“Sands of the Kalahari” (1965)

Last night I tried to watch Cy Endfield’s Sands of the Kalahari, but it was too much like really being trapped in the desert with Stanley “Charisma Bypass” Baker and Stuart “I’m famous, but how? And why?” Whitman. Also in not-peak form: Theodore Bikel, doing what he does best, which is wearing butt-ugly eyeglasses and spitting all over his co-stars’ shirt-fronts. The movie is less than five minutes old when Endfield’s camera impatiently climbs into the shower with Susannah York, and though we don’t actually see any of her naughty bits, it’s still Mission Accomplished time because now the movie’s got me thinking about Susannah York and her naked naughty bits, which is apparently why we go to movies in the first place. Jesus.

Less than 10 minutes later the cast gets stranded in the African desert thanks to a swarm of locusts hitting their airplane (cue disgusting shots of bugs mashing the windshield in egg-yolk bursts of exploding insect guts), setting off one of those tedious will-to-live, last-man-standing contests. Around the 30-minute mark the pilot begins threatening to rape York, who coolly faces him down until he raises one hand like Ward Cleaver about to backhand Wally for mouthing off about Negro rights at the dinner table. Oddly, it only takes this one timid act of aggression for York to instantly fall apart: turning her squinched-up face to one side, she begins bleating, “Please! Please! You can do anything you want to me! Just please don’t hurt me!”, as if the guy is going to perform some kind of special non-painful rape. A few seconds later York repeats the part about doing anything to her, just in case we missed it the first time around, and it’s kind of like being back in the shower with her, with a lot of yummy visualization going on inside my head that nobody but me will ever know about, only this time the camera is aimed up her skirt to help things along. This proves too much even for the raping pilot, who suddenly loses all interest in York, and maybe in the whole idea of sex as well. He  listlessly wanders away to impugn Whitman’s manhood, but Whitman’s too busy slaughtering a family of baboons to listen to him.

It was around the time that the first baboon went down that I started leaning on the fast-forward button. How bad is Sands of the Kalahari? Well, it’s still excruciating at 4X normal speed, because you can still make wild guesses about what’s going on in it, but it’s halfway bearable if you watch it at the speed of the three-way sex scene in A Clockwork Orange. However, I did slow back down at the very end, when a gang of pissed-off baboons finally took its revenge on Stuart Whitman. That was one scene I knew I’d  enjoy.

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