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Trader Horn (1973)

Rod Taylor plays Trader Horn, the "great white hunter," in this film based on a 1931 film of the same name.

In promoting the film, Taylor proposed that the public was ready for an old-fashioned, red-blooded type of movie and hero:

The anti-hero image was stretched as far as it could go. I think people now want to see a good guy win out over the bad guys through intelligence, courage and strength -- the traditional makeup of hero types.

-- Trader Horn pressbook, 1973

The original "Trader Horn" was a lavish production filmed entirely on location in Africa in 1930. It starred Harry Carey in the title role and became MGM's first talkie.

The studio insisted that the market still existed for this type of movie and demanded a remake in color. "Distributors throughout the world have asked repeatedly for a remake of Trader Horn," an MGM spokesman told syndicated columnist Marilyn Beck. "Europeans still think of Hollywood in terms of giant romantic productions and this is one of the first of that type they'll be seeing in a long time."

MGM's 1973 remake had big ambitions, but was hampered by severe cost-cutting. It was filmed entirely in Southern California and intercut with poorly matched stock footage of wild animals in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania as well as scenes from "King Solomon's Mines" (1950).

In fact, there is a scene in "Trader Horn" in which Anne Heywood has to have her her hair cut after it becomes tangled with twigs. A critic noted, "The scene seems pointlessly silly until we realize that Miss Heywood has to have her hair short if she is to pass for a lady, glimpsed in a long shot trekking up a mountain, who looks suspiciously like Deborah Kerr in 'King Solomon's Mines.'"


Trader Horn is set in 1915-16, and World War I has reached the African continent.

Horn gets away from the British only to become embroiled in further intrigue. He's reacquainted with friend Emil DuMond (Jean Sorel), who is hatching a plan to journey to a distant mine to retrieve a wealth of platinum there. Of course, he needs Trader Horn to help him.

Taylor uses his knowledge of the jungle to lead a small safari safely through countless perils: They're trapped between English and German soldiers and also get involved in a war between two native tribes. They contend with swampland, desert and jungle as well as rampaging rhinos, elephants and lions (in obviously stock footage).

Horn and his trusted native partner, Apaque (Ed Bernard), wind up leading Emil, his fiance (Anne Heywood), and a band of natives on the trek into deepest Africa.

This update of "Trader Horn" has an old-fashioned, Saturday TV-matinee feel.

Upon its release, critics savaged the film. The kindest said it was best viewed as a film for children. Others called it "awful" and "unintentionally hilarious." They said it had a "hack script" with "trite African adventure stuff."

The critics didn't seem to blame the actors. Here's an example from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Taylor does his best to make us believe his 1916 vintage hunter is for real, and co-stars Anne Heywood and Jean Sorel also give it the collegiate try." However, the 1973 edition was doomed by the script, sluggish direction and the cost-cutting measures.


Although stock footage was used for most of the wildlife scenes, there was at least one real beast, used in a stunt that Taylor insisted on doing himself.

He convinced director Reza Badiyi to let him ride a wild zebra for a scene in which Trader Horn dupes a British officer and makes a getaway. The pressbook for "Trader Horn" notes, "Not only did Taylor ride it successfully, but after several takes the zebra was tame!"

MGM has converted one of its cavernous old soundstages into a jungle. Indio, California, was used for the desert scenes. And the lake at the Los Angeles County Arboretum was used for a scene in which Rod paddles a canoe in an escape.




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Pressbook items (PDF)

Filming at Arboretum (PDF)



This movie has never had a home-video release, and the only existing copies have been recorded from TV.
Here's one such version:
Download move via MediaFire