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The Ghost and the Darkness
- A bridge engineer and an experienced old hunter begin a hunt for two lions after they start attacking local construction workers.
- Sir Robert Beaumont is behind schedule on a railroad in Africa. Enlisting noted engineer John Henry Patterson to right the ship, Beaumont expects results. Everything seems great until the crew discovers the mutilated corpse of the project's foreman, seemingly killed by a lion. After several more attacks, Patterson calls in famed hunter Charles Remington, who has finally met his match in the bloodthirsty lions. — Jwelch5742
- A man bringing modern transportation to the ancient jungles of Africa discovers one of man's oldest enemies lays in wait for him in this period adventure drama. John Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson) is the owner of a British railroad firm who is building a rail line through Uganda. A bridge is needed so that the tracks may cross a large river, and engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) is summoned to the African nation to supervise construction. While Beaumont has placed Patterson under a strict deadline, the bridge designer is certain that with his guidance, the local laborers will be able to complete the job in time. However, when several workers are killed in an attack by a lion, Patterson is forced to deal with the animal; while he bags a lion who invades the work site one evening, it soon becomes obvious that there's more than one predator in the nearby jungle. The lion attacks continue, eventually claiming the lives of 130 men, and Patterson and Beaumont finally agree to call in Charles Remmington (Michael Douglas), an expert hunter who understands the nature of the man-eaters and knows how to lure them into his trap.
- In 1896 Lt. Col. John Paterson was sent to East Africa to build a railway bridge. He had a deadline to meet but was confident he and his large workforce of Africans and Indians can get the job done in time. John was a man of his word and got things done - which he demonstrated on his first day by killing a lion that had been pestering the workforce. This earned John respect, but it didn't last very long because a few weeks later two new lions began visiting, and they were man-eaters. The film is based on a true story: during the construction of the bridge the lions would enter the workers' camp to kill. Believing them not to be real lions, the locals named them "The Ghost" and "The Darkness." After losing dozens of workers to the lions, the railroad company brought in Remington, an American "Great White Hunter" to kill them, but even his reputation for being the best could not prevent more carnage. It is believed that over 130 people were killed by the two lions in just a few months. — Rob Hartill
- In 1896, a construction engineer from the British Army, J.H. Patterson is sent to build a railway bridge across Kenya's Tsavo River for the British East African Railway. Soon after he arrives, workmen begin to disappear at night from their tents - never to be seen alive again. The engineer soon discovers that a pair of man-eating lions are stalking around the bridge and campsites, killing the workmen for food. He tries a number of different methods to get rid of them, but the beasts always seem to know what Patterson is doing and avoid being shot. After 30 men have been killed Patterson's boss recruits a hunter, Charles Remington to hunt down and destroy the lions. But the lions continue killing the workmen until they flee the camps, jumping onto the train as it rolls through Tsavo. Now Remington, Patterson and his aide must face these brilliant yet frightening monsters alone. — Derek O'Cain
- Sir Robert Beaumont, the primary financier of the railroad project, is furious because his railroad is not being completed on schedule. He has sought out the expertise of Patterson, a military engineer, to get the project back on track. Beaumont tells Patterson that if he doesn't get the bridge built on time, Beaumont will use all of his power and influence to destroy Patterson's reputation as an engineer. Patterson travels by train to the outpost station, where he is enthusiastically greeted by camp supervisor Angus Starling. When they arrive in Tsavo, Starling introduces Patterson to the first team supervisor, Samuel (the movie's narrator). Samuel is one of the few men at the work site who is respected and trusted by everyone. Patterson also meets the camp's doctor, David Hawthorne, who tells the colonel that he's brought bad luck with him. The doctor shows him a man who was attacked by a lion. The colonel assures the doctor that he will "sort it out". That night, Patterson kills a lion using only one shot from his .303 Enfield rifle. This raises the camp's morale. However, not long afterwards Mahina, the construction foreman, is dragged from his tent in the middle of the night. His half-eaten body is found the next morning. Patterson then attempts a second night-time lion hunt, but the next morning another worker is found dead at the opposite end of the camp from Patterson's position. Later, a huge male lion attacks the camp, creating panic among the workers and capturing one of them. Patterson, Starling, and Samuel run down the lion and find it feeding on the dead worker. Patterson is about to shoot it when a second lion attacks them and kills Starling. Both lions escape. Shortly afterwards, Beaumont, who has come to Africa to find out why the railroad