Dr. Anansa Linderby is kidnapped in a medical mission in Africa by a slave trader. From this moment, her husband will do anything to recover her and to punish the bad guys, but that will be not an easy task...
Michael Caine ... Dr. David Linderby
Peter Ustinov ... Suleiman
Kabir Bedi ... Malik
Beverly Johnson ... Dr. Anansa Linderby
Omar Sharif ... Prince Hassan
Rex Harrison ... Brian Walker
William Holden ... Jim Sandell
Zia Mohyeddin ... Djamil
Winston Ntshona ... Ansok
Tariq Yunus ... Faid
Tyrone Jackson ... Dongaro
Akosua Busia ... The Senoufo girl
Jean-Luc Bideau ... Marcel
Michael Caine has always claimed that Ashanti was \"the only film (he) did purely for the money\" as well as \"the worst film he ever starred in\". Hold on, Michael, weren\'t you in The Swarm and Hurry Sundown? And weren\'t both of those films a good deal worse than Ashanti? Perhaps Caine remembers only too begrudgingly the physically punishing demands of filming an action film in searing 130 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures (the director, Richard Fleischer, was hospitalised as a result of sun-stroke during the shoot). What Ashanti actually emerges as is not the career low-point of Michael Caine. Instead, it is a very average chase thriller with a talented cast, exotic locations, boring stretches and a highly formulaic storyline.
Dr. David Linderby (Caine) is a W.H.O medic who is left devastated when his black wife Anansa (Beverly Johnson) goes missing during an aid trip to an African tribal village. Linderby gradually realises that his wife has been snatched by slave traders - led by Suleiman (Peter Ustinov) - and he sets off on a continent-wide pursuit which eventually leads to the Middle East.
Along the way, big stars pop in for ineffective and superfluous guest roles. William Holden has a poor cameo as a chopper pilot; Omar Sharif displays little of his customary charm or grace as a pampered Arab millionaire; Rex Harrison looks rightfully bored during his brief role as a helpful contact who assists Caine in his quest. The film is based on a best-seller entitled Ebano, by the little-known author Alberto Vasquez-Figueroa, but the suspense that made the book so popular is largely absent in this adaptation. Ustinov is charismatic as the slaver (he seems in all his movies to be incapable of giving bad performances), and Caine generates believable anguish as the man who thinks he\'ll never see his wife again. There are occasional flashes of action, but on the whole Ashanti is quite slow-moving. All in all, it is a resistible piece of action hokum - not by any stretch as awful as Caine has frequently suggested, but not a very inspiring film and certainly a let-down from all the talent involved.
Ashanti is a very 70s sort of film (1979, to be precise). It reminded me of The Wild Geese in a way (Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Roger Moore on a mission in Africa). It\'s a very good film too, and I enjoyed it a lot.
David (Michael Caine) is a doctor working in Africa and is married to a beautiful Ashanti woman called Anansa (Beverley Johnson) who has trained in medicine in America and is also a doctor. While they\'re doctoring, one day she is snatched by slavers working for an Arabic slave trader called Suleiman (played perfectly by Peter Ustinov, of all people). The rest of the film is David trying to get her back.
Michael Caine is a brilliant actor, of course, and plays a character who is very determined and prepared to do anything to get his wife back, but rather hopeless with a gun and action stuff. He\'s helped out first by a Englishman campaigning against the slave trade that no one acknowledges is going on (Rex Harrison!), then briefly by a helicopter pilot (William Holden), and then by an Arab called Malik (Kabir Bedi). Malik has a score to settle with Suleiman (he is very intense throughout, a very engaging character), and so rides off with David to find him and get Anansa back - this involves a wonderful scene in which David fails miserably to get on his camel.
Then there\'s lots of adventure. There\'s also lots of morality-questioning. The progress of the story is a little predictable from this point, and there are a few liberties taken with plotting to move things along faster, but it\'s all pretty forgivable. The question is, will David get to Anansa before Peter Ustinov sells her on to Omar Sharif (yes, of course Omar Sharif is in it!)?
