West of Zanzibar (1954 film)

West of Zanzibar is a 1954 British adventure film directed by Harry Watt and starring Anthony Steel, Sheila Sim and Edric Connor.[1]

West of Zanzibar
U.S. theatrical poster
Directed byHarry Watt
Produced byLeslie Norman
Written byMax Catto
Jack Whittingham
Harry Watt
StarringAnthony Steel, Sheila Sim
Music byAlan Rawsthorne
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Edited byPeter Bezencenet
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors
Release date
March 1954 (UK)
CountryUnited Kingdom

It is a sequel to Where No Vultures Fly (1951), from the same director and producer, and continues the adventures of game warden Bob Payton, played again by Anthony Steel. The subject of the film is ivory smuggling, and although the film appears to side with the African natives against economic exploitation, it was banned by the government of Kenya, which considered its approach too paternalistic.[2][3]


The rural African Galana tribe move to Mombasa following a drought. The tribe's peaceful ways are destroyed by the influence of illegal ivory traders. Game warden Bob Payton turns detective, travelling to Zanzibar to discover the ringleader behind the ivory smuggling. Payton tracks his quarry through some of the most treacherous passages of the Zanzibar territory. Despite obstacles which include crocodiles and rhinos, Payton finally corners the villain. The gang's ringleader has given an African tribe land in return for ivory tusks, but he is repaid for his scheming when the tribe turns on him.[2][2][4]



At one stage it was planned for the film to be shot in 3-D but this did not happen.[5]

Like the first film, it was shot on location in Africa. The unit arrived in Nairobi in January 1953.[6]


A popular local dance song during the shoot was a Swahili folk song called "Jambo Sigara Baridl". The filmmakers liked the melody so much they decided to include it as background music. Then it was decided to prepare an English version of the song, with Anthony Steel singing lead vocals, along with a band, the Radio Revellers. When asked if he could sing, Steel replied, "Apart from making gurgling noises in the bath, I've never tried." Steel recorded the song anyway and it was a success on the charts.[7]


Kenya's film censors banned the film on the grounds it would hurt race relations in the country.[8]

The film was also banned in India after the protests of African students in that country.[9]

Box office

In 1957, the film was listed as among the seventeen most popular movies the Rank Organisation ever released in the US.[10]

Critical reception

  • Sky Movies noted: "Anthony Steel once again as the game warden Bob Payton. He shares the Hollywood hero's ability to come through the most vicious fight with no more than a spotless handkerchief tied around one bulging bicep." [11]
  • TV Guide wrote, "relying too much on its scenic African location, this British adventure moves along slowly." [2]
  • Bosley Crowther wrote in The New York Times, "it is an exciting and generally creditable picture of a contemporary aspect of East Africa." [12]


  1. "BFI | Film & TV Database | WEST OF ZANZIBAR (1954)". Ftvdb.bfi.org.uk. 16 April 2009. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  2. "West Of Zanzibar Review". Movies.tvguide.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  3. "BFI Screenonline: West of Zanzibar (1954)". Screenonline.org.uk. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  4. "West of Zanzibar | BFI | BFI". Explore.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  5. "You'll See Height, Width, Depth In Colour First "Three-D" Films Here By End Of Year". The Sunday Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 1 March 1953. p. 4. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  6. "LOCATION SEARCH IN AFRICA". South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus. NSW: National Library of Australia. 26 January 1953. p. 3 Section: South Coast Times AND WOLLONGONG ARGUS FEATURE SECTION. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  7. "MOVIE NEWS". The Queensland Times. National Library of Australia. 19 November 1954. p. 5 Edition: Daily. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  8. "Kenya Bans A Film". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 20 August 1954. p. 21. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  9. "Films hurt the Africans". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 21 May 1956. p. 2. Retrieved 13 January 2015.
  11. "West of Zanzibar – Sky Movies HD". Skymovies.sky.com. 23 May 2002. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  12. Crowther, Bosley (18 January 1955). "Movie Review – West of Zanzibar – The Screen in Review; Adventure Film, 'West of Zanzibar,' Opens". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
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