Hatari! (1962)

Genres - Adventure, Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Comedy, Romantic Adventure, Romantic Comedy  |   Release Date - Jun 18, 1962 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 159 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Of the five movies that Howard Hawks made with John Wayne, the first three had running times of well over two hours, and Hatari! is the longest of them (as well as the longest movie Hawks ever made) at 158 minutes, which was something of a personal indulgence for director/producer Hawks. It never seems overlong, however, thanks to the presence of a top-flight cast who were obviously having the time of their lives professionally, and whose chemistry, coupled with the director's deft touch, draws the audience into their fun. John Wayne is at the top of his game here as an action hero, in the undemanding role of a two-fisted trapper of zoo and circus animals. Red Buttons, who had gone from being a popular comedic television personality to a serious actor over the previous five years (winning the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Sayonara in 1957), is at his most appealing as a semi-comic co-star; and Elsa Martinelli became the latest in a long line of supremely confident and challenging Howard Hawks heroines, not up to the standard set by Angie Dickinson in Rio Bravo and Margaret Sheridan in The Thing, but still memorable in her ability to challenge Wayne's and Buttons' natural macho superiority. Mixing those three, plus Hardy Kruger and a solid supporting cast, into some of the most exciting action scenes of their era, made Hatari! virtually irresistible to audiences in the early '60s. The screenplay by Leigh Brackett isn't overlong in itself, but Hawks takes his time with it, stretching out every action scene and luxuriating in its details. Astonishingly, the public bought it, even though African adventure stories were just about out of style. Between the director's sure hand and the mix of comedy and action in the story, plus the charismatic presence of Wayne and company, Hatari! was a success for all concerned and, arguably, Hawks' last truly great and ambitious movie.