Simba (1955)




Director:     Brian Desmond Hurst.

Starring:     Dirk Bogarde (Alan Howard),  Donald Sinden (Inspector Drummond),  Virginia McKenna (Mary Crawford),  Basil Sydney (Mr. Crawford),  Marie Ney (Mrs. Crawford),  Joseph Tomelty (Dr. Hughes),  Earl Cameron (Karanja),  Orlando Martins (Headman),  Ben Johnson (Kimani),  Frank Singuineau (Waweru),  Huntley Campbell (Joshua),  Slim Harris (Chege),  Glyn Lawson (Mundati)  Harry Quashie (Thakla).

Allan comes back to Kenya and finds himself up against the Mau Mau




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

Kenya. A native African hears a cry for help. He rides his bike over to where the sound came from and finds a white man in his pajamas covered with blood. Instead of helping the man, the African kills him with his machete.

Alan Howard gets off an airplane. He is expecting his brother David to pick him up, but Mary Crawford has come to pick him up because David is busy with the farm. At first, Alan is a bit shocked to see Mary, but a little later he tells her that it's wonderful to see her again. She says the same about him.

Mary drives Alan through the countryside to get to the farm. When they arrive at the farm the police are there. A policeman named Tom meets them and indicates that something terrible has happened. Alan runs into the house followed by the other man. The place has been ransacked and trashed.

Alan goes into the bedroom where his brother's body lays on the bed covered with a white sheet. Alan lifts up the sheet to check on David and then slowly puts the sheet back over his face.

The policeman tells Alan that David killed three of the fellows before they killed him. Over one of the doorways the word "Simba" has been painted. That's Swahili for "lion".

Alan is going to sleep over at the Crawford house tonight.

Alan has dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Crawford, Mary's parents. Mr. Crawford tells Alan: "You can't get inside the head of a Kuke, no matter what you do." Mary tells her father that she wishes he would call the natives Kikuyu. She goes on to say that the Mau Mau want to drive the whites out of the country. Mr. Crawford prefers to see the Africans as mere backward children. He says that their servant Chege used to play together with Mary. But "Now as things are, he'd probably slit our throats at the first opportunity."

Mary says not all the Africans are bad. There is, for example, Peter Karanja, the local headman's son. He got a degree in medicine at Makerere College. He now runs a dispensary for the Africans in the Reserve. Mary goes over there everyday to help Peter. Mrs. Crawford says they have lived here in Africa for some 30 years with no trouble with the natives.

Dad gets a call from Col. Bridgeman, who is organizing a meeting to form some sort of protection system. And the colonel would like Alan to come to the meeting, too, unless Alan is going to go back to England. Alan says he is not going back.

Mary takes Alan with her to the dispensary. There are hundreds of people waiting to be seen by the doctor. Mary carries a pistol with her. Alan goes over to talk to Tom to see if he has found out anything on his brother's murder. No, not yet.

The headman, Peter's father, helps the police talk to certain of the natives. Tom says he himself is always wary of educated blacks. They find marks of the Mau Mau on one man's body and they take him away. Another native starts running away and a guard with a rifle up in the guard tower shoots the man down.

Peter tells Mary that he is glad she helps him because this way the whites don't think he's anti-white. Alan comes into the dispensary but will not shake hands with Peter. Peter tells him he is sorry to hear about the death of his brother. Alan is bitter towards the blacks because of what happened to his brother.

Tom speaks to a local audience of whites. He is handing out ship's rockets that can be sent skyward at the moment of any attack. The audience bickers amongst themselves as there are so many suggestions of what the whites should do. There are calls to treat the natives with kindness and calls to deal harshly with the natives. One fellow complains about Alan's brother saying he was a dreamer that misled the white community. Alan leaves the building, followed a little later by Mary.

Mary warns Alan that he is starting to hate the Africans. Alan says they could stop all this, but Mary says that it's like a flood and the whites are caught in it and helpless.

Mau mau drums call the blacks to come to a meeting. Some men don't want to go, but they are forced to attend. Some men are given the oath to swear to. One fellow tries to run from the Mau Mau, but he is killed.

