Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Diamonds of Kilimanjaro (3 Stars)

As films go, this is a hackjob. It was made in 1983 by the legendary director Jess Franco, entirely in Spanish, even though some of the actors were foreigners who spoke no Spanish and had to learn their lines phonetically. When it was sent to France for dubbing into French the film was denied a film certificate, so scenes had to be deleted, unfortunately so many scenes that the film no longer made sense. To make up for it the French director Olivier Mathot shot replacement scenes, hiring the original actors, but the new scenes were shot in French. I wonder just how awful that sounded. The film I watched today is the French version, but dubbed into English. Supposedly plot changes were made in the French version, but I haven't been able to find a description of the changes. It's noticeable that in some scenes a character is heard speaking when his lips aren't moving. I don't mean that the dubbing is out of sync, I mean that the dubbed version adds dialogue where the original Spanish version had silence.

"Diamonds of Kilimanjaro" (spelt with or without a D) is a retelling of the story of Tarzan, except that Tarzan is a woman called Diana. The story is so identical to Tarzan that I'm surprised the film studios weren't sued for breach of copyright.

The film begins with a plane crash in an unexplored African jungle. An explorer called Dan De Winter has been searching for diamonds, accompanied by his young daughter Diana. The natives of the Mori tribe treat them as Gods who have fallen from the sky. Diana is raised as one of them. It's a matriarchal tribe, so she becomes one of the leaders.

Years later Diana's mother is on her death bed and sends an expedition to find her daughter, her only heir. She doesn't care about her husband and says that if he's found alive she'll kill him with her bare hands. Diana's uncle goes on the expedition with the intention of killing Diana, because he wants the inheritance for himself.

In the jungle we find Diana, now 18, half naked and swinging from vines. The Moris obey her commands, although there is rivalry from Noba, a teenage girl who sees herself as the tribe's rightful ruler.

This was the fourth film that Jess Franco made with the German actress Katja Bienert. She was only 16 at the time she played the part of Diana. Jess clearly idolised her. Every time we see her there's soft romantic music. I can't help feeling he was more interested in showing her naked body than in making a good film.

Looking at Katja Bienert, it's easy to see why Jess Franco was so fascinated by her beauty.

The men in the Mori tribe kneel when women walk past. That's remarkably civilised.

I'm curious about Aline Mess, the actress who plays Noba. IMDB lists a few other films that she appeared in, but I haven't been able to find out anything about her, not even her age or nationality. If anyone can tell me anything about her please leave a comment.

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