Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:

The Ghost & The Darkness

What frightens you most? movie poster Bwana Devil came out in the early 1950s and was the first 3-d feature churned out by Hollywood. Directed by Arch Oboler of Lights Out fame and starring Robert Stack, with Barbara Britton and Nigel Bruce (Watson in the classic Sherlock Holmes film series), critics called it a dud actioner about lions attacking natives building a jungle railroad. Hollywood waited a long time before making another movie about lions attacking native workers on a construction project—not long enough for Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000
Now here's Mike Nelson:

“Stephen Hopkins’s film The Ghost and the Darkness plays off our fear of being eaten by lions. Being eaten by lions while working on a bridge over the Tsavo River in 1898, that is. I think we’ve all felt that fear at one time or another. Whether or not you fear the less-than-dignified performance by Michael Douglas is another matter.

The Ghost & The Darkness is the chilling sequel to The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, in which Don Knotts and Dick Sargent of Bewitched must conspire to solve the mystery behind the “haunted” Simmons mansion. In The Ghost and the Darkness, Val Kilmer of Batman Forever takes the Don Knotts role, only instead of being the town ‘fraidy-cat, he’s an Irish engineer hired by a hard-nosed industrialist to oversee construction of a bridge in East Africa. Michael Douglas tries his best to fill Dick Sargent’s shoes, but as he’s playing a lion hunter with unconvincing hair extensions, many will not even recognize the homage.

“Colonel John Patterson (Kilmer) gets off to a good start on the bridge, but work slows down when two lions begin hauling workers away while they sleep, grabbing a fresh one before they’ve even finished the one they have.
One of the locals names the lions The Ghost (after his great-grandma Theda Ghost) and The Darkness (which turned out to be the most popular lion name of the year. All those people who named their killer lions The Darkness feel pretty foolish about it now). Patterson, who is under intense pressure to finish the bridge on time, shoots a lion and parades it before the men, who dutifully cheer. Unfortunately the dead lion was neither The Ghost nor The Darkness. It was simply Edward “Ed” Lion, who was out for a peaceful stroll, looking at the stars. The Darkness and The Ghost (The Darkness prefers top billing) continue to drag men away, just to be a-holes it would seem. Patterson’s situation grows desperate. So desperate, in fact, that he allows Michael Douglas to be in his film.

“Douglas plays Remington, a swaggering, half-crazy lion hunter who’s supposed to be cool just ‘cause he hangs out with Masai warriors. He and Patterson team up for a day hunt, which will turn out to be the 1st of their many countless failures to catch, shoot, hurt, insult, or even mildly annoy either The Ghost or The Darkness. Another failure begins when they force the workers to build a brand-new hospital, move all the patients there, then douse the old hospital with blood to lure the lions. It’s a grisly version of something Yosemite Sam might have tried on Bugs Bunny. The Darkness and The Ghost talk it over, decide it’s a trap, and raid the new hospital instead, killing dozens of recuperating patients and destroying hundreds of In Style magazines.

“Remington, who looks progressively more like Dan Haggerty as the film goes on, suggests a plan in which a baboon is tied to a stake to try once again to lure the killers in. Everyone but the baboon agrees it’s a good plan. It fails, of course, and all the baboon’s family is left with are questions. Why? Why our baboon? Why not a douroucouli or a bonobo? What has our proud baboon family ever done to you? You can try to get the Remingtons and the Pattersons of the world to listen, but it’s a long and bitter struggle, and one baboon family will not change the world.

“There are other failures, one involving a large livetrap and some Muslim gunmen, and still another where Patterson straps on a pair of Acme Rocket Skates and chases the lions with a huge magnet.
Remington dies, which is fine because we had just about had enough of him, anyway, and Patterson finishes off the lions, The Ghost getting a long, self-indulgent death scene worthy of Captain Kirk’s in Star Trek Generations.

“In short, The Ghost & The Darkness is about as scary as an episode of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir, and Charles Nelson Reilly’s performance looks nuanced and layered when compared with that of Michael Douglas’s.

“As for The Ghost, rumor has it he’s fallen in with a bad lot and spends most of his film money at The Viper Room.
“The Darkness has distanced himself from The Ghost and is currently starring as Aslan in an off-Broadway production of The Lion Won’t Sleep Tonight, a touching biography of the indefatigable King of Narnia. And Val Kilmer? No doubt he’s being difficult somewhere.”

Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese. Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are available from Amazon.com on both video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the MST3000 book

The last time I checked they had several used copies of Megacheese for sale. I won't sell you my copy. Don't even ask. I haven't read the Jackie Chan chapter yet, or even the Van Damme chapter and you know how much I like Van Dammege. "The Muscles from Brussels. Kick boxer. Actor. Restauranteur. Dumber than a bag of hammers...Makes Steven Seagal look like Richard Burbage." Well ok, I did read the intro to the Van Damme chapter...

This movie airs from time to time on the SYFY Channel or USA Network


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© 2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never run low on air while hunting around under the sea.