Game for Vultures (1979)





Director:     James Fargo.

Starring:     Richard Harris (David Swansey),  Richard Roundtree (Gideon Marunga),  Joan Collins (Nicolle),  Ray Milland (Col. Brettle),  Denholm Elliott (Raglan Thistle),  Sven-Bertil Taube (Larry Prescott),  Ken Gampu (Sixpence),  Tony Osoba (Daniel Batten),  Neil Hallett (Tony Knight),  Mark Singleton (Sir Benjamin Peckover),  Alibe Parsons (Alice Kamore),  Victor Melleney (Mallan),  Jana Cilliers (Ruth Swansey),  John Parsonson (Peter Swansey),  Elaine Proctor (Brigid).

a South African businessman delivers illegal German helicopters to Rhodesia, which makes the Rhodesian patriot Gido Marunga an angry man



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

A white farmer is driving a jeep accompanied by his German shepherd dog  on his farm.  He stops the jeeps and he and the dog get out.  A black man, Gideon Marunga, from ambush shoots the farmer with a rifle.  Gideon then runs away. 

Rhodesian soldiers, mostly white, but with a couple of blacks, are sent into the bush after the assassin or assassins.  Gideon and his men set up an ambush.  He tells Chaua to load his rocket propelled grenade launcher.  A light skinned man named Batten tells Gideon to make sure Chaua loads it the right way.  When Gideon and Chaua are alone, Chaua says he hates that Batten, while Gideon calls him a "half-caste bastard".  A military vehicle comes across their line of sight. 

Sgt. Peter Swansey says that they are going to be picked up by a vehicle.  The two soldiers in the vehicle get out and stretch their legs.  One fellow whistles loudly to see if the patrol is nearby.  Gideon tells Chaua to wait with his rpg, but he suddenly  fires let's it rip and blows up the vehicle.  The other ambushers now open up on the vehicle and the two soldiers.  One of them is hit while laying flat on the ground.  The other soldier sneaks into some bushes. 

The patrol hears the firing and run toward the road.  Batten kills the wounded soldier at point blank range and tells Gideon he will get the other soldier too.  It's not long before they find the other soldier.  The patrol reaches the top of a ridge and now slowly descends toward the road.  Batten wants to execute the man.  At first Gideon says no, but then he gives his approval.  Butten walks the soldier a little ways from the group and then shoots him.  Now the patrol opens up with their weapons, killing several of the native Rhodesians.  Gideon himself is wounded by a glancing shot off his forehead. 

Chaua strips off his khaki clothes revealing civilian clothing underneath.  He starts running away, but he runs right into the range of a phosphorous grenade and is burned badly on his back. 

A soldier named McKay yells to Swansey that Victor has been wounded.  Swansey yells to call for a helicopter. 

The Boer soldier captures Batten.  Swansey recognizes the prisoner as Danny Batten, but at this time Gideon shots Swansey twice and he collapses to the ground.  Gideon is on the run again.  The wounded soldiers are picked up by a helicopter. 

David Swansey and the pretty Nicolle are staying together in the Crown Inn.  The telephone rings and Dave answers it.  It's from Rhodesia.  The caller is Tony Knight.  David's brother Peter has been wounded while on patrol in Rhodesia.  An upset Dave says he will first talk to money baron Col. Noah Brettle and then will get on the first flight for home. 

Raglan Thistle keeps a log of persons coming in and out of the area where Col. Brettle lives.  Brettle tells David that the Americans are selling off some more surplus war items, namely helicopters.  David and Brettle have been selling sanctioned arms and other equipment to the white Rhodesians.  The used a false Swiss company so they won't be as likely to be caught.  The helicopters are being sold in West Germany and the deal could make David an absolute fortune.   

Raglan Thistle turns out to be a newspaper report.  He calls in his report to Prescott.  He says that David Swansey was here this morning and conferred with Brettle.  The talk only lasted about 15 minutes.  Prescott tells Thistle that he should stay out there, but thistle refuses the idea and says he's going home because he's already been out here a week and he is fed-up with the assignment. 

Another reporter asks Prescott when is he going to run the story on David Swansey.  Prescott reviews the evidence that they have.  They know this his girlfriend is Nicolle Ashton Pay living in Worthing, England.  Swansey is worth $three million dollars just from his sanction-busting.  Prescott says he's is waiting for some more personal facts and then he'll run the story. 

David arrives at the airport in Rhodesia and the first thing he is going to do is go see his wounded brother.  Peter lies in his hospital bed talking to his wife Ruth Swansey.  David can only visit a short while, because visiting hours are almost up.  Outside the hospital Ruth tells David that her brother has been arrested as a terrorist. 