I think there are several things that make this film worth watching:its actors (no less than six famous artists:Michael Caine,daddy Peter Ustinov,Harrison and Holden,Kabir Bedi and Sharif),its director (Richard Fleischer) and the appealing Beverly Johnson as Anansa Linderby.
Ashanti (1979) is somehow a sequel to the Victor Mature African adventure movies,and a worthy contemporary of Piedone d\'Egitto (1979) and Piedone l\'Africano (1978);it is also,if we want to situate it into the world of the African adventures, a prequel to a Catherine Deneuve adventure flick like L\'Africain .It had the chance of a magnificent cast,and the result is unassuming,but well paced and thrilling.It certainly possesses and affirms a camp quality,a crap note,a rubbish hint that make it very enjoyable.It is the adventure,through pastures, air,desert and Touareg caravans,settlements,of the man who follows a frightful and comical merchant,daddy Ustinov,the abductor of his wife (the enthralling Negress Beverly Johnson,then in her 20s).
The cast of Ashanti (1979)is plainly Pantagruelic and fairy like:six vigorous,experienced and virile actors,that can be distributed into three couples:1=the leading tandem (Michael Caine vs. Ustinov);2=the colonial couple (the oldish Holden and Harrison);and 3=the exotic couple (Kabir Bedi and Sharif).Except them,there is the beautiful woman, Beverly Johnson,and countless lesser roles and bit parts.
William Holden was 61,and towards the end of his career,when he appeared in Ashanti (1979). Sir Michael Caine was very involved in the adventure movies at the end of the \'70s:an actor in the middle of his 40s, Michael Caine made The Eagle Has Landed (1976), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Swarm (1978), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979),many physical roles.But after The Ipcress File (1965), Alfie (1966), Battle of Britain (1969), The Italian Job (1969) and Get Carter (1971),he must have felt his work in the late \'70s as a decline and a humiliation,an underbelly of his career.Anyway, \"Ashanti\" is not his undermost film;I would suggest that this shame belongs to the inane and inadvisable The Last Valley (1971).I guess there are few the actors that have made roles in so many films that are now considered as cult movies,from The Ipcress File (1965) and Alfie (1966) to Educating Rita (1983) and Jaws: The Revenge (1987) ,his career is the very career of a cult actor ;unavoidable fact,he also made a few very wrong choices,with movies that are worst than unassuming .Again anyway,in the late \'70s he began to dislike his physical roles,and this is visible in \"Ashanti\".While his role in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) is excellent,he is viscous,stark and insipid, starchy, involuntary displeasing in \"Ashanti\".Whenever he dislikes a role or film,Caine shows it:he looks contemptuous,aloof and quaint.In this respect, Ustinov and Sharif are more professional.But Michael Caine felt he was underused;for a long time this man was the favorite for B action movies,a privilege that he not always enjoyed.In Ashanti (1979),Caine manages to give his lines an insulting imbecility.Ashanti (1979) is not his worst movie,in fact it is certainly and frankly better than his The Last Valley (1971) made at the peak of his career;but it seems to be one of his worst roles.
The plump,merry and ruddy wag Peter Ustinov is a dumpy,gesticulating slave trader.Caine is,as I said,sullen and bored.Sharif is fine as the abominable rascal;the well shaved and suffering Rex Harrison,the brawny ,keen and revengeful Kabir Bedi as a wild adventurer complete the cast.The exoticism is brought in this thrilling masquerade mainly by Beverly Johnson,Ustinov and Bedi.Ashanti (1979)contains also a pleasing brimful of nudity.
Richard Fleischer was 63 when he directed this film.He is,however,the author of 20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954),Violent Saturday (1955),Crack in the Mirror (1960),Fantastic Voyage (1966),The Boston Strangler (1968) and Mr. Majestyk (1974),Amityville 3-D (1983),Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonja (1985);so,hail him!