Watched the enjoyable British thriller, set in South Africa, at the height of the Apartheid, starring Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine, as two very different characters, who are brought together, as two wanted men by the secret police, forced to make their great escape together, across the border, in The Wilby Conspiracy (1975). One of the DVD’s I bought down under.
Wilby Conspiracy posterSet in the 1970’s itself, Sidney Poitier plays Shack Twala, an anti-apartheid activist. The day he is released from prison, after serving ten years for his nationalistic conduct, he, along with his Afrikaner defence attorney, Rina Van Niekirk (Prunella Gee in her introductory cinematic role), and her English boyfriend, visiting British engineer, Jim Keogh (Michael Caine), are on the way to Rina’s home to celebrate; but on the way, South African police trouble Shack Twala for not having an identity pass with him. Rina and Jim Keogh, intervene, and all three find themselves on the run. But Shack Twala, has to retrieve some diamonds stolen ten years ago, to fund their revolutionary movement, known as the, Black Congress (most probably a pseudonym for the African National Congress), which he gave an Indian friend, Dr. Anil Mukarjee (Saeed Jaffrey), a dentist, for safe keeping. Dr. Mukarjee, for his own safely, had thrown the diamonds into a deep pit. Now, with the secret police, led by Major Horn (Nicol Williamson), hot on their heels, Shack Twala, his lawyer, Rina Van Niekirk, her lover, Jim Keogh, and two Indian dentists, Dr. Mukarjee and Dr. Persis Ray (former Beauty Queen, Miss India for Miss Universe 1965, Persis Khambatta, in her first British film), hatch a plan, to get the diamonds, and fly across the border to Botswana, and safety, with the help of Rina’s reluctant, estranged, husband, Blane van Niekerk (Dutch actor Rutger Hauer, in his first British film).

Interestingly the police, have many a chances, to catch the fugitives, but why don’t they?? They seem to have a whole other agenda following the men on the run. And what’s ‘The Wilby Conspiracy’??? It’s only at the end we find out, who, and what, ‘Wilby’ might signify.
Wilby ConspiracyIt’s an engaging political thriller, made and set, when it was still hard to be a free black man, in racially conflicted, South Africa. The best thing about the movie are the two leads, played by Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine. They are both superb actors, and the movie explores their unexpected friendship. Saeed Jaffrey, was really good, as the weak willed dentist, who secretly supports the Black Congress. Persis Khambatta was not bad, as a dentist having her own secret agenda for helping the two fugitives. She served more as a love/lust interest for Poitier. Prunella Gee’s not much of an actress, at least not in her first feature film here. Rutger Hauer was pretty good. And Nicol Williamson was brilliant as the villain of the piece. This movie was a first for many of the stars, including Prunella Gee, Persis Khambatta and Rutger Hauer.
Wilby Conspiracy sceneThe Wilby Conspiracy is a pretty fast paced movie, that moves quickly from one crisis to another, to an unexpected surprise ending. It also gives an insight  into racial friction between the whites and blacks, as well as the blacks and browns, yet at the same time we see secretive alliances between all these races, who act together against injustices of the country. It’s also a great chase film, a road movie, at the same time an intriguing enough political thriller.

 Prunella Gee

Prunella Gee

Spoiler Alert: The entrance of the leader of the Black Congress, most probably representing Nelson Mandela in exile, was an interesting twist at the end.

Though not a great film, a pretty good venture, worth checking out.
Rating: 7/10 !!!

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense.

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