David speaks with top officials in the Rhodesian government.  The government need a lot of helicopters in order to spot the bush guerillas and to drop and pick up Rhodesian troops.  They want more than 50 helicopters.  They figure that each helicopter will cost them $200,000 dollars apiece.  And they are willing to give David 6% commission on the sale.  This pleases David. 

Gideon is moving around one of the black villages.  He steals a chicken and at night cooks it up.  A young boy comes out to see him.  The boy tells him that he will take him to a church school.  A man is there waiting for them.  The man examines Gideon's wound.  Gideon learns that the white patrols go through here everyday.  The boy says he wants to be a freedom fighter too.  He bets Gideon to take him with him when he goes.  The school teacher objects to this saying that the child should not learn about such things as murder and rape.   He says he doesn't like the violence coming from either side in this struggle.   

The school teacher says that things are slowly getting better and the freedom fighters should be more patient, but Gideon rejects that logic.  He says they can't even vote and that this is war already!  The teacher shouts out against wanton killing and destruction.  Gideon gets so mad that he decides to leave.  The teacher tells him not to go out there because the village is crawling with informants.  He adds some soothing words that although they disagree on the means, they both want a free Zimbabwe.  Gideon calms down.  He tells the boy to go with his teacher and wait for his time to come. 

Salisbury Prison:  Remand and Holding Center.  Ruth Swansey's brother is none other than Daniel Batten, freedom fighter.  He tells Ruth that her lousy white husband captured him and so he also killed him.  This upsets Ruth.  Back home Ruth confronts Peter about not telling her what happened.  Peter gets angry and says that her brother is a bloody terrorist. 

From an English hotel, Dave telephones a fellow and says he has what they need and he will put it in an envelope and it will be waiting for him at the hotel reception desk.  Dave reconnects with Nicolle.  She says she met a tall, blonde fellow who is one of Dave's friends.  She can't remember his last name, but after awhile Dave figures out that it is the editor Larry Prescott.  

Raglan searches Dave's room and goes to the hotel bar where Prescott is.  He tells Prescott that he found absolutely nothing.  Prescott gets irritated by Raglan and tells him to go away.  Raglan grabs a woman at the bar and does go away.

When Dave and Nicolle get back to his room, he notices that the Bible has been removed from the desk drawer and placed on top of the drawer set.  Dave quickly calls a man and tells him the situation and asks him to check around the area for him.  The guy agrees to do it.

Prescott calls on Raglan very early in the morning and Raglan complains that even though Prescott may be his editor, the man doesn't own him.  The editor dismisses his concerns and says that this project he wants him to do will earn him 100 pounds, more than what Raglan earns in a month.  Now Raglan is interested.  Prescott tells him he wants to put a bug in Brettle's home with Raglan recording the conversations.  Raglan says he will do it, but only for 250 pounds.  He quickly shuts the door in Prescott's face.  Prescott says to himself:  "It's a deal." 

Raglan sets up the bug in the house.  He records the conversation of Brettle with his guest Dave Swansey.  Dave says that they will need a front if they are going to get 50 and more helicopters.  It has to be a reputable organization, something like Pitcon, Brettle's Paraguayan consortium.  Brettle doesn't like using Pitcon, but Dave tells him that the consortium is $5 million dollars in debt.  The Rhodesian government will offer Pitcon $10 million dollars. 

Raglan tells his editor that he taped the men talking about helicopters for Paraguay!  Paraguay? What about Rhodesia? asks Prescott.  Oh, there was no mention of Rhodesia. 

Now Prescott confronts Dave Swansey, saying he is writing an article about sanction-busting.  He indicates that he knows about Brettle, helicopters and Paraguay and Brettle and Swansey are both going to have their wings cut.  It sounds like Prescott wants to blackmail Dave, who grabs Nicolle and leaves the hotel.  Prescott is furious and runs out of the hotel to catch up with Dave.  A car hits Prescott as he dashes across the road.  In all the confusion an agent steals Prescott's briefcase.  The agent goes over to Dave and hands him the brief case saying that he dropped this. 

Back at the hotel, Dave gets a call from Brettle saying the Pitcon board meeting is set for November 11.  Dave asks for a closer date, but Brettle just hangs up on him.  

Chaua comes over to wake Gideon.  They are both with a  group of freedom fighters/terrorists.  The leader comes over to Gideon and tells him that his name is Sixpence Cherengi.  He takes Gideon over to where he will be a sentry.  Gideon asks him when this big push is going to start?  Sixpence says they will know when they need to know. 

Sixpence harasses a shop owner asking him why didn't he warn the freedom fighters about a booby-trapped store near his store?  He says the store owner killed his freedom fighters who went into the booby-trapped radio store.  Gideon tries to calm Sixpence down, but Sixpence has the shop owner taken out and shot.

