#29 – Last Elephant, The

(1972, GB, 89 min) Dir James Hill. Cast Ron Rifkin, Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna.

Environmental sci-fi from the Born Free director. It’s the undated future and through a combination of poaching and the environmental devastation caused by a limited nuclear war all of the elephants of Africa are now dead. American journalist Alan Finch (Rifkin) is sent to Botswana to follow-up on a tip-off of a sighting