is not making any progress, says he will contact a big game hunter known as Remington to get the job done. That evening Patterson attempts to trap the lions in a modified box car, but the workers who are supposed to kill the lions are too scared to do it properly. Remington arrives, bringing with him some skilled Maasai warriors to help hunt the lions. The men spend all night preparing themselves for the hunt. The hunt goes badly when a rifle Patterson has borrowed from Dr. Hawthorne misfires, almost resulting in his death. Believing the lions are supernatural, the Maasai warriors abandon Remington to hunt the lions on their own. That evening Remington and Patterson take up a watch in the camp's old hospital which they have cleared of patients and doused with blood in an effort to lure the lions. However, the lions attack the new hospital and kill both the patients and Dr. Hawthorne. The entire population of workers evacuate the camp the next day, leaving Patterson, Remington and Samuel behind to deal with the lions. Patterson and Remington set off towards the mountains and at last successfully locate the lions' den, which they find filled with piles of human and animal remains. Horrified, they conclude that the lions are killing people for "the pleasure" of it and hoarding the skeletons as trophies. The next evening, Patterson waits on a high wooden platform in a clearing, hoping to attract the lions with a captive baboon tethered to a pole on the ground, while Remington and Samuel keep watch from positions around the edge of the clearing. Remington succeeds in killing one lion, and the three men celebrate by getting drunk. Awakening the next morning, Patterson and Samuel discover that Remington has apparently been dragged from his tent and killed by the remaining lion during the night. Grief stricken over Remington's death and now desperate to end the bloodshed, Patterson decides to burn the tall grass surrounding the camp in order to drive the lion towards the camp where he hopes to ambush it. Patterson and Samuel are soon attacked by the beast on the partially constructed bridge. Patterson shoots and wounds the lion with a howdah pistol. But the lion quickly retaliates, knocking Patterson's weapons away and chasing him off the bridge. Patterson and Samuel manage to climb into two separate trees, but when Patterson looks down he is shocked to see the lion climbing up the tree after him. Samuel tries to throw Patterson his own rifle but it falls to the ground. Patterson jumps from the tree and retrieves the rifle just in time to shoot the lion as it leaps down to kill him. At the end of the film, Patterson greets his wife and son at the Tsavo station. The final moments of the film have Samuel explaining that the lions are now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois and that even today "if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid."
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The Ghost and the Darkness
1996, History/Drama, 1h 49m
What to know
The Ghost and the Darkness hits its target as a suspenseful adventure, but it falls into a trap of its own making whenever it reaches for supernatural profundity. Read critic reviews
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Sir Robert Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson) is behind schedule on a railroad in Africa. Enlisting noted engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) to right the ship, Beaumont expects results. Everything seems great until the crew discovers the mutilated corpse of the project's foreman (Henry Cele), seemingly killed by a lion. After several more attacks, Patterson calls in famed hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas), who has finally met his match in the bloodthirsty lions.
Genre: History, Drama, Adventure
Original Language: English
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Producer: Paul B. Radin , Gale Anne Hurd , A. Kitman Ho
Writer: William Goldman
Release Date (Theaters): Oct 11, 1996 original
Release Date (Streaming): Aug 1, 2013
Box Office (Gross USA): $38.6M
Runtime: 1h 49m
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Production Co: Paramount Pictures
Sound Mix: Surround
Cast & Crew
Col. John Henry Patterson
Dr. David Hawthorne
Paul B. Radin
Gale Anne Hurd
A. Kitman Ho
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Critic Reviews for The Ghost and the Darkness
Audience reviews for the ghost and the darkness.
Why has this not been mass released on Blu Ray or 4K? Shameful. On paper this would sound like a horror filmmakers dream, and at the time of release, I was a little reluctant to watch the film. I'm happy I did and have since watched it several times. It's quite annoying that the producers haven't transferred it to a decent upgrade as this is a wonderful film to look at. The film is unique and is fun to watch. Val Kilmer was coming off a string of bad press and this film was a much needed breath of fresh air for him. Michael Douglas is solid and gives this film more credibility than it actually deserved. The director has done a solid job and it's a shame to hear of the disagreements with editing for the final cut, it would be interesting to see a DC version now that the dust has settled. 05/01/2020
It's an embarrassing failure on all fronts, which is a shame as it squanders a perfectly good (and true) man vs. lion story. I think Kilmer and Douglas had a contest to see who's accent work could be worst (Spoiler alert: Kilmer won).
