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HATARI! ($30) is a wonderfully adventurous action comedy from legendary director Howard Hawks and starring the even more legendary John Wayne. Set in Africa, HATARI! tells the story of a group of big game hunters that capture wild animals to sell to zoos. Wayne portrays lead hunter Sean Mercer, who ends up with one of his best men sidelined, after the rhinoceros they were hunting turns the tables. Further complicating matters is the arrival of Anna Maria "Dallas" D'Allesandro (Elsa Martinelli), a photographer who has come to document their efforts on behalf of the zoo that will be purchasing the animals that they capture. It takes a bit of time, but the hunters do get back on track and begin capturing the requisite animals.

However, in the midst of the hunt, mating season comes to the Serengeti. Brandy de la Corte (Michèle Girardon), the head of the hunting company, quickly finds herself pursued by Kurt Mueller (Hardy Kruger) and Chips Chalmoy (Gerard Blain), the two young men in her employ. Then, Sean discovers the even he is not immune to the primal drives of mating season, with the beautiful lady photographer focusing all of her attention on him. HATARI! also stars Red Buttons as Pockets, the hunting company’s top driver and gadget man. As you might expect, Buttons supplies a good portion of the film’s comic relief, but his comic thunder is stolen by the arrival of three baby elephants that come to look on Dallas as their adoptive mother. By the way, if you’re a fan of the Henry Mancini tune Baby Elephant Walk, you’ll find it underscoring the scenes featuring the young pachyderms.

The action sequences in HATARI! are quite thrilling, and it is rather obvious that many of the stunts are performed live. Believe me when I say that it must have been logistical nightmare to get the cameras, trucks and actors into the midst of charging wild animals. Even more impressive are the shots where you can see that Wayne is doing his own stunts; his being strapped to the front of a truck in pursuit of wild game increases the intensity of the action sequences. As always, Howard Hawks’ direction is sharp and he keeps the pace of the film quite snappy, which makes the film’s two and a half hour running time seem far briefer.

Paramount Home Entertainment has made HATARI! available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. In general, the transfer is very nice, offering up a reasonably sharp and fairly well defined image. Since HATARI! was shot on location in Africa, under less than ideal conditions, the outdoor cinematography is somewhat softer than a movie filmed in the controlled environment of a soundstage. Close ups and indoor photography look about the best, while medium and long shots have a documentary quality about them. While the image is definitely grittier than a studio bound movie, the action sequences benefits because of the undeniable realism. Colors are pretty appealing, but the circumstances of the film’s production come into play here as well. Interiors definitely have richer colors than anything shot of on the African plains; however, subdued hues of the outdoor photographic work never take on a faded appearance. Blacks appear accurate, but the level of shadow detail is pretty limited. Dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts at bay.

HATARI! features a Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack from newly restored sound elements. Considering that HATARI! is forty years old, Paramount has done a pretty nice job with the sound, making sure that the restored track is free from hiss and audible distortion. Sound effects are fairly convincing and Henry Mancini’s music has very good monaural fidelity. Surprisingly, the track has a pretty decent amount of bass. Nothing ground shaking, or even close, but a solid bottom end that gives the track a sense of character. Dialogue reproduction is quite good, with only a few errant lines having any sort of lowered intelligibility. A French monaural soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

HATARI! is a rousing John Wayne outing that will appeal to the legendary star’s numerous fans. Paramount has done a very nice job with the DVD presentation, making this a disc that they will definitely want to check out.




DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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