Alan asks his servant who does this small child, Joshua, belong to? The servant says nobody. His parents were killed in a Mau Mau massacre in Lari. [The Lari Massacre was a Mau Mau massacre of 74 and then 150 Kikiyu people in Lari by burning huts down upon the people forced into them. This occurred in March 1953.]

Dr. Karanja comes to tell Alan that he is in great danger. He suggests that Mr. Howard leave this place at once. Alan says he's staying.

Alan talks about this with Tom. Toms tells Alan these days you can't trust any black. If they have taken the Mau Mau oath, they could kill even people they like very much. Tom doesn't trust Dr. Karanja so he tells Alan not to say anything to Mary because she might warn the doctor, even if she was trying not to.

Alan finds a dead native and two dead cattle near the body. There's a fellow who keeps a close watch on the comings and goings of Alan. When Alan walks away from the farm house, this man sneaks into the house and tries to open a locked chest containing weapons.

While in his office, Alan can't find the report from the veterinarian, so he decides to go back to the farmhouse to see if he left it there. The thief opens that chest and pulls out a rifle. Alan comes in and sees that the chest has been opened. He catches the thief. The two men start fighting. It looks like Alan may be a goner, but Mr. Crawford shoots the man with the pistol he always carries with him. Alan left his pistol back at his office. Kimani was the one who ran to fetch Mr. Crawford.

Mary bandages Alan's wounds. She tells him that he should let Dr. Karanja look at his wounds. Alan says absolutely not. Then he asks where is Dr. Karanja? He thinks maybe the doctor is going to kill Alan's attacker or warn him not to speak to the police when they come. Karanja overhears all of this and he asks Alan why does he think he is a supporter of the Mau Mau? The Mau Mau killed his only white friend, David. When Alan is still suspicious, the doctor rips open his shirt to show that his bare chest has no Mau Mau scars on it.

Tom arrives and has a native policeman question the attacker. The man sits part way up, looks directly at the doctor and says "Simba". Now the man dies. Tom says that he is taking the doctor in for questioning. Alan starts to defend the doctor, but Tom tells Alan to let him do his job. A little later he tells Alan not to do that again, because he will not have his authority undermined.

Mary holds Alan's right hand. That's a surprise to Alan.

Alan has his men push the cattle herd over to Mr. Crawford's place because Crawford has extra land that he is not using.

Mary and Alan go up onto a small mountain to sit and watch the landscape while talking. Alan asks Mary if she would marry him? They kiss. She tells him that she can't answer. He says that if she doesn't really love him, then . . . Mary stops him saying that, of course, she loves him. It's just that there is war in Kenya. Alan says that won't stop him from marrying. They kiss again.

Mary says that she's afraid of what Alan might become. Alan says then they will leave Kenya and settle elsewhere. Mary says that this is their world and they can't escape it, but she misses being at peace.

The servants at the Crawford house are acting suspiciously. Lunch is served to the Crawfords. Mr. Crawford wants to know where is his regular servant? His wife says that they told her he was feeling sick. The couple talk about taking a long holiday. A year in England.

Squabbling noises come from the kitchen. Mr. Crawford is going to check it out, but his wife keeps telling him no, no. Crawford goes and is literally swamped by Mau Mau with machetes. Karanja's father is there with the savages.

They start trashing the farmhouse. They break open the rifle case and pull out lots of rifles and shotguns. Now they are going to open the locked door to the room where Mrs. Crawford is stayhing. She fires her pistol through the door until she has no more bullets. Karanja returns fire through the door and the woman is hit and falls to the floor.

A rocket goes off letting the area know of the attack. The police sound a siren. They head out for the Crawford place. Alan and Mary reach the farmhouse first and they see the fate of Mary's parents. Mary says that mother is still alive. Now she wants to see her father. Alan has seen his body all mutilated and covered in blood. He tells Mary not to go in to look. She insists and he then insists some more. He says: "If you still think they're human beings please go in there and have a look." Mary asks Alan to leave.

The police arrive. Alan tells them what happened.

When Mrs. Crawford awakens she sees a black face hovering over her and she lets out a short scream. Mary tells her it's just Dr. Karanja. She shouldn't be afraid of the doctor. Mother says she is not frightened. She just doesn't want him to touch her. The doctor leaves the room.

