Ashanti (1979 film)

Ashanti (also called Ashanti, Land of No Mercy) is a 1979 action adventure film, produced by Georges-Alain Vuille, and directed by Richard Fleischer. Despite its impressive cast and setting (on location in the Sahara, and in Kenya, Israel, and Sicily), it was widely panned by critics upon release. Michael Caine was reportedly very disappointed with the project and claims it was the third worst film along with his previous films The Magus and The Swarm (despite appearing in other failures in the 1980s), after director Fleischer and co-star Beverly Johnson were both removed from filming two-thirds of the way through the shoot.[2] Fleischer departed after being hospitalised with sunstroke. However, an interview with Ms. Johnson included on the 2013 Severin Films Blu-ray edition of Ashanti makes no reference to these "removals," suggesting that they may belong to myth.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Fleischer
Produced byGeorges-Alain Vuille
John C. Vuille
Written byStephen Geller
George MacDonald Fraser (uncredited)
Based onnovel Ébano by Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa
StarringMichael Caine
Peter Ustinov
Kabir Bedi
Beverly Johnson
Omar Sharif
Rex Harrison
William Holden
Music byMichael Melvoin
CinematographyAldo Tonti
Edited byErnest Walter
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • April 12, 1979 (1979-04-12)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$7.5 million[1]

This is one of William Holden's final films. Both Fleischer and cinematographer Tonti had previously worked together on Barabbas (1961).


Ashanti is an action adventure film, set against the background of modern-day slave trading, with a man who determinedly takes on a perilous journey in order to find his beautiful wife, who has been kidnapped by brutal slave traders. David and Anansa Linderby (Caine and Johnson respectively) are doctors with the World Health Organization. On a medical mission carrying out an inoculation programme, they visit a West African village. While David takes photographs of tribal dancers, Anansa goes swimming alone. She is attacked and abducted by slave traders led by Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), who mistake her for an Ashanti tribeswoman. The police can do nothing to find her and David has almost given up hope when he hears rumours that Anansa has been kidnapped by Suleiman to be sold to Arab Prince Hassan (Omar Sharif). The African authorities deny that the slave trade even exists. So David must find help in a shadowy world where the rescuers of slaves are just as ruthless as the traders themselves. As David tracks her across Africa and the Sahara desert, he is helped by a member of the Anti-Slavery League (Rex Harrison), a mercenary helicopter pilot (William Holden), and Malik (Kabir Bedi) a tribesman who is seeking revenge on Suleiman.[3]



The project was announced in January 1978 with Richard Sarafian to direct, Michael Caine, Omar Sharif, Peter Ustinov and Telly Savalas to star.[4]

Ken Norton was offer a role in the film but turned it down.[5][6]

The movie was shot on location in Kenya starting in April.[7]

Two weeks into filming, director Richard Sarafian was sacked and replaced by Richard Fleischer. The female lead and cinematographer were fired. Telly Savalas who was in the cast had to drop out.[1]

Fleischer arranged for the script to be rewritten. George MacDonald Fraser, who had recently adapted Tai Pan for the producers, was commissioned to work on the script to help boost Sharif's part.[8] [9]

"It's been nothing but troubles," said Fleischer.[1]


The novelisation Ebano was written by Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa.

See also


  1. Beautiful Kenya has a new national goal: To turn itself into the Hollywood of Africa Storey, David. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 10 July 1978: a9.
  2. Citizen Caine film review
  4. Four Star's Cast In 'Ashanti' Film New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]05 Jan 1978: C18.
  5. Christon, L. (1978, Jun 04). Ken norton meets the challenges. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  6. Mann, R. (1978, Mar 14). Richard harris: Ain't misbehavin'. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  7. Buckley, T. (1978, May 26). At the movies. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  8. George MacDonald Fraser, The Light's On at Signpost, HarperCollins 2002 p205-206
  9. Hamilton: Divorce and dracula. (1978, May 18). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
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