Hatari! (1962)

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Released 7-Aug-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:50)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 151:02
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Howard Hawks
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring John Wayne
Hardy Kruger
Elsa Martinelli
Red Buttons
Gerard Blain
Michèle Girardon
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Henry Mancini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Slovenian
Swedish
Danish
Norwegian
Finnish
Dutch
Bulgarian
Icelandic
Portuguese
Hebrew
Greek
Croatian
Arabic
Turkish
Romanian
Czech
Polish
Hungarian
German
Spanish
French
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After the rather wonderful Gentlemen Prefer Blondes from 1953, the career of Howard Hawks went into something of a decline and he thereafter made very few films (only seven over the next seventeen years). Of those he did make, a few stand out with the most notable of these being the terrific Rio Bravo from 1959. The others of note are El Dorado from 1967 and this little romp from 1961, although I also have something of a soft spot for Rio Lobo from 1970 (Hawks' very last film). What do these latter four films all have in common, apart from the director? John Wayne of course! Just like the previously released Donovan's Reef, Hatari! is one of those easy on the brain romps that by this stage of his career The Duke had pretty well perfected. The fact that the story has a deal of commonality with the later Donovan's Reef and about fifty other John Wayne films is hardly the point. What is the point is that for two and a half hours you can sit back with your favourite snacks and drinks and enjoy again another delightful romp from the biggest star ever to grace Hollywood.

    The setting is what was then Tanganyika but is now Tanzania, actually being filmed in Arusha National Park and Tanganjika National Park, with the town sequences being filmed in Meru. The story revolves around a game catching operation owned by Brandy Delacourt (Michèle Girardon), who inherited the business when her father was killed during a rhino catch. Whilst Brandy owns the show, it is very much run by the crew led by Sean Mercer (John Wayne) and comprising Pockets (Red Buttons), former racing driver Kurt Mueller (Hardy Kruger), the ill-fated and unimaginatively named Little Wolf or Indian (Bruce Cabot) and Luis Francisco Garcia Lopez (Valentin de Vargas). The film begins on a hunt for a rhino, a hunt that ends up with Indian being badly gored. Rushed to hospital, thanks to the contribution of soon-to-be member of the team Charles "Chips" Chalmoy (Gerard Blain), Indian survives the meeting with the rhino. After the obligatory alcohol-centred celebration of this fact, the crew return to camp in a less than sober condition, whereupon Sean finds his bed occupied by the rather attractive Anna Maria "Dallas" D'Alessandro (Elsa Martinelli). It turns out that Dallas is on the scene to photograph the capture of the animals ordered by the Basle Zoo - which means she can flash a piece of paper that basically prevents Sean from telling her to go home. Since everyone wants her to stay, she stays. What follows is the often funny exploits of catching animals and catching women. One of those is the sudden realisation amongst Pockets, Kurt and Chips that Brandy is no little girl any more and all pursue her with some vigour. The other is that of the man's man Sean, scared of no wild animal, trying to come to grips with Elsa - and needing a lot of help about it, too. Throw in for good measure some genuinely dangerous animal catching - no wussy stunt doubling here: Howard Hawks actually had the actors doing the work by all accounts, including dealing with the rather dangerous recapture of the rhino. Considering how dangerous the rhino is - and even being on the end of a half-hearted semi-charge by a rhino was enough for me - if you want proof that the current crop of pampered pussies called actors today are not up to the real thing, then this is it.

    For even better measure, toss in another little subplot about orphan baby elephants and Dallas that spanned a worldwide hit for Henry Mancini called the Baby Elephant Walk... mind you, you don't have to be a baby elephant to understand the attractions of following Elsa Martinelli around all day.

    As with just about every film starring The Duke, the plot is nothing approaching Pulitzer Prize stature, but what the heck. By this stage of his career, John Wayne had scaled such heights that this sort of easy going role he could handle with aplomb. Sure there is nothing really taxing in the acting stakes from the story, but even so The Duke demonstrates that he could do comedy pretty well. His confusion when confronted by the obviously desirous Dallas is really well handled and almost belies the fact that the man could not act. The real star of the film was Red Buttons, who got some wonderful stuff in the screenplay and did an excellent job with it. The potential for the love quadrangle involving Brandy and the three men to descend into a maudlin mess was high, yet Red Buttons handled the whole thing really well. Most of the rest had little of import to do in the overall scheme of things, barring of course the attractive Elsa Martinelli. No great actress to be sure, but certainly well up to the task of this film and in many ways she produces the most enduring scenes in the film - her "seduction" of John Wayne in the night camp scene is a delight of almost iconic stature. You do wonder how many times that particular method was employed by young men and women around the time of the film's release!

    The genuine star of the film though was Russell Harland and his camera. He garnered an Oscar nomination in 1963 for Best Cinematography, Colour and with this first incarnation on home video in widescreen, you can now see why. Having visited the Masai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya (on the border with Tanzania and a continuation of the famed Serengeti National Park), I can readily attest to the fact that his camera did a superb job of capturing the feeling and beauty of this part of the world. The scenic beauty provides a wonderful backdrop to the film and the story.

