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What A Crock!
Spikeopath19 April 2013
Death Drums Along the River is directed by Lawrence Huntingdon who also co-writes the screenplay with Harry Alan Towers and Nicolas Roeg. It stars Richard Todd, Marianne Koch, Albert Lieven and Walter Rilla. A Techniscope/Technicolor production, music is by Sidney Torch and cinematography by Robert Huke.

Out of "Big Ben Films", the story is suggested by Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River. Filmed on location in South Africa, plot revolves around Todd as Inspector Harry Sanders, who takes up the case when a policeman is killed in pursuit of a man who pocketed a small pouch at the docks. His investigation leads him to a suspicious clinic and pretty soon he is mired in diamond smuggling and other murky goings on.

Well it reads as a good old fashioned detective mystery, swathed in African locales and a chance for mucho sweaty perils that a dashing hero has to overcome. Sadly it's none of those things, for this is utterly dull and lifeless. Film just plays out as a number of talky scenes wrapped around the odd moment of detective work. There's never any flow to the narrative, atmosphere is absent and the acting away from the reliable (even if he is on auto-pilot) Todd is decidedly poor. I swear at one point the humans are out acted by a Crocodile! While the climax is tepid and certainly not worth having sat through 75 minutes of bad film making. It's not even recommended for visuals since the colour photography is flat and the Techniscope rarely livens locations.

Even though it amazingly spawned a sequel of sorts the following year, Coast of Skeletons, this is a poor movie all told, and this even before the PC brigade have a chance to chew over the dated attitudes to race and sex… 3/10
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An interesting setting but the almost entire lack of action lets it down
Leofwine_draca10 June 2016
There's something appealing about low-budget British thrillers of the early '60s. Despite the lack of action they always seem to contain worthy scripts, strong acting and enough twists and turns in the plot to stay interesting. DEATH DRUMS ALONG THE RIVER is no exception. The film itself is based on a character created by top krimi writer Edgar Wallace in his book Sanders of the River. Inspector Sanders is a hard-nosed, no-nonsense river policeman whose job is to keep things quiet at his station in Africa. Of course the location of the film means that we get plenty of appealing backdrops to the story and a wider variety of nationalities than you might expect from a more typical British-set movie. The plot is fairly simplistic and tends to drag out the most minute detail into a ten minute subplot with lots of talky static moments. Yet the script is interesting, giving life to some larger-than-life characters and there's a whodunit angle to keep the audience guessing.

Richard Todd takes the role of Sanders and makes it his own. Sanders isn't a very approachable or appealing hero in the same way, say, James Bond is. Instead he tends to keep himself to himself and doesn't take action unless he needs to. Todd puts in an accordingly subtle performance. The story includes some light comedy relief in the form of an officer in Sanders' command who is always put down by Sanders and comes across as slightly stupid. This doesn't really make Sanders a very likable character though, instead he seems quite selfish and unfeeling.

The script offers some nice characterisations. The best is Bill Brewers as vagabond Pearson who may or may not be the villain. With his familiar face and bear-like manner, Brewers is a delight in the role and it's just a shame he isn't more predominant – instead his character is pretty extraneous to the central plot. German Euro-crumpet Marianne Koch is on hand as the female lead, Doctor Jung, but she doesn't have a lot to do other than romance with Sanders. The film offers the minimum of suspense and a couple of nice moments (the stand-off at the native funeral) but the lack of action hurts. Despite being book-ended by two good chases (the opening police hunt and the closing speedboat race) the middle of the film drags a little and cries out for some incident. This isn't a bad film but it could have been so much more had it been a little livelier.
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An enjoyable adventure
chris_gaskin12319 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Death Drums Along the River is roughly a remake of 1938's Sanders Of the River. It is available in the UK on video as part of the Korda Collection, of which I have a copy.

A British policeman based in Africa, Mr Sanders, is sent to investigate a murder at a local hospital but discovers a diamond smuggling operation there as well. After several more murders, the main suspect gets eaten by a crocodile in the end. Through all this, he falls in love with a woman doctor he is working with, who is kidnapped by the suspect.

