Aka Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Produced by Solly V. Bianco, Joseph Fryd
Written by Víctor Andrés Catena, Fulvio Gicca Palli, Umberto Lenzi, Emilio Salgari
Cinematography: Aurelio G. Larraya, Angelo Lotti, Giovanni Scarpellini
Edited by Jolanda Benvenuti, Antonietta Zita
Release date: 19 December 1963
Running time: 105 minutes
Cast: Steve Reeves (Sandokan), Geneviève Grad (Mary Ann), Andrea Bosic (Yanez), Rik Battaglia (Sambigliong), Mario Valdemarin (Tenente Ross), Leo Anchóriz (Lord Guillonk)
Emilio Salgari is a curious writer. Immensely popular in Italy, he’s little known in the English language world today, even though his boys own style adventure stories have proven hugely influential, not least to Sergio Leone, who was apparently inspired by Salgari’s pirate heroes when making his spaghetti westerns. One of the best known of these pirate heroes was Sandokan, the ‘Tiger of Malaysia’, a prince and rebel who fights against the Dutch and British empires that have annexed his homeland.
Umberto Lenzi’s Sandokan the Great wasn’t the first film adaptation of his work – these had gone back to the silent era – but it’s one of the best, a hugely enjoyable romp starring Steve Reeves – then at the pinnacle of his fame – as the protagonist and Andrea Bosic (an underrated Yugoslavian character actor) as his Portuguese friend Yanez. As well as all the expected derring-do, this also features a lengthy jungle sequence which anticipates Lenzi’s later, more notorious work such as Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox; the jungle, it seems, was something that he was fascinated with well before the vogue for cannibal gut munchers took off in the 70s. Perfect Sunday morning fodder, Sandokan the Great was successful enough to spawn one official sequel and several unofficial ones as well.