This movie is unintentionally hilarious with its cheesy lines and horrible acting. Michael Douglas turns in a hilariously bad performance while Val Kilmer is tolerable. The only thing that makes this movie interesting is that it is true (with Hollywood exaggerations of course).
Based on a true story, this is a suspenseful adventure yarn about the Tsavo Manhunters who terrorized laborers working on a railroad in East Africa in 1896. The Tsavo Manhunters are a pair of vicious lions who kill for sport, and seem unafraid of man and fire, and have an almost supernatural ability to sense danger and traps. The native workers name them the Ghost and The Darkness, due to their attack methods. Col. John Henry Patterson is a railroad engineer/big game hunter tasked with killing the lions and getting the railroad built on time. His efforts to succeed continually fail, so a wily American big game hunter named Charles Remington is brought in to help him out. Screenwriter William Goldman was originally wanting to meld Lawrence of Arabia with Jaws. The basic idea of that is onscreen, but unfortunately it isn't taking to the level it could have been. Maybe had a stronger director been attached... The film strays some from the original story, mostly by adding the fictional character of Remington, but still retains the gist and spirit of the actual events. The film is actually rather light on gore, and some of the action scenes are a bit too choppy and frenetic with how they're edited, but somehow the film is still rather suspenseful and gripping. Plus, it's got some good cinematography, and the deeper themes of imperialism and "white man as champion" are touched upon and dealt with somewhat, so that's cool. The music is also appropriately subversive at times, and tense when it needs to be. Val Kilmer is good as Patterson, and I like how they don't treat him as a total wimpy character. Michael Douglas is wildly scenery chewing as Remington, but perhaps a bit too over-the-top and goofy. Still though, his performance is rather fun to watch. A pre-fame Tom Wilkinson is good at the company man who doesn't care about the setbacks, and just wants his damn railroad built, and John Kani is decent as the native sidekick Samuel. All in all, this is a decent enough adventure thriller in the vein of old fashioned adventure serials. It's pretty flawed, and sometimes goofy, but I found myself more pleased with it than not, so give it a go.
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The Ghost and the Darkness
This is an interesting story with some suspense. Col. John Patterson (Val Kilmer) is an engineer who finds himself in colonial Uganda, attempting to build a bridge within six months so as to beat the Germans and French to it. The story takes place in 1898. Patterson leaves behind his young pregnant wife in London and looks forward to the birth of their child, which he hopes will be a boy.
However, he doesn’t plan on the fear and panic he encounters in the village in Africa, as two large lions, which seem to have supernatural powers, have been attacking and killing the people. When Patterson successfully kills a different lion, the people hope he is the one to kill the two man-eating lions. However, when the attacks become more frequent and bloody, he soon faces their wrath as they believe his presence has caused the increase in deaths.
Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas, who plays grizzled hunter Charles Remington, are at their best in this story, and it concludes in a satisfying manner. Unfortunately, the violence of the lions killing and eating human flesh, and the bloody results, are graphic and too intense to award this film our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal as a family-friendly movie.
Dove Rating Details
Some strong violent scenes with lions attacking and eating the flesh of people; scenes with blood on lion's mouths and on people's bodies; flesh being torn by lions; terrorized people dragged by lions; several deaths; a man has bloody hands from working so hard; the villagers shoot at lions; a man holds back the natives with a gun; a lion kills a baboon; lions are killed; a man dreams about a woman and child being attacked by lion; a lamp is kicked over and it starts a fire.
Kissing by a couple in a couple of scenes.
GD-1; G/OMG-4; J-1; Chr*st-3; H-2; B-1; S-1; The word "fart" is used.
A few scenes of drinking and a few men are intoxicated;
Shirtless men are seen.
There is fear and panic in the village and an outbreak of Malaria; some skeletons and skulls are found in a cave; there is a question as to whether or not the lions are supernatural creatures.
Film information, dove content.
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The Ghost and the Darkness
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The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 American historical thriller film, directed by Stephen Hopkins, starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas .
