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Allen Faulkner (Richard Burton), a British mercenary, is hired by merchant banker Sir Edward Matherson (Stewart Granger), to rescue Julius Limbani, the former leader of a central African country, who is due to be executed by the military dictator who overthrew him. Limbani is being held by the ferocious troops known as the "Simbas" under General Ndofa. Faulkner recruits 50 other mercenaries including a pilot, Shaun Fynn (Moore); South African Pieter Coetzee (Krüger); and Faulkner's old friend, Rafer Janders (Harris), who plans the mission. The fictional country is said to lie on the border with Burundi; Rwanda and Zambia are also mentioned as being close by. The troops train in Swaziland. The group successfully infiltrates Zembala Prison and rescues Limbani. Coetzee uses a powerful crossbow with cyanide-tipped quarrels to take out the prison sentries. The rest of the guards are killed silently with cyanide gas. The group then makes its way to a small airfield to await pickup, but must dispose of numerous hostile soldiers at the airport bar. Thousands of miles away, however, the backers of the project, led by Sir Edward Matherson, reach an agreement with the Zembalese government, and betray the mercenaries. The aeroplane due to collect them is recalled at the last minute and the soldiers are left to fend for themselves deep inside hostile territory. The group then has to fight its way across the country pursued by the Simbas.

The relationship between Limbani and Coetzee is significant, developing from initial animosity: "I bleed red like you, white man; don't call me kaffir" to one of understanding as Coetzee, despite being from deeply segregated South Africa, comes to understand and appreciate Limbani's struggle. The group is strafed by a low-flying plane which also drops a napalm bomb on their truck convoy and many soldiers die in the attack. Separated into two groups, they try to make their way to Limbani's home village, where they intend to provoke a revolution. Faulkner is forced to kill his own men who are gravely injured as Coetzee observes, "can't leave them to the Simbas." Coetzee is then killed while saving Limbani from an ambush. Arriving at the village, an Irish missionary alerts them to the presence of an aging transport plane, a Dakota. In addition to the Dakota to provide for their escape , the mercenaries also use a Vickers machine gun to defend themselves.

As hordes of Simbas arrive, the group prepares for an all-out attack. Many of the mercenaries are killed. Fynn prepares to pilot the plane as Limbani is loaded aboard and one by one the soldiers climb into the plane as it taxis down the dirt runway. Fynn is shot in the leg through the fuselage but manages to keep the plane going. Rafer Janders, the last to board, is also shot in the leg and can only hobble along pathetically as the plane gains speed. With the Simbas approaching, he implores Faulkner to shoot him. Faulkner cannot bear to shoot his friend, but there is no hope as Janders cries out his son's name: "Emile! Emile!" and he pulls the trigger. The plane is initially refused landing permission in Rhodesia but after they provide proof that Limbani is aboard they are given permission to land. By the time they land Limbani is dead from a wound he received while being loaded aboard.

Faulkner then returns to London with Fynn to exact revenge on Sir Edward Matherson.


Starring ... Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris, Hardy Krüger

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Producer: Euan Lloyd


Year Released - Nov. 1978

Length - 134 minutes

Music Composer: Roy Budd

Movie Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures



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