Simba: The King of the Beasts
A groundbreaking travelogue, Simba follows the intrepid American filmmaking couple Osa and Martin Johnson on their four year expedition over the African subcontinent. Filmed in an era when African wildlife was still relatively bountiful, the production shows how the landscape looked in the early twentieth century.
In stark contrast to the conservation themed wildlife films of today, the Johnsons' approached their subjects armed with both camera and rifle, with the production including provoked behaviour, staged confrontations and animals shot to death on film. Relying heavily on cutting in kills from professional marksmen, numerous hunting scenes culminate in a heart stopping sequence where, with the use of clever editing, the adventurous Mrs Johnson appears to bring down a charging rhinoceros with one well-aimed shot.
Responsible for introducing a whole generation of American movie-goers to the wonders of the African environment, Simba was a large-scale success, detailing wildlife and indigenous tribespeople that had seldom appeared on screen before.
Evading stampeding elephants, employing scores of servants and gamefully shooting down a variety of species, the film provides an intriguing glimpse not only into 1920s Africa but also into the Johnsons themselves, part of a 'gung-ho' breed that is, in itself, now largely extinct.