Sanders is played well by British actor Richard Todd (The Story of Robin Hood, The Dam Busters). This movie has some nice African scenery and a good music score to keep it moving.

An enjoyable movie.

Rating: 3 and a half stars out of 5.
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Is Vivi Bach the worst actress ever?
malcolmgsw5 October 2007
Anyone witnessing the performance of Vivi Bach as Marlene the nurse will not be struck dumb with amazement at her beauty,or her flawless hair but at the sheer ineptitude of her attempts aas an actress in this film.there are also some other rather sonambulistic performances and a great deal of dead wood.the sound is rather poor and the colour is extremely variable.Richard Todd is his dependable self.So all in all this is a fairly entertaining film given the standout performance of Viv Bach and if you are a connoisseur of bad performances then you are in for a treatIt is also padded out by a lot of scenes of big game and wild animals.
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In which the whole cast would be well advised to take the money and run
ianlouisiana3 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Apparently the only production of "Big Ben Films","Death Drums along the river"is a typical 1950s bill - filler that was inexplicably released (or escaped) in 1963,a year that saw the first appearances of "Billy Liar","Tom Jones","The Servant","Nothing but the best" and "The Leather Boys".It was not the time for a Boys' Own Paper adventure in Africa featuring a resurrected character from the age when a third of the world was pink on the map. The original "Sanders of the river" -appalling though it was - was at least made with some gusto,"Death Drums" has absolutely nothing going for it at all.Mr R.Todd,splendid in his well - pressed uniform,is hardly a good advert for colonialism.Even though he knows that Independence is imminent he is still brusque and arrogant toward his black N.C.O.s and servants."I hope to stay on - if they'll have me",he tells Miss M.Koch.If I were him I'd be heading for the airport before the ink is dry on the Declaration. Mr J. Lloyd is even more of a buffoon.I could see his sort just about surviving at the height of The Raj in India,but in early 60s Africa? The chinless wonders in "Carry on up the Khyber" were more convincing. "Sandy" has been demoted from Administrator to senior police officer for the purposes of this movie. In search of a diamond smuggling ring he moves into the milieu of dodgy European adventurers,remittance men and rather odd doctors with immaculately attired nurses in a pristine laboratory somewhere "Up river". The whole thing has the air of a tired T.V. pilot that nobody has any confidence in and everybody wants to get done with it as quickly as possible and hope the cheques don't bounce.
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The nifty twists and lovely footage are undermined by the poor way women appear in the film.
MartinHafer26 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Sanders" is a remake, of sorts, of the 1935 film "Sanders of the River". However, the plot has been changed so much that it's difficult, at times, to see it's a remake. And, in some cases, entire characters have been written in or out of the remake.

The film stars Richard Todd as the title character--a smarty-pants police inspector working in a British colony in West Africa in the waning days of the Empire. He's a determined man and is out to get to the heart of why one of his men was killed. Interestingly, the path takes him to not only a fake funeral but when he finds the guilty man, someone shoots him to keep some secret. But what? Why the two murders and how are they connected? "Sanders" is a rather handsome film. While it was filmed in South Africa (4000 miles away from West Africa), the color cinematography is very nice and I am happy they limited the use of stock footage (which usually is grainy and ill-fitting). As for the plot, it's not bad but the film doesn't use women well. One, Marianne Koch, plays a doctor and practically everyone ogles her and makes sexist remarks about their surprise about her being a 'pretty lady doctor'. The other, Vivi Bach, is a far from stellar actress whose only qualifications, it seems, are her looks. One reviewer went so far as to say she was the worst actress in history. While I wouldn't go that far, I would say she's well in the running--with an inability to deliver lines or show proper emotion (watch her when she bites her hand to show fear or stares off into space as if trying to remember her lines!). With Koch's role re-written a bit (without the sexist stuff) and ANYONE else to play Bach's part (even a talented chimp might do) would improve the film. Overall, not a bad movie--a minor time-passer but not much more.
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