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The Ghost and the Darkness
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Produced by Grant Hill
Michael Douglas
Paul Radin
Written by William Goldman
Starring Michael Douglas
Val Kilmer
John Kani
Brian McCardie
Emily Mortimer
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Vilmos Zsigmond
Editing by Roger Bondelli
Robert Brown Jr.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) October 11, 1996
Running time 110 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55,000,000

The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 thriller film about the Tsavo maneaters, two lions who attacked the builders of the Uganda-Mombasa Railway in 1898, killing about 135 of them, and the subsequent hunt to kill them. The attacks, which took place in Tsavo, Kenya, were recounted by Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson in his book The Man-Eaters of Tsavo. Research undertaken in 2009 says that the lions likely ate about 35 people[1], although 135 deaths are claimed by Patterson.

The film, although based loosely on Patterson's account, romanticises his story and fictionalises important elements of the plot. William Goldman's script introduces Michael Douglas as the American big game hunter Charles Remington, a character based on Anglo-Indian big game hunter Charles Ryall. In the original script, Remington was an enigmatic figure named Redbeard, but when Douglas chose to both produce the movie and play the role of the hunter, the character was expanded; Goldman's book Which Lie Did I Tell? argues that this decision on Douglas's part ruins the mystery of the character.

The film was shot mainly on location at Songimvelo Game Reserve in South Africa, rather than Kenya, due to tax laws. Many Maasai characters in the film were actually portrayed by South African actors, although the Maasai depicted during the hunt were portrayed by real Maasai warriors who were hired for the movie.

While the real man-eaters were, like all lions from the Tsavo region, a more aggressive, maneless variety, those used for filming were actually the least aggressive available, for both safety and aesthetic reasons. The film's lions were two male lions with manes. They were brothers named "Caesar" and "Bongo" (deceased), who were residents of the Bowmanville Zoo in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada, both of whom were also featured in George of the Jungle. The film also featured three other lions: two from France and one from the USA. The original lions are currently on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

Contents

Plot

Sir Robert Beaumont, the primary financier of a railroad project in Tsavo, Africa, is furious because the project is running behind schedule. He seeks out the expertise of John Henry Patterson, a military engineer, to get the project back on track. Patterson travels by train to Tsavo, where he meets supervisors Angus Starling and Samuel, a native African (and the film's narrator), and the doctor, David Hawthorne. Hawthorne tells Patterson of a recent lion attack. That night, Patterson kills an approaching lion with one shot, earning the respect of the workmen. The project gets back on schedule. However, not long afterwards Mahina, the construction foreman, is dragged from his tent in the middle of the night. His half-eaten body is found the next morning. Patterson then attempts a second night-time lion hunt, but the next morning another worker is found dead at the opposite end of the camp from Patterson's position.

Soon, two lions attack the camp in the middle of the day and kill Starling. Patterson attempts to kill them, but they both escape. Samuel explains that there has never been a pair of man-eaters before because they are always alone. The men, lead by Abdullah, begin to turn on Patterson due to the lion attacks. The men dub the lions "the Ghost and the Darkness" because of their notorious methods of attack. Work is stopped on the bridge to fight the lions. Beaumont visits the camp and tells Patterson he will ruin his reputation should the bridge not be built on time. He tells Patterson he will contact the famous hunter Remington to help. All of Patterson's attempts to kill the lions fail.

Later, Remington arrives with skilled Maasai warriors to help kill the lions. Their initial attempt fails when a gun Patterson borrowed from Dr. Hawthorne misfires. The warriors decide to leave, but Remington offers to stay to help Patterson. Remington builds a new hospital for all the lion victims, and attempts to draw the lions to the old one by covering it with animal parts. The lions, however, outsmart Remingtion and attack the new hospital, killing all the patients and Dr. Hawthrone. Abdullah and the rest of the men soon leave, leaving Patterson, Remingtion, and Samuel alone with the lions. That night, Remington kills one of the lions by waiting in a clearing with a baboon as bait. The next morning, Patterson finds the remaining lion has dragged Remington from his tent and killed him. Grief stricken over Remington's death and now desperate to end the bloodshed, Patterson decides to burn the tall grass surrounding the camp in order to drive the lion towards the camp where he hopes to ambush it.

Patterson and Samuel are soon attacked by the beast on the partially constructed bridge. After a long fight, Patterson kills the lion outside of camp. Abdullah and the men return, and the bridge is completed on time. The film ends with a narration by Samuel, where he says the lions are now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois, and that even today "if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid."

Cast

Actor/Actress Role
Michael Douglas Charles Remington
Val Kilmer Col. John Henry Patterson
John Kani Samuel
Bernard Hill Dr. David Hawthorne
Tom Wilkinson Robert Beaumont
Brian McCardie Angus Starling
Emily Mortimer Helena Patterson
Om Puri Abdullah
Henry Cele Mahina

Awards

The film won an Academy Award in 1997 for Sound Editing. However, the film also earned a Razzie Award nomination for Val Kilmer as Worst Supporting Actor.

See also

References

External links

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