Cast & Crew
In Kenya, Africa, after the death of the chief of the Mara tribe, the chief's son Morasi has to prove himself a worthy successor by undertaking a series of trials involving hunting and self-sufficiency. This greatly troubles District Officer Jim T. Barneson, who has to act as policeman, judge and father figure in an area covering five thousand square miles, as he knows that Morasi's ultimate challenge will be the ritual of the scarlet spear, for which he must kill a chief of a rival tribe and stain his spear with the victim's blood. Jim fears that this killing will lead to a tribal war in which many will die. Jim's life is further complicated by the arrival of Christine, a journalist who has been assigned to do a story about troubles in the area. After a radio conversation about the situation with the district commissioner, Jim decides to look for Morasi, although he is unhappy about having to take a woman along on the journey. Soon, however, Jim, Christine and two natives, Faraji and Yusef, set off in Jim's van to find the young chief. After traversing miles of African veldt, they spot Morasi and follow him on foot as he encounters and kills a giant snake in a riverbed. Later, after Jim has saved Morasi from a rhino attack, Jim tells him that he cannot permit him to perform the scarlet spear ritual, but Morasi insists that it is his duty to do so and walks on. Jim makes camp for the night but Christine spend a sleepless night in her tent, as lions are roaming nearby and a leopard sticks its head inside her tent. The next morning, they spot Morasi and continue to follow him. Morasi tries to evade them, but Jim tells him he cannot hide from him as the native drums will always reveal his whereabouts. Jim warns him again of the likelihood of tribal warfare if he kills another man. While tracking Morasi, Jim and Christine become friends and he rescues her from a threatened attack by a red cobra. Later, as part of a test of his respect for animals, Morasi attempts to free a baby elephant trapped in some wire. When the adult elephants return, Morasi frees the baby in time for it to reunite with them. One day Jim can find no trace of Morasi, the drums are silent and he has lost radio contact with the commissioner. However, amateur radio operators report trouble in a village where a man-eating lion has killed a stranger, and Jim calculates the village's location from the operators' coordinates. Once they arrive at the village, Jim discovers that Morasi is not the victim. However, one of the local warriors has gone in search of the lion but Morasi, who is also in the area, finds the lion first and kills it, angering the warrior. After Jim learns that the warrior has challenged Morasi to a fight to the death, he attempts to reach them, but is stopped by a sudden bush fire that causes a huge animal stampede. Just as Morasi is about to kill his opponent, who has lost his weapons, Morasi is distracted by the fire and his rival knocks him out with a tree branch, then runs off. Jim and the others arrive in time to rescue Morasi from the path of the stampede and eventually the danger passes. Jim then asks Christine to stay and marry him and she agrees. However, Morasi has moved across the Mountains of the Moon into a dangerous territory, and Jim insists that Christine stay at their base camp while he follows Morasi on foot. Meanwhile, the district commissioner has radioed one of Jim's colleagues to help Jim as Morasi appears to be headed toward a nomadic tribe of killers, hated and feared by everyone. While Jim follows Morasi, members of the tribe, armed with bows and arrows, observe them, and ambush Jim. As Jim is about to be killed, Morasi comes to his rescue and receives a poisoned arrow in his chest, but kills the assailant with his spear. As help arrives, Jim pulls the arrow out of Morasi and they return him to his village, where he addresses the villagers and breaks the spear, ending the ritual tradition. Morasi then dies and his son sets off to perform the same trials, without the scarlet spear.
John R. Carter
Correspondence in this film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection in the AMPAS Library indicates that United Artists had a pre-production involvement in the picture. At the film's conclusion the following titles appear: "The Producers gratefully acknowledge the services and cooperation given by G. Duncan Fletcher, Faraji, Yusef, Kipkamoi, Kinnenjui, Chief Luka and his villagers, Masai, Kipsigi and Kikuyu tribes. The Professional Hunters: John Lawrence, Alan Tarlton, Tom Lithoge, A. B. Squires. The District Commissioners of Nairobi, Narok, Northern Frontier District, Limuru. The Game Department of Kenya, The Game Wardens of the Masai Area and Northern Frontier District, The East African Amateur Radio Society, The Wild Animals of Kenya."
The New York Times review of The Scarlet Spear noted that "a hastily added postscript at the end of the film stated that the whole tribe [featured in the film], with the exception of one woman, was massacred at the hands of the Mau-Mau recently." This information was not on the print viewed. The Variety review mentions a sequence of a fight between a mongoose and a cobra but this, too, was not in the print viewed. The print ended before the entire "Written and Directed by" credit appeared, but Breakston and Stahl are credited in all reviews.