught up in all of the madness. Critics lambasted the film for it’s excessive sequences of violence and torture (the rape and pillaging of the village at the film’s midsection is utterly insane to witness) but now the movie is rightfully seen as a lost classic. Quentin Tarantino sampled musical tracks from Dark of the Sun for his WW2 film Inglorious Basterds, and even cast Taylor as Winston Churchill. Dark of the Sun was shot on location in Jamaica, and was also known as The Mercenaries in parts of Europe. Available on Warner Brothers Archives DVD label.