At the Pitcon board meeting, one of the board members say that this helicopter deal is much to risky to back.  Another man agrees saying it all sounds too much like sanction-busting and he opposes that.  A vote is taken and it is 4 for the helicopter deal and 2 who oppose it.  The 2 "no" voters now say they will resign.  The chairman says they can talk about that at the next board meeting.  The meeting ends.  In private the chairman tells Brettle that if anything goes wrong it will be on Brettle's head. 

The freedom fighters are now in Mozambique.  While Sixpence talks to the group, a man from the north named Jakob Mtoko comes forward.  Jakob tells the men about Operation Red Sea.  Gideon asks him if he will lead the group?  Jakob says he has other important business to attend to up north. 

The Samaritan Mission.  The freedom fighters are going to hit the mission.  Gideon is one of the leaders of the attackers.  They kill a sentry and then they attack.  They even shoot the priest.  Sixpence tells the children at the mission that they will be returning to Zimbabwe with the freedom fighters.  When another priest objects to this, he and another man are taken away and executed.  A white man and white woman volunteer to go with the children to see to their welfare.  Sixpence accepts their offer of help, but says they must remember that Sixpence is in charge. 

The freedom fighters and the children start walking a long walk back to Zimbabwe.  The young woman asks Gideon why do they have to take all these children with them?  Gideon says that within a month's time, all the children will have learned to become men, both girls and boys. 

The group stops for a food break.  When they leave Gideon sees a boy that is hiding in order to get away from the group.  He leaves two cookies on a rock for the boy.  When they stop for the night the white woman named Brigid asks the white fellow if the freedom fighters will hurt the children?  he says no because the children are valuable to them.  But, he can't say the same thing about the two whites with the group.  Brigid is worried about being raped and she asks the fellow to talk with Gideon and have him kill her quickly in the case of rape. 

The next morning, Brigid tells Gideon that some of the children got away in the night.  Gideon says they have to expect a certain number of loses.  The whole group has to hide when a helicopter flies over them. 

Rhodesian soldiers come up behind the freedom fighters and the children.  A girl starts crossing the river using the rope tied to the two banks of the river.  The whites start shooting at her and the white workers who is trying to get her to come back.  The white worker is shot and goes down.  Brigid crosses the river, but is shot in the right leg by Sixpence.  He then shoots her a second time.  Brigid goes down.  Gideon takes a long look at the dead white workers in the river. 

The Rhodesians are happy that they have just purchased 50 American helicopters.  The Americans are packing the helicopters now. 

Raglan goes to speak to an official of the Zimbabwe executive Committee.  The fellow asks what possible information could Ragland have that would interest them?  Ragland says he has information on the Rhodesian army buying 50 helicopters.  The official is interested.

In hiding, Jakob comes over to Gideon and offers him congratulations.  The operation was a complete success.  Gideon replies:  "Piss off."   Jackob says that the publicity from what they did has brought in more money for the cause of freedom.  Gideon, however, is more concerned about the many lives that were lost in the operation.  Jakob now tells Gideon that they are sending him to London.  He will learn what he is to do when he gets there.  Gideon says that Jakob has to know already what this trip is about.  Jakob will only says that it is about helicopters. 

In London Gideon is informed that the Rhodesian government is trying to smuggle into Zimbabwe 50 helicopters.  His assignment to find out if there is any truth to this story.  He is also told that Raglan has provided them with tapes of conversations of Col. Brettle with others about the helicopter deal.  And they are giving him an assistant:  Alice Kamore. 

Gideon meets Alice in an art gallery.  She tells Gideon that it's the Americans he is after.  They are the ones behind the sale of the helicopters. 

Ruth goes to speak with her brother in prison.  He gives her a gold locket, but the guard intervenes.  So Daniel takes some money from Ruth's purse and gives it to the guard.  Outside Ruth opens the locket andt here is a note inside that says:  "Be outside prison north ward with car and clothes tomorrow, 7:30 p.m."

Gideon goes to Alice's apartment.  He tells her that he went to the American embassy and told them what he knows and that he also might go to the press. 

Gideon now speaks with Col. Brettle.  He tells the colonel that he know all about the scheme to buy helicopters for Rhodesia through Pitcon.  The colonel wants to know what Gideon wants him to do.  He tells the colonel to cancel the request for the helicopters.  After Gideon leaves, the colonel telephones David Swansey and tells him to cancel the deal.  David says that's not possible because they have the helicopter right here in London in a warehouse.  All they need know is to ship the helicopters to Rhodesia.  The colonel says to leave them there.  He adds that he is sorry about this. 

Swansey calls the Rhodesian government and they tell him to go ahead with the shipment of the helicopters.

The colonel now speaks with the chairman for Pitcon about the collapse of the deal.  The chairman says that Brettle will have to resign from his position with Pitcon.  His reputations and his businesses will be hurt. 