- 3.1 Screenplay
- 3.2 Locations
- 3.3 Filming
- 4.1 Box Office
- 4.2 Critical Reception
- 6 References
In 1898, Sir Robert Beaumont ( Tom Wilkinson ), the primary financier of a railroad project in Tsavo , Kenya , is furious because the project is running behind schedule. He seeks out the expertise of John Henry Patterson ( Val Kilmer ), an Irish military engineer, to get the project back on track. Patterson travels from England to Tsavo, telling his wife, Helena, he will complete the project and be back in London for the birth of their son. He meets supervisors Angus Starling ( Brian McCardie ) and Samuel ( John Kani ), (the film's narrator), and the doctor, David Hawthorne ( Bernard Hill ). Hawthorne tells Patterson of a recent lion attack.
That night, Patterson kills an approaching lion with one shot, earning the respect of the workmen. The project gets back on schedule. However, not long afterwards Mahina ( Henry Cele ), the construction foreman, is dragged from his tent in the middle of the night. His half-eaten body is found the next morning. Patterson then attempts a second night-time lion hunt, but the following morning another worker is found dead at the opposite end of the camp from Patterson's position.
Patterson's only comfort now is the letters he receives from his wife. Soon, while the workers are gathering wood and building firepits around the tents, a lion attacks the camp in the middle of the day. While Patterson, Starling and Samuel are tracking it to one end of the camp, another lion leaps upon them from the roof of a building, killing Starling with a slash to the throat and injuring Patterson. Despite the latter's efforts to kill them, both lions escape.
Samuel states that there has never been a pair of man-eaters ; they have always been solitary hunters. The men, led by Abdullah ( Om Puri ), begin to turn on Patterson. They dub the lions "the Ghost" and "the Darkness" because of their notorious methods of attack, and work on the bridge comes to a halt. Patterson requests soldiers from England to protect the workers, but is denied. During a visit to the camp, Beaumont tells Patterson he will ruin his reputation if the bridge is not finished on time and that he will contact the famous hunter Charles Remington ( Michael Douglas ) to help because Patterson has been unable to kill the animals.
When Remington arrives with skilled Maasai warriors to help kill the lions, the initial attempt fails when Patterson's borrowed gun misfires. The warriors decide to leave, but Remington stays behind. He constructs a new hospital for sick and injured workers and tempts the lions to the abandoned building with animal parts and blood.
When the lions fall for the trap, Remington and Patterson shoot at them; they flee and attack the new hospital, killing many patients and Dr. Hawthorne. Abdullah and the construction men leave, and only Patterson, Remington, and Samuel remain behind to face the marauders. Patterson and Remington locate the animals' lair, discovering the bones of dozens of the lions' victims. That night, Remington kills one of the pair by using Patterson and a baboon as bait. The men celebrate, though later Patterson dreams about his wife and infant son visiting him in Tsavo, only for them to be killed by the remaining lion before he can get to them.
Waking from his nightmare the next morning, Patterson discovers that the remaining lion has dragged Remington from his tent and killed him; Patterson and Samuel cremate Remington's corpse on a pyre at the spot where he died. Grief-stricken and desperate to end the carnage, the two men burn the tall grass surrounding the camp, driving the surviving lion toward the camp (and the ambush they set there).
The lion attacks Patterson and Samuel on the partially constructed bridge and after a lengthy fight, Patterson finally kills it. Abdullah and the construction men return, and the bridge is completed on time. The film ends with Patterson's wife arriving with their son, and a narration by Samuel, who informs the audience that the lions are now on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Even today, he says, "if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid".
- Val Kilmer as Col. John Henry Patterson
- Michael Douglas as Charles Remington
- John Kani as Samuel
- Bernard Hill as Dr. David Hawthorne
- Tom Wilkinson as Robert Beaumont
- Brian McCardie as Angus Starling
- Emily Mortimer as Helena Patterson
- Om Puri as Abdullah
- Henry Cele as Mahina
Production [ ]
The film is based upon The Man-Eaters of Tsavo by Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson , the man who actually killed both real lions.
Screenplay [ ]
William Goldman first heard about the story when travelling in Africa in 1984, and thought it would make a good script. In 1989 he pitched the story to Paramount as a cross between Lawrence of Arabia and Jaws , and they commissioned him to write a screenplay which he delivered in 1990. 
The script fictionalises Patterson's account, introducing an American big game hunter called Charles Remington. The character was based on Anglo-Indian big game hunter Charles Ryall , superintendent of the Railway Police.  In original drafts the character was called Redbeard, and Goldman says his purpose in the story was to create an imposing character who could be killed by the lions and make Patterson seem more brave; Goldman's inspiration for the part was Burt Lancaster . 