    Of course, forty years on some of the depictions of animal catching are not exactly politically correct and I am sure that some will find the catching images a little disturbing. I cannot say that I did not find them completely undisturbing, but having visited some of the game reserves of Kenya and watched the reality of nature in the flesh so to speak, there really is nothing here that objectionable. Coming back to the film after many years, I really had forgotten how much of an enjoyable romp it is. A little long maybe, but like Donovan's Reef ,one that holds up pretty well.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It should be noted that the source materials for Hatari! had long been thought to be in poor condition and that anything decent being released on DVD was considered unlikely. I have vivid memories of a VHS tape that was amongst the poorest I have ever seen, and even going further back to one or two television broadcasts I can barely remember, the quality was not the best. The Region 1 DVD release was by no means shocking, but the expectations here were really for something quite average in quality.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which accords well with the original theatrical ratio, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    It should be noted that exteriors were filmed on location in Tanganyika, with the interiors being done back in Hollywood. Whilst this is hardly unsurprising, it does explain why there are some quite distinct differences between portions of the transfer. Overall, the transfer is really only average in terms of sharpness, with some exterior location footage being very soft in definition. This however is by no means a major issue with the transfer, although it does tend to highlight the instances where edge enhancement has been used. There is quite a fair amount of light grain about, but within the context of the predominant problem with the transfer, this is not a real concern either. Shadow detail is pretty good throughout, and there does not appear to be any issues with low level noise. Some degradation in the source material is rather obvious with blue flaring for instance occurring on a couple of occasions - the worst being at 46:35.

    Clarity, however, is an issue at times - mainly as the source material is very dirty so that you are often getting that wonderful "dirty window" look to the film. Compounding the film dirt is some of the poorest encoding work that I have seen for a while. There is a constant pixelization to the film, most notably the exterior stuff that can at times get very obvious and very distracting. Indeed, at around the 78:21 mark it becomes so bad that there is little definition and certainly no delineation between foreground and background. Much of the exterior filming has a blocky, surreal feel to it that creates a very flat, lifeless image that I find a little tiring to watch. It is almost like watching a wishy-washy water colour painting in motion. This is very noticeable in the first 4:30 of the film, but can be found throughout the entire transfer.

    The colours are split into two distinct parts: the exteriors shot on location are undersaturated, very muted and not at all vibrant, whilst the interiors shot in Hollywood are well saturated, quite bright and reasonably vibrant. Obviously this reflects the source material and is not to be blamed upon any of the process in mastering the DVD. It is a fact that has to be adjusted to, however, and it does take a bit of getting used to. This is not the very best demonstration of Technicolor filming. There is some evidence of colour bleed, such as in the face at 69:28, whilst oversaturation is only really an issue in the red jumper Dallas is wearing around the 137:00 mark. If anything, the flesh tones are a little overdone during the interior scenes.

    Obviously the biggest problem with the transfer is that pixelization issue mentioned above, but there are other problems too. There is a distinct loss of resolution in pan shots at times, such as at 0:49, although this is most likely source material related rather than being a strictly MPEG artefacting issue. Funnily enough there is little evidence of any film-to-video artefacting. There are plenty of light film artefacts floating around, aside from the film dirt that pervades almost the entire source material.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD but I have no idea where the layer change is located.

    There is the usual plethora of subtitle options that we seem to get on Paramount DVDs. There is nothing much wrong with the English effort, although it tends to drop words here and there, and at one point was running a few seconds behind the screen dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are five soundtracks on the DVD, comprising an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, a German Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack and a Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The latter four are definitely mono soundtracks, and I would strongly suggest that the English effort is too.

    The dialogue comes up well enough and there are generally no problems understanding what is being said. There are no real issues with audio sync in the transfer. One issue you will have with the soundtrack is some of the ludicrous sound effects. Animals are making sounds that they certainly don't make (the hyena is especially crappy in this regard) and those who have any interest or knowledge of the animals shown may well find this very offputting. There are other problems too, like the grandiose squealing noises the tyres make as vehicles turn on the plains... with not a single atom of bitumen road to be found.

    The original score comes from Henry Mancini, and it is of course highlighted by the memorable tune Baby Elephant Walk. Generally regarded as one of Mancini's better efforts, it is certainly a fine effort that adds significantly to the film - even before considering the Baby Elephant Walk and all the imagery that it conjures up.

    This is a rather flat sounding soundtrack, but that is a reflection of the source material and the fact that no remastering apparently has been done. There is just the odd hint here and there of some background noise, but nothing really untoward. Dynamically as flat as a pancake, even the action scenes fail to really get any action going sound-wise. It does the job well enough, but this is certainly one time that more than the original soundtrack would have been appreciated by me. There seems to be an obvious audio dropout at 78:21.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    As is becoming depressingly all too familiar with Paramount releases, all we get is the obligatory theatrical trailer.

Menu

    Almost without point since the DVD plays straight into the film (well, after selecting your choice of language from about thirty on offer).

Theatrical Trailer (2:50)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It also comes with an absolute pile of film artefacts, plenty of grain and some evidence of colour bleed in the titles. The transfer is also somewhat darkish in tone. Not at all a decent outing from the technical point of view.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Aside from the usual variations in soundtracks and subtitles, the Region 1 release offers pretty much the same as the Region 4 release.

Summary

    I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Hatari! so it was great to see the film again - and in widescreen for the first time. Certainly out of step with today's political correctness, which can hardly be blamed upon the film, it remains another of those great no-brainer romps that you can well and truly sit back and enjoy over and over again. Unfortunately, the limitations in the source material are well and truly transferred to the DVD and this is at best an average presentation overall.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, August 25, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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