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Apartheid-era MGM film gets Top TV outing

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TO Wilby Conspiracy

The Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) visual identity is a roaring king of the jungle, so it’s no wonder that the channel has the lion’s share of nostalgia-inducing films this month.

One of the most popular channels on Top TV, MGM showcases films from the independent media house that date back as far as when there was no such thing as a controversial spear or even a rainbow nation in SA.

Speaking of which, one of this month’s MGM Movie Of The Week films is actually about tensions in Mzansi. It is The Wilby Conspiracy, a 1975 thriller that was directed by Ralph Nelson and stars Sidney Poitier, Michael Caine (pictured) and Nicol Williamson.

The funny thing is, although the movie was based on Peter Driscoll’s novel about what could go down in a racially segregated land when the fan really is hit by something that belongs in a toilet, none of it was shot in SA.

Because apartheid hadn’t yet been eradicated, The Wilby Conspiracy (which will play on MGM on June 10) was shot in Kenya. Anyway, here, Poitier plays Shack Twala, a man who did time on Robben Island when the apartheid regime was notorious for sending black men there.

Having acquired an Afrikaans female lawyer by the name of Rina, Shack strikes up an unlikely friendship with someone who is seen as so different from him. Then Rina, who was dating Jim, a mining engineer from England (Michael Caine), manages to get her client out of jail.

While on their way to Rina’s house for celebratory drinks, Jim, Shack and Rina get stopped by the dompas police.

Naturally, because he’s just come out of prison, Shack’s identity documents are not on his person and in a heated exchange of words, the police attempt to arrest him once more.

The officer gets a blow to the head courtesy of Jim and all three friends run off into the night. Now fugitives, the three adults learn what it’s really like to attempt to be themselves in a country that not only discourages this, but has laws against it.

The other MGM Movie Of The Week films aren’t all about race. On June 17, you can catch the 1999 biopic about the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world of boxing, Rocky Marciano.

Then you can also catch It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World on June 24. The 1963 comedy has an ensemble cast featuring Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Jimmy Durante.

The MGM Movie Of The Week is an interesting look at some of the films that have made an impact on the world in the past and serves as a reminder to the iPod generation that life didn’t begin with the Nano.

• The MGM Movie Of The Week is on MGM (Top TV Channel 113) every Sunday at 9pm.


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