Mozambique BluRay Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
In Lisbon, the unemployed pilot Webster (Steve Cochran) is offered a job in Mozambique (a former Portuguese colony). Faced with either prison for a bar brawl and continued unemployment, he takes the job and gets on a plane, without knowing much more than the fact that he’s s supposed to meet a Colonel Valdez at his night club. On the plane he meets young Christina (Vivi Bach), who seems to have the same benefactor and employer, a certain Colonel Valdez, who hired her to sing in the club. It seems the Colonel died a day before their arrival. So Webster and her will take his orders from a Da Silva (Martin Benson), who took over the various business interests, while keeping the Colonel's widow Ilona (Hildegarde Neff) at arm’s length. Cochrane gets suspicious because for one, the club seems to be more of a brothel than a respectable business establishment, so he morphs into Christina’s saviour and love interest. At the same time, he starts flying drug routes for Da Silva, who joined forces with Valdez’ former nemesis Henderson (Dietmar Schoenherr), who becomes both Cochrane’s chaperon and somehow the key to solving the connection between the murder in Lisbon, the death of the Colonel and the boxes full of pharmaceuticals Da Silva is smuggling for the Arabs….
The 60s were a great time to go to the movies. The screen was busy with movies of all stripes, wherever you lived there were a range of movie theatres to visit, and the post-war economic boom still meant that if you had some kind of decent job you had realistic ambitions to live a great life. No wonder then that, especially in Europe, movies with exotic locations, fast cars, nice girls and exciting adventures were super successful. Westerns raked in all the main stream cash, but there was a slow and steady output of international crime fix, and “EuroSpy” James Bond clones or even Mondo movies for the shadier theaters (in Germany usually located within train stations). Mozambique is one of those exciting international crime outings that are textbook exploitation: exploiting everything on offer (locations, bikini girls, danger, crime, drugs, foreign cultures) to make up for everything it didn’t have (budget, script, quality). The post-war generation had entertaining films like this to pass the time out at the movies, flicks that didn’t take itself too seriously. They probably offered the actors a trip to holiday destinations to make up for lower pay, I assume.
It made sense for Blue Underground to bundle this with Code 7, Victim 5 (see my review earlier this month), as they share premise, recipe and makers. Again there’s a mysterious murder in the first few minutes and then an American gets sent to an exotic location to solve some sort of crime puzzle, his employers’ dubious motivations one of them. This time it’s Steve Cochran’s to star, or whom this was one of the last big outings as a movie actor. His career started after the war and went rather well, but then fizzled out on television. He had charm, but I don’t think he has the screen presence to carry a film, and his face makes for a good boxer but not a movie star. He’s joined y Hildegarde Neff (her real name is Hildegard Knef, a household name in her native Germany, she passed away in 2002) and Paul Hubschmid (as the Portuguese cop Commaro pulling the strings from Lisbon), the Swiss actor who starred in dozens of movies, including Fritz Lang's Tiger of Bengal.
Neff (or Knef) is not the only German touch of course, as there’s plenty of sneaky Lufthansa promotion in the movie, as with the last film, and Dietmar Schoenherr (another highly popular German actor of his time, he passed away in 2014) is back, again as a shady villain. As the German title of this film, which roughly translates to “Blonde Freight for Sansibar” suggest, there has to be a pretty blond girl in it, and for Mozambique, it’s Vivi Bach, Schonherr’s wife since 1965. She survived her husband but passed away two years ago. Then there’s Martin Benson (he had an appearance in Goldfinger), and ridiculously Gert van den Bergh (Zulu) playing an Arab. Oh yes these movies were racist and full of colonial arrogance. George Leech, one of Da Silva's henchmen, appeared in a whole bunch of James Bond movies. Insiders will spot Maria Rohm in some of the club scenes.
It’s another of those Harry Alan Towers films. He prolific output during his era is a mixed bag, but I think he deserves a lot of credit to sink money into a colorful variety of films, something we don’t get much anymore these days. The story for this one is by Peter Welbeck (guess what, that's also Harry Alan Towers). The music by Johnny Douglas is forgettable. Director Robert Lynn also directed Code 7, Victim 5 (which accompanies this double feature BluRay) and worked as assistant director for two of the Superman movies. In Mozambique, the craftsmanship is even worse, and a lot more visible. Camerawork, editing and structure are on TV level, but with the scenery you’d expect from a Bond film.
Both Vivi Bach and Hildegard Knef get to perform songs in the movie, that is just so very 60s, in all its good and bad ways. I already mentioned the bad ways. As with many movies of this kind of its era, the pseudo-innocent racism disguised as curiosity for the exotic and the questionable depiction of fabulous jet set life in what are essentially pre-revolutionary former colonies plagued by misery, are from today's perspective childish. But oh well. Then there's the chauvinism and all that. But it would be weird for me to dive too deep into these things, I guess it is best to take these flicks for what they are, and laugh about the naivity of the era. The good ways are the colorful set pieces, dresses, music and atmosphere, mostly embodied in an unpronounced urge to explore and experience adventure, as if the whole world were suddenly out there dealing with spies and drug kingpins. It's a way of life James Bond style, lived through low budget adventure movies.
Towers and Lynn make no huge effort to deliver a high quality crime drama, it's all quick thrills and lots of images. In one scene, Cochran and Knef have a small chat, and it seems like they took a boot out on the bay just to exchange a few words. Cut, next scene, plane flying over the jungle. It's basically a cheap 60s version the last Bond movie Spectre. A script that stinks to high heaven, but it all looks pretty and there's guns and snakes and fire and chase sequences. Oh do I sound negative? I sincerely did not mean that. Mozambique has that 60s charm of a film that wants to lull you with adventure from a safe distance. There's innocently smiling girls, pop music, some drinks, harmless snakes and equally harmless armed guards of fake Arab drug lords. It's a movie you watch for a small dose of 60s bliss. There were tons of these adventure crime movies, some more spy movies, some less. Mozambique is not one of the better ones, it's even a bit too long for some quick movie joy (at 96mins, almost 10 minutes too long), but I had lots of fun with it.
The BluRay contains both movies on one disc (both are short, so maybe that's why) without any extras other than the Trailers (a shame, as there are extras out there that might've been worth including). The transfer is great, aside from some dirt and faded parts the movie looks good, bright, colorful and contrast-rich. It's a big low on detail, so maybe just 2k, not 4k remastered? The audio track (only English offered) sounds decent, as well, with lots of hisses present but overall a satisfying presentation. It's great to experience this movie not as a run down TV recording but a remastered version that looks better than it might have looked a few weeks into its theatrical run.
All in all, Mozambique doesn't quite dazzle as much as the other film in the double bill. Both are low budget flicks that largely fake the big budget international crime movie experience rather than actually portraying it. Mozambique just shows its deficiencies a lot more clearly. However, it's still entertaining and worth seeing. Paired with Code 7, Victim 5 you get an absolutely great time machine trip. Not a bad deal. Also do read my review of Code 7, Victim 5.
- Region free
- Running time: 97min
- Buy now: From Amazon.com
Special thanks to Blue Underground for providing the BluRay, and thanks to mondo-digital.com for taking helpful screenshots.
Sebastian, co-founder and admin of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb). He also started The Spaghetti Western Database (SWDb), The Quentin Tarantino Archives, The Robert Rodriguez Archives, Nischenkino and Furious Cinema. Outside of movies, he works on the intersection of technology and policy. He lives in Berlin, Germany.