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The Ghost and the Darkness

From Internet Movie Firearms Database - Guns in Movies, TV and Video Games
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The Ghost and the Darkness
Movie Poster
Country Flag of the United States.jpg United States
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
Release Date 1996
Language English
Studio Paramount Pictures
Distributor Paramount Pictures
Main Cast
Character Actor
Col. John Patterson Val Kilmer
Charles Remington Michael Douglas
Samuel John Kani
Angus Starling Brian McCardie
Sir Robert Beaumont Tom Wilkinson
Doctor David Hawthorne Bernard Hill
Helena Patterson Emily Mortimer

The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 historical thriller based on the non-fiction book The Man-eaters of Tsavo written by John Henry Patterson (portrayed by Val Kilmer in the film) and which chronicles the true story of lions that terrorized railroad construction workers in 19th century Africa. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Blown Away, Predator 2), the movie takes place in Kenya along the Tsavo River during the year 1898. When railroad workers are found slaughtered by what appears to be a lion, Col. Patterson is assigned to hunt down and kill the predators. On later hunts, Patterson is accompanied by professional hunter Remington (Michael Douglas). Though the film ventures somewhat away from the actual details of the hunt, it is an exciting adventure movie with a well-written script by William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Maverick, All the President's Men and Marathon Man). It is also notable for featuring multiple British firearms, some of which almost never appear in American productions such as the Lee-Speed Sporter rifle used by Patterson (Val Kilmer), a Howdah Pistol and a Farquharson Rifle. The movie was filmed in South Africa in 1995.

The following weapons were used in the film The Ghost and the Darkness:


Lee-Speed Sporter

The Lee-Speed Sporter rifle is used by Patterson (Val Kilmer) throughout much of the movie. It appears to have a 26" barrel and is probably chambered for .303 British though the BSA was available in different calibers. The Lee-Speed was popular with British officers and other hunters who wanted a fine rifle but couldn't afford the expensive double barrel rifles made by Purdy and others. The Lee-Speeds were also popular because they fired the British service round and had the same action as the Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle. In the primitive conditions of Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century, the British Army was often a source of supply for hunters and colonists, which would have included spare parts and ammo. There were not many Cabelas sitting around on the grasslands of Kenya.

Lee-Speed Sporter rifle
Remington (Michael Douglas) with his double and Patterson (Val Kilmer) with his Lee Speed.
Patterson (Val Kilmer) readies his Lee-Speed for a night of Lion hunting.
Patterson (Val Kilmer) stalks what he believes is just one Lion in the work camp.
Patterson discovers that there are two Lions working together.
Patterson cleaning his Lee-Speed the night before the first hunt with Remington (Michael Douglas). Here Patterson is putting the bolt back into the receiver.
Patterson (Val Kilmer) and Remington (Michael Douglas) working together. Acting as bait for the lions in the old field hospital.

Farquharson rifle

The Farquharson Rifle is used by Doctor Hawthorne (Bernard Hill) and Patterson (Val Kilmer). A popular design in the late 19th century with British hunters. The Farquharson Rifle design is still in use. Most notably the Ruger No. 1 single shot rifle.

A Jeffery Farquharson Rifle in .400 Nitro Express. Manufactured late 1800's.
Patterson (Val Kilmer), Samuel (John Kani), and Remington (Michael Douglas) move out on their first hunt for the lions.
Samuel (John Kani) gives Patterson (Val Kilmer) an anxious look as he prepares to move out with Remington. Remington wants Samuel with him and Samuel is scared of lions. He told Patterson this the night before. Samuel (John Kani) is carrying a Snider Artillery Carbine.
Patterson positions himself on the high ground waiting to see if the lions are driven towards him. He traded his Lee Speed for the doctor's (Bernard Hill) Farquharson the night before. Patterson did not test fire the weapon or even give it a cursory inspection.
Patterson sees one of the lions moving towards him.
Patterson takes care aim at the Lion as it advances towards him.
The hammer falls and the round fails to fire. Hence the need for a test fire and functions check.
Patterson realizes that the rifle didn't fire and the lion is still advancing towards him.

Double Rifle

Though it is unknown which company (or gunsmith) manufactured the double barreled rifle used by Remington (Michael Douglas) and later Patterson (Val Kilmer) it appears to be a hammerless model. Given the time it is probably supposed to be a Westley - Richards, Purdey, Rigby or Holland & Holland Double Rifle. It would likely be in 450 3.25" Nitro Express or 500/450 3.25" Nitro Express since those were the premier Nitro calibers at the end of the 19th century.

Stephen Grant Sidelock Double Rifle - .500 Nitro Blackpowder
Remington (Michael Douglas) with his double rifle and Patterson (Val Kilmer) with his Lee Speed.
Remington shares a drink and some laughs with Samuel and Patterson the night before the first hunt. Things are going to get a whole lot more serious.
Remington (Michael Douglas) with his double rifle.
Patterson jumps from a tree to the ground to grab Remington's rifle during the climactic fight between Patterson and the sole surviving lion.
A real world situation. No time to assume a textbook firing position.
Patterson touches off the round in the second barrel as the Lion charges. Nice job simulating what would be a very violent recoil. Especially considering that the rifle isn't braced, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
With just inches to spare, the Lion dies. Such dramatic events are not unusual on African safaris.