Kevin Costner expressed interest in playing Patterson, but Paramount wanted to use Tom Cruise who ultimately declined. Michael Douglas then came on board as producer and Stephen Hopkins was hired to direct. Val Kilmer , who had just made Batman Forever then expressed enthusiasm for the script, which enabled the project to be financed. The part of Remington was originally offered to Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins but both declined; the producers were considering asking Gérard Depardieu when Douglas decided to play the role himself.
In early drafts of the script, Remington was originally going to be an enigmatic figure but when Douglas chose to play him, the character's role was expanded and was given a history. In Goldman's book Which Lie Did I Tell? , the screenwriter argues that Douglas' decision ruined the mystery of the character, making him a wimp and a loser. 
Locations [ ]
The film was shot mainly on location at Songimvelo Game Reserve in South Africa, rather than Kenya, due to tax laws. Many Maasai characters in the film were actually portrayed by South African actors, although the Maasai depicted during the hunt were portrayed by real Maasai warriors who were hired for the movie.
Filming [ ]
While the real man-eaters were, like all lions from the Tsavo region, a more aggressive, maneless variety, those used for filming were actually the least aggressive available, for both safety and aesthetic reasons. The film's lions were two male lions with manes. They were brothers named Caesar and Bongo , who were residents of the Bowmanville Zo in Clarington, Ontario, Canada . Bongo was also featured in Disney's "George of the Jungle" along with California's Monterey Zoo residents Caleb (credited as Kaleb) and Josef (credited as Joseph, trainer: Charlie Sammut. He performed as a stunt double for Brendan Fraser in its lion attack scene) . This film also featured three other lions: two from France (Woltan and Roman, trainer: Thierry Le Portier) and Sudan from California, United States (trainer: Hubert Geza Wells and Paul "Sled" Reynolds).
Reception [ ]
Box office [ ].
"The Ghost and the Darkness" debuted at #2 at the box office, grossing $38,553,833 during its opening weekend.
Domestically, the film made $75,019,405, $55,000,000 in the foreign market and $36,400,000 worldwide.
Critical Reception [ ]
On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie was given a 50% rating based on 26 reviews.
Roger Ebert gave it a rating of three in a half stars, saying that it " Despite mumbo jumbo about the lions being supernatural demons unleashed by the imperialistic white man, it's nothing more than Jaws with claws. ".
The San Francisco Examiner said the film " The picture is too lightweight, too posturing and too self-important to go in an introspective direction. ".
References [ ]
- ↑ Goldman p 72-74
- ↑ Patterson, Bruce D. (2004). The lions of Tsavo: exploring the legacy of Africa's notorious man-eaters . McGraw-Hill Professional.
- ↑ Goldman p 89
- ↑ Goldman p 91-93
- Goldman, William, Which Lie Did I Tell?' , Bloomsbury, 2000
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- "An african adventure that makes the Tarzan movies look subtle and realistic. It lacks even the usual charm of being so bad it's funny (…) Rating: ½ (out of 4)" Roger Ebert : rogerebert.com
- "Is the rare Hollywood action-adventure that becomes more surprising and exotic as it moves along. While it begins on an unpromisingly starchy note, the film soon picks up speed, color and nicely nonchalant humor" Janet Maslin : The New York Times
- "A classy, high-gloss yarn with sterling production values, fine performances and breathtaking vistas (...) The picture’s conclusion doesn’t really provide catharsis" Leonard Klady : Variety
- "[The script] is based on fact, and when the movie sticks to fact (...) the result is a hypnotic spectacle (...) Hopkins, unfortunately, won’t leave well enough alone (...) doesn’t trust the vivid truth" Peter Travers : Rolling Stone
- "The stunning beauty of Africa is shot with all the sensitivity and grandeur of a 10-cent postcard (...) This forgettable movie doesn't have any messages, or anything else, at all." John Krewson : AV Club
- "You will jump out of your seat then wince at every kill, but you won't leave the cinema thinking you've seen a classic. Which is a crying shame (…) Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)" Neil Jeffries : Empire
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The Ghost and the Darkness
Cast & crew.
Col. John Henry Patterson
Samuel; Bernard Hill [Dr. Hawthorne
Dr. David Hawthorne
- Average 5.4
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