The Wilby Conspiracy Cover South Africa is such a beautiful country - it is full of rustic meadows, quaint townspeople, and vast wilderness of plenty. Still, at the same time, there is also a much darker side to this grand land as well - one illustrated in this rollercoaster ride of a film, Directed by Ralph Nelson, and Starring: Sidney Poitier with Michael Caine. It was made in 1975, and lasts for 102 minutes.

The Wilby Conspiracy

Now you would have thought that when South African convict, Shack Twala (Sidney Poitier), hears the good news of his freedom in a court of law – that this decleration would be amazing for him to behold, right?

However, afterwards, when he and his lawyer, Rina van Niekerk (Prunella Gee), plus her English boyfriend, Jim Keogh (Michael Caine), aim to celebrate this victory at a restaurant located in Cape Town – the authorities hound them – resulting in Jim and Shack having to flee to Johannesburg by car – whilst Rina tries to get to this destination by other means at her disposal.

Unfortunately, Rina is delayed from venturing too far out of Cape Town, due to the intervention and interrogation of covert operative, Major Horn (Nicol Williamson). And as for Jim and Shack? Well: (1) Once on the road, they break into a disused engineering plant, with the intent of freeing Shack from his manacles – which works – after a fashion. (2) They are hounded in a lay-by by police officers – whom they dupe – after a fashion. (3) Mayor Horns shadows’ them from afar – and only reveals himself to them – after a fashion – to asses there physiognomy. (4) They seek shelter in a quaint village out of town – only because Mayor Horn plants a dead body in the trunk of there car – after a... err... forget it. And (5) Both Jim and Shack get to know each other along the byways and highways of South Africa – as Jim is a mining engineer, and Shack is a Deputy in a Black Liberation organisation.

Eventually, when Jim and Shack reach Johannesburg, they decide to part company for a while, so that they can figure a way out there current predicament. For Shack, he liaises with a dentist friend of his - whom is also associated with his cause - and they discuss past-histories, plus a way to progress there affiliation further with the excavation of some hidden diamonds. As for Jim, well - sneakily-like - he overhears this ‘diamond venture’, before he travels to Rina’s apartment – meets Rina – and then tells her about his tale.

So what happens after this, huh? Who gets the diamonds? Does Major Horn resurface once more? And what about Shack's cause? Plus, who is this Wilby chap that the dentist keeps on mentioning? Ohhhh - that would be saying, huh? But what I will say, is that a number of these occurrences do transpires next, in a intense, fast paced, and duplicitous adventure, where – people run – cars drive – planes fly – guns shoot – all resulting in a beginning and an end.

OK, so what do we have here? Well, firstly, the 'Wilby Conspiracy'is a film – which is nice, as I like films. Secondly, it stars two of the greatest actors to ever sport an accent, Michael Caine and Sidney Poitier – which is nice also, as I like accents as well. And thirdly, this film works on a number of levels, as it is a story with a message that is just shit.


Sidney and Michael in The Wilby Conspiracy

I like this film – I really do – as it is one of those seventies films that is poignant, revealing, funny, and adventurous in tone.

In some way, this film is a film of two half’s - with the first half a road movie, and the second half an escape plot. In another way, though, this is a film that is also about a time in South Africa, where black people were unjustly persecuted - and only thought of as subservient to the white race. Plus, in yet another way, this film is a full on roller coaster ride packed to the hilt - with ups and downs, lefts and rights, and shadow and light.

Still, is all of this too much for just one film? No – not where this one is concerned – as it is able to have a pithy tone, as expressed through the actors mouths with there jovial one-liners. It’s scattered through-out the movie you know – from beginning to end – with either Michael or Sidney just letting rip a witty remark, to the others expense.

The Wilby Conspiracy Movie

OK, so all of the actors are brilliant, the overall plot is an engaging one, and the message that this film conveys is very poignant to boot. But to juxtapose all of this, some of the scenes do seem a bit too staged - like the in-vehicle segments for instance, which were obviously not in a vehicle. Also, there were one or two places of in this film, where certain plot points never seemed to go anywhere, making the overall through-line appear somewhat meandering in places, and unable to connect the different parts of the story together. Granted, these negative aspects are few and far between, but should still be mentioned within the confines of this film.

Overall, ‘The Wilby Conspiracy’ is a much underrated seventies classic. There is a hint of Michael Caine’s other films in here, such as – ‘Ashanti’, ‘Water’,  and ‘Bullseye’ – as well as one or two of Sidney Poitier’s film as well – most notably ‘The Defiant Ones’ and ‘In the Heat of the Night’. And on top of that, there is a smidgen of ‘Mississippi Burning’ too – which is always a good comparison for any great film.

So if you are a big fan of Michael’s or Sidney’s work, or alternatively you enjoy an adventurous movie set within apartheid times in South Africa – this film is most defiantly for you. A great film.


THE WILBY CONSPIRACY THE WILBY CONSPIRACY Reviewed by David Andrews on August 09, 2011 Rating: 5
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