Martini-Henry rifle

Used by different characters in the movie. Most notably by Angus Starling (Brian McCardie) when the two lions invade the camp in the daytime and kill Angus. Historically accurate. By 1898 the British Army was using the Lee - Enfield bolt action rifle in .303 British. The Martini-Henry Mk. III was a black powder rifle and was classified as obsolete. It was available on the surplus gun market and it would have been cheap and plentiful. It fired a powerful round (.577/.450 Martini-Henry) and was considered effective against lions and other dangerous game.

Martini-Henry Mk. III (1881-1888) .577-.450 caliber.
Both Lions attack the camp in daylight. Angus (Brian McCardie), Samuel (John Kani) and Patterson (Val Kilmer) grab their weapons and run towards the danger while others run away.

Snider Enfield Mk.II* Artillery Carbine

Snider Enfield Mk.II* Enfield Artillery Carbine is used by Samuel (John Kani) during the first hunt for the lions involving Remington (Michael Douglas) in the thicket. It's a nice touch and showed that somebody was thinking. In 1898 the Snider rifles were surplus and would probably have been readily available in Colonial Africa. Samuel is a native and though trusted by the Europeans would not have been a wealthy man. A surplus Snider rifle would have met his needs and been affordable for him. The fact that the rare Artillery Carbine was used also shows a good eye for detail. Easier to carry and maneuver with than the full length infantry rifle version.

Snider Enfield Mk.II** Artillery Carbine
Samuel (John Kani) moves out with Remington (Michael Douglas). The look that he gives Patterson (Val Kilmer) is worth a thousand words.
As Remington (Michael Douglas) scans the bush for sign of the Lion. Samuel (John Kani) can be seen behind him pointing his carbine in the general direction of the Lion's location.

Howdah Pistol

The Howdah Pistol used in the film was a very powerful double barrel handgun developed by the British hunters in India for close range, last ditch, defense against Tigers and other dangerous game. Though it appears that a Lancaster Howdah Pistol is used in the movie, other makers produced Howdah-style handguns. A Howdah was the basket that hunters rode in on top of elephants in India. Tigers were known to climb up the Elephant to reach the hunters in the Howdah. At such a close range, a long-barreled rifle was less than effective. The Howdah Pistol was perfect. They typically had two or four barrel designs. They were massive, powerful and delivered a hell of a wallop at both ends. However, it was believed that in a life and death situation heavy recoil would not be noticed. The now very collectible handgun is seen in the film used by both Patterson (Val Kilmer) and Remington (Michael Douglas). In a nice bit of technical realism, the Howdah Pistol is used as a last ditch defense weapon in the movie. The image below is not the same gun seen in the movie. There are rumors that the Howdah pistol carried by Remington (Michael Douglas) was actually fabricated by the armorer so that Remington would have a very distinctive pistol. At this time the rumours can be neither verified nor repudiated.

Lancaster Over and Under Howdah Pistol
Holland & Holland Side by Side "Howdah" pistol
With many workers now dead their self-appointed leader Abdullah (Om Puri) leads the surviving workers in a confrontation with Patterson (Val Kilmer). Just as things are getting ready to explode Remington (Michael Douglas) shows up and enters into the negotiations.
"Change of Plans."
"You have to ask yourself a question. Do you want to live or die?"
"I am a man of peace." Funny how a great big pistol jammed against one's head will change one's nature.
During the final confrontation, Patterson is armed with Remington's Howdah when encountering the lion on the bridge. The perfect weapon for such a close range confrontation.

12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun

It appears that Samuel (John Kani) owns both a Snider Enfield Mk.II* Short Rifle and what looks like a hammerless 12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun with a box lock action. The gauge or bore (as the British would call it) of the shotgun is just a guess, but doesn't appear to be as big as a 10 Gauge. In one of the screencaps it looks as if Samuel is wearing a bandoleer of shotgun shells. The shells look to be red in color and could be made of paper which would be consistent with the late nineteenth century. Initially, it would seem insane to go after a lion with a shotgun, but many hunters over the decades have used shotguns against lions and other big cats with great success. It also makes sense that Samuel would own both a rifle and a shotgun. The two weapons would give him greater flexibility for different game and situations.

L.C. Smith case hardened hammerless side by side Field shotgun - 12 Gauge.

Ghost and Darkness Trio

Examples of the three main rifles used in the movie. From top to bottom. A BSA Lee-Speed Sporter, Farqueson falling block single shot rifle and a Holland & Holland double barrel rifle. Just a neat photo from the Nitroexpress.com forum.

Top to bottom: Lee-Speed, Farqueson, Holland & Holland

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