Running Time: 157 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Format: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
Region: 1
MSRP: $14.99

Own It!
Hatari (1962)

I love this movie. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid, it’s one I can sit down with every year or two and still utterly enjoy. So I was very, very happy when it finally moved off my Top 10 Want List and was released to DVD. (If someone would just put out a decent disc of Zulu, I’d be a happy camper.) Now I can watch it anytime I want in pristine widescreen.

A sprawling adventure film, Hatari! stars John Wayne as Sean Mercer. Mercer and his crew live on the plains of Africa, where they capture animals for zoos. This involves going out in battered trucks and jeeps and using rope nooses to bring down, say, a fleeing giraffe. The film opens with an exciting sequence where the crew attempts to capture a rhinoceros. The chase ends when the rhino gores one of the men driving up alongside of it in a jeep.

This is a classic ‘guy’s’ film, although I know women who love it as well. Still, the sort of modern viewer who instantly bristles at un-PC content will find some here, including some mild sexist jokes – an animal dithering about which direction to run off in has "got to be a female – she can’t make up her mind which way to go" -- and the fact that the white guys order around a crew of faceless black natives. Others, meanwhile, might find that the shtick of Red Buttons goes a long way.

For people who can get past that sort of thing, though, this is a great movie. It’s long and leisurely, but in a way that makes you feel like you’re sitting around with these characters and getting to know them. And you have to admire the actors, including Wayne, who are clearly interacting with dangerous animals. It’s hard to imagine any modern star taking these sorts of risks.

This would also be a great action film, I think, for kids. The animal footage is some of the best ever captured, and there’s very little shooting of anything. Also, there’s a subplot with one of the characters adopting a string of baby elephants, who are cute as a dickins.

Speaking of, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the contributions of composer Henry Mancini. A man who wrote some of the greatest movie music ever, this might well be his best all around soundtrack. Especially well remembered is Mancini’s classic "Baby Elephant Walk". Great stuff.

The film is presented in a very necessary widescreen. The picture is sharp and clear, although the muted color scheme, reflecting the earth tones found in Africa, doesn’t take total advantage of the digital technology. The restored Mono soundtrack does, however, and the Mancini soundtrack (and grunting animal sounds) has never sounded better.

Just a trailer, although it’s a pip. Notice how it heavily relies on Mancini’s music (which it describes as ‘fabulous’!).

Ken Begg, 12/10/2001