Gideon now is taken out to the warehouse.  The helicopters are gone.   Gideon is mad and he tells the American from the embassy that he is through playing games and now the ambassador will have to explain everything to the press. 

Ruth waits in her car for her brother.  Dressed in only a Speedo type of underwear, Daniel runs to the car, jumps in and tells his sister to get going.  Sister speeds off.  Daniel tells her where to let him off and when he gets out of the car, he tells Ruth to get out of here.

Alice tells Gideon that the movement called upon him to do this job so they wouldn't have to risk their jobs and their reputations in a future black government.  What they need, she says, is a scapegoat.  She adds that if they trample on him, be a snake that bites back.  Now she asks him to kiss her and he obliges her.   

David checks on the transportation of the helicopters.  The Rhodesian government will pay the transporter $275,000 dollars to get the helicopters to Rhodesia.  The transport man says he will pick the helicopters up in Spain, then fly them to Zaire.  From Zaire they will go by rail through Botswana and into Rhodesia. 

Col. Brettle comes to have a talk with David.  He says that David lied to him.  David says he had to lie.  He can't turn his back on his country.  Brettle says that's a lost cause.  David says the Russians and their Cuban advisor are all over Africa, but that's something that Rhodesia will fight.   Brettle says he doesn't relish going to prison.  He shouldn't have even come to talk with David because he knew what answer David was going to give him.  And David certainly give him the expected answer.  The colonel says goodbye and takes off.  The colonel shoots himself in the head.

The Zimbabwe leaders want to know from Gideon where are the helicopters?  No one knows except the white Rhodesians.  But there is one chance.  Daniel Batten just escaped from prison.  The leaders say now Gideon can go back to Zimbabwe.  Gideon says:  "My bags are packed!"

David also comes back to Rhodesia.  He is dropped off at the house of his brother and his wife Ruth by Tony Knight.    Then Tony drives home.  He is followed by two men in a car.  When Tony gets out Daniel Breton knocks him down his his fist and then holds a knife on him.  They kidnap Tony.  As the car is driven, Daniel torture Tony about the helicopters.  Tony says they are coming by plane.  When Tony says he doesn't know anything more than this, the car is stopped and Daniel takes Tony out of the car and knifes him. 

David learns that Tony Knight has been killed and badly mutilated.  Tony must have been tortured, so the rebels probably know about the helicopter shipments. 

The transport planes start making an unscheduled landing at an African airport.  They are in South Africa. 

South African authorities look the other way on the helicopter issue, as long as the Rhodesians immediately come and take the planes away.  The Rhodesians immediately prepare their own planes to pick up the helicopters in South Africa.  Meanwhile, Sixpence and Gideon have decided to make an attack on the Rhodesians to prevent their planes from flying to South Africa and back. 

At night the first plane is ready to leave Rhodesia for South Africa.  The freedom fighters cut a hole into the wire fence around the airport.  The fight starts with the first grenade thrown into an observation platform.  An airplane trying to take off is shot up by the freedom fighters.  It blows up in the air.  Chaua is killed in the fight.  David is there at the airport involved in the fight.  Sixpence is shot and goes down. David and Gideon both land in a ditch.  Gideon starts to strangle David.  Gideon gets the upper hand, but he sees the faces of the dead white workers of the Samaritan Mission.  He decides not to kill David.  Instead, he releases his death grip around the man's neck.

David returns the favor a little later when he is joined by a Rhodesian soldier with a pistol.  He tells the soldier that there are no more blacks in this immediate area.

David has to admit that only a little more than half of the helicopters actually made it to Rhodesia in time.  Nicolle arrives at the airport in Rhodesia in order to be united with David. 

Out on patrol, David sees a man pointing his weapon at him. That man is Gideon.  David quickly points his rifle at the black man.  We don't know what happens next because the film ends at this point.   


A pretty good film.  It did seem to drag at times.  Richard Harris (David Swansey) and Richard Roundtree (Gideon Marunga) both do good jobs as two men, white and black, forced by circumstances to oppose each other.  Swansey is breaking  the sanctions on Rhodesia (future Zimbabwe) by buying American helicopters on sale in West Germany and smuggling them into his south African nation.  The copters are desperately needed in order to help stop the "terrorist" attacks on Rhodesian whites.  Marunga is trying hard to stop Swansey from getting the copters into his Zimbabwe.   And yet when they come face to face in a firefight, for a moment the men return to being more normal human beings with a concern for their fellow man.  One bad thing is that although the black man is filled with doubts and questions about what his is doing for freedom, the white guy never questions his loyalty to his white, racist, colonial world.  Shouldn't two intelligent men both be conflicted in this bitter struggle involving black and white? 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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