Sundown (1941)




Director:  Henry Hathaway.

Starring:   Gene Tierney (Zia), Bruce Cabot (William Crawford, District Commissioner of Manieka), George Sanders (Major Coombes), Harry Carey (Dewey), Joseph Calleia (Pallini), Reginald Gardiner (Lt. Roddy Turner), Carl Esmond (Jan Kuypens), Marc Lawrence (Abdi Hammud), Cedric Hardwicke (Bishop Coombes), Gilbert Emery (Ashburton), Jeni Le Gon (Miriami), Emmett Smith (Kipsang).

Nazis in East Africa


An Arab trader's daughter leads a British Major and a local official to Nazis in East Africa bringing guns to the local tribe of Senshi (spelling?).  Gene Tierney looks great as the exotic Arab.  She also does a good job in the role where the British are very suspicious of her, even while she helps protect them from the assaults of some of the armed natives, resenting British colonial rule.  An interesting aside is the racial discrimination shown in the film.  The British would not let the Arab woman sit with them. 


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

A plane lands in Kenya near Rhino Rock and a pretty white woman disembarks.  She is picked up by men leading a caravan. 

In Manieka, British East Africa, Bill Crawford, District Commissioner, sends a radio message to the governor at Nairobi.  He requests a month-long furlough to study the Senshi (spelling?), a local tribe.   But his colleague Lt. Roddy Turner sends a message right afterward, telling the governor to cancel the furlough as trouble with the Senshi is impending. 

Crawford has to solve a dispute.  The black soldier Kiptang wants to take a bride (played by a very young Dorothy Dandridge), but a rich older man also wants her.  Crawford decides in favor of Kiptang., who is very grateful.  

Two planes land at the local airstrip.  They bring in rifles and Major Coombes, the Governor's agent.  Coombes breaks the news to Crawford that he is taking over.  He also criticizes him for not having a guard on the landing field.  It is just too lax around here he says.  Coombes meets Pollini who is officially a prisoner of war but unofficially serves as the chef for the men.  Coombes demands that Crawford put Pollini into the normal restraints.  He then asks Crawford why he wants the furlough.  Crawford is concerned about the locals because someone is smuggling rifles to them.  They desperately need to obtain one of these rifles to see where they are manufactured.  

A stranger arrives.  He says his name is Jan Kuypens, a Hollander acting for the Italian government to make a mineralogical report of the area. Coombes suggests that Kuypens make his mineralogical report to the British and he agrees.

A local trader named Hammud sets up an ambush of the British troops.  He catches them by surprise.  Crawford and some of his men get behind the ambushers and put a stop to the action.  Kiptang distinguishes himself  as he obtains one of the enemies' rifles.  He dies from the wounds he received in getting the rifle.  The rifles are manufactured in Czechoslovakia. 

The pretty woman who landed near Rhino Rock now shops up.  Her name is Zia.  Pollini has known her for many years.  She is the daughter of the late Abu Kalli (spelling?)  and now runs the family network of trading stores in the area.  It's Pollini's birthday and the men decide to throw him a party.  They make sure they invite Zia.  She arrives but has to sit at a segregated table because she is Arab.  Crawford sits with her.  He finds out that she was born in Africa.  They talk about the late Graham Fletcher who was greatly respected by the locals, who became a legend in the area and who Crawford idealizes. 

The men hear that the natives believe that one of the six men at the party will die.  But they dismiss it because there are only five men at the party.  But then the white hunter, Dewey, shows up.  Now they are a bit worried.  During the party, they notice that everyone except the party attendees have disappeared and they become very suspicious about what's going on.  A couple of men in the dark take a shot at Crawford but they miss.  But Zia is grazed by a bullet.  They capture one of the men who turns out to be the trader Hammud, who is responsible for the earlier ambush.  The suspicious Coombes orders Zia to leave.

Kuypens shows up at Zia's quarters and she knows from his accent that he is not from Holland, but Germany.  Kuypens admits to it and tells her that he is bringing in rifles to the Senshi.  Zia plays along with him and agrees to go with Kuypens.  (But before she leaves she gives a message to Pollini for Crawford explaining that she is just playing along.  But before he can get to Crawford, Kuypens kills him, thereby becoming the one of six men fated to die.)  She then leaves with Kuypens. 

The men find Pollini's body and Crawford decides to go get the missing Kuypens.  Coombes asks him if it is Kuypens he's interested in or the woman Zia.  Crawford confers with Dewey on where Kuypens may be.  They examine some of the rocks brought by Kuypens as part of his research and Dewey recognizes them a being of volcanic origin.  And he knows exactly where they came from.  They head out, expecting that reinforcements will soon follow. 

Zia is taken to the hiding place for the rifles, a large cave complex.  She is made a virtual prisoner there.  Meanwhile, Crawford and Dewey find one of the encampments of the arms distributors.  They manage to blow up the smuggled rifles.  Crawford thinks that Zia is working with Kuypens.  They then find the distribution center, the cave.  Crawford sends Dewey back to meet the reinforcements, while he figures out a way to get into the cave without being seen.

Kuypens tells Zia that he knows her real identity.  She is actually the daughter of Graham Fletcher.  Her mother died when Zia was just two years old.  She was adopted by Abu Kalli and raised as an Arab girl.  Her adoptive father only told her of her real identity just before he died. 

Crawford is captured and he and Zia are put in a large cell.   Zia tells Crawford that the Senshi are going to attack Marieka starting the next day, but he does not believe her at first, thinking she is involved with Kuypens.  She finally convinces him that she is telling the truth and that she was not cooperating with Kuypens.  The two then escape from their jail by tricking their guards.  A shoot-out then starts between them and Kuypens and his guards.  They capture Zia.  Crawford plays dead and then overpowers the guard when he comes to check on his body.  Coombes and Dewey show up with the reinforcements just in time.  Coombes kills Kuypens, but not before Kuypens fatally wounds him.     

Zia and Bill get married in London.  They attend a memorial service for Coombes and make plans for returning to Africa. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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