Mother asks if father is dead? Mary nods yes. Karanja is upset and decides to tell Tom who Simba is. Simba is his father. A policeman finds the walking stick of the headman and brings it to Tom.

Simba hears the jeeps coming into the village and takes off. Tom uses his binoculars and sees Simba running far away from the house. Tom says they've got to get him before he gets to the forest.

Simba hides under some fallen trees. The police go right past him. He comes out from his hiding place, but there's a lion about 15 yards away from him. When the lion roars the police look backwards and see the lion and Simba.

Alan raises his rifle, but Tom stops him saying: "Don't shoot Simba!" Tom uses his automatic weapon to bring the lion down. Simba starts running again. He runs into the forest. The police can't find him now.

Alan talks to Dr. Hughes. The doctor tells him that he has heavily sedated Mary so she should sleep until tomorrow afternoon. He also says that Mrs. Crawford died shortly after Alan and Tom left. He adds that don't be upset and worried if Mary doesn't want to see him right away.

Weapons are handed out to the Mau Mau.

Kimani warns Alan that all the other servants ran away during the night.

A native tells Tom that Simba is in the forest at Manowa with more than 100 men. Tom thinks that this means the Mau Mau are going to attack the home guard station there.

Dr. Karanja visits Mary to ask her to forgive him because his father killed Mary's parents. He thinks she's going away, but she says she's just going to Dr. Hughe's place. And tomorrow morning she will be volunteering at the dispensary.

Kimani comes to ask Mary for a job. She asks him why isn't he still working for Alan? Because Alan told him to get out. Mary tries to call over to Allan's place put the number is out of order.

Alan in his jeep rides by a woman sitting by the road. She signals to someone on top of the nearby small mountain. The man on the mountain now signals to someone else.

Dr. Karanja keeps working on Kimani and he finally breaks. The attack on Alan's place will be this evening. Mary calls the police, but they have orders to guard the police station. She asks where is Tom now? He's at Manowa. Mary tells the doctor that she will send one guard and Kimani to Manowa to inform Tom.

Alan reaches home. He find a dead cat hanging from his porch. He sees his wires have been cut. He goes inside to make a telephone call, but there is no response from the operator. He finds the little boy that hangs around the house in one of the back rooms. He wants to take the child to a safe place, but when he comes outside, he sees his jeep burning.

Alan gets out his shotgun and rifle, plus another pistol. Mary, Dr. Karanja and two guards drive fast to Allan's place. When they reach a small bridge they don't see that the planks have been removed in the center. The jeep crashes into the shallow gulley below. The guards are hurt so Mary and Karanja walk fast over to the farm house. They arrive just as the Mau Mau make their first appearance.

Alan is happy to see them. And Mary is very happy to see her "darling". They rush into the house. The Mau Mau set the servants' huts on fire.

Karanja says he's going out there and will speak to the men. Alan says no because they will kill him. Karanja insists. When the Mau Mau see the doctor they start rushing toward the farmhouse. Karanja gets them to stop, at least for the moment.

His father comes up to his doctor son and says to everyone that this man is not his son. Simba raises up his machete to kill him, but Alan shoots the headman. The Mau Mau start backing up a bit, but then they charge. Alan starts shooting them down, but the situation looks hopeless. They badly wound Dr. Karanja. And now they are about to storm the farm house.

It's now that the police arrive. The Mau Mau start running away or at the police. The police open fire on them. Tom comes over to Mary and Alan who are tending to the doctor, who says that they did not listen to him. Mary says that some of them listened and understood. Alan says he also listened.

The doctor dies. Mary cries. The little boy comes out of the house now and comes forward to Alan and Mary.



Good film.  A straight-shooting film dealing with a dreadful "independence movement", the Mau Mau of Kenya (1952 to 1960).   Most independence movements were not as brutal and savage as the Mau Mau were.  Thank goodness.  There's something particularly gruesome about being killed by being chopped up with a machete.  It is certainly not good advertising for the movement for independence.   Thank goodness, the movement failed to capture widespread public support in Kenya.  Historians say the rebellion merely delayed Kenya's independence.  Dirk Bogarde (as Alan Howard) and Virginia McKenna (as Mary Crawford) were  both good in their roles.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.  



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