The Seekers (1954 film)

The Seekers (released in the United States as Land of Fury)[1] is a 1954 British adventure film produced by the Universal-International studio syndicate from Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, directed by Ken Annakin. It starred Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Noel Purcell, and Kenneth Williams.

The Seekers
(USA) Land of Fury
U.S.A. Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Annakin
Produced byGeorge Brown
Written byWilliam Fairchild (screenplay)
John Guthrie (novel)
StarringJack Hawkins
Glynis Johns
Inia Te Wiata
Noel Purcell
Kenneth Williams
Laya Raki
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Distributed byUniversal-International
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom (Great Britain)
New Zealand

It was the first major international studio film shot in New Zealand. The film was adapted from the novel The Seekers by New Zealander John Guthrie (real name John Brodie).


In 1821, a British sailing ship, the Becket, anchors on the New Zealand coast. Philip Wayne (Hawkins) and Paddy Clarke (Purcell), respectively First Mate and Bos'un, land to explore. They discover a Māori burial cave, but are captured by the local tribe. Accused of sacrilege, they manage to impress the tribesmen enough to be offered a trial by challenge, which Wayne succeeds in. The Māori chief, Hongi Tepe (Inia Te Wiata) is impressed enough to adopt Wayne, and allot him a portion of land. The sailors return to the ship.

Back home, they are set up by the corrupt Captain Bryce on charges of smuggling contraband and arrested. Found guilty, they manage to pay the heavy fine. Wayne, now married to Marion, returns to New Zealand with Clarke to start a colony.

A village grows slowly and a tenuous peace is established with the local Maori, although some remain hostile. Marion starts teaching English, and also Bible classes.

The Becket returns and Wayne confronts Bryce, who is found to be smuggling shrunken heads of dead Maori captives into Britain as potentially profitable 'souvenirs'. News later arrives by the six-monthly ship that Wayne has been appointed a Justice of the Peace, and also that he and Clarke have been exonerated by a court of appeal.

Wishart, a new arrival, accidentally shoots a Maori warrior dead. Wayne's determination to dispense justice is put to the test. Two of the tribes declare a peace treaty with each other, but another tribe prepares for war against the colonists.

War breaks out, and the colonists are forced to defend themselves. Initially victorious because of their modern weaponry, the colonists find themselves under siege. Eventually, the Maori overrun them and all colonists are killed. The sole survivor is Richard, Marion and Philip's young baby, who is found and adopted by Hongi Tepe, who had come to their aid.



Production details

Jack Hawkins was attracted to the role because it represented a change of pace from the war films in which he had become a star.[3] German actor Laya Raki was cast as a Maori. A publicist for the film argued at the time that:

Laya has a strong Polynesian cast of feature. We had tested several Maori girls, some of them beautiful, but somehow the cameras didn't take to them. You know how people photograph differently from the way they really look... Well, when we stumbled across Laya Raki and tested her, she photographed ideally for the part. She looks more like a Maori than a Maori.[3]

Location shooting was undertaken around Whakatane in the eastern Bay of Plenty.[4]

The world premiere of the film was held in Wellington, New Zealand on 24 June 1954.[5]


  1. Theiapolis Cinema
  2. BFI database – synopsis
  3. "Top British film star visits Sydney". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 3 February 1954. p. 38. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  4. "Time Gentlemen Please". Whakatāne Museum and Arts. 17 May 2017.
  5. NZ Film Archive
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