The Adventurers (1951)

Poster promises excitement that isn’t forthcoming

THE ADVENTURERS sorts out as a grim and limping ‘Treasure of Sierra South Africa’, with diamonds instead of gold, no bandits or “stinking badges“. Like the Mexico-set adventure & greed drama, this 1951 variation is well acted, decently photographed and shot on location. Where the Bogart classic was enthralling, this one is just mildly interesting, and lacking the touch of someone like John Huston at the helm, the slow pacing from director David MacDonald leaches away any excitement.

When the Boer war ends in 1902, South African soldier ‘Pieter Brandt’ (Jack Hawkins) stakes his chances on a diamond stash he stumbled across in the mountains. His partners include a former comrade (Peter Hammond), a dissolute gambler (Dennis Price) who married Pieter’s sweetheart (Siobhan McKenna) while he was away fighting the British, and a shifty bar owner (Gregoire Aslan), who hates the gambler (vice versa). Trust, what little there is to start with, frays during their expedition.

The actors are good (plus the ever-solid Bernard Lee is on hand as a policeman), and shooting in black & white crack cinematographer Oswald Morris logs some excellent close-ups of the players. But the expansive South African locations are poorly served by the lack of color, and the going is as slow as the oxen team pulling the prospector’s wagon. The actors do what they can to inject vigor, but their character’s assorted conflicts are dulled by the writing, and stifled by a lack of action. *

Running a brief 74 minutes, the slow burn was retitled twice for the US market, to little avail, as Fortune In Diamonds and The Great Adventure.

Later on, screenwriter Robert Westerby had better luck with some satisfying Disney films—The Three Lives Of Thomasina and The Fighting Prince Of Donegal. 

Changing the title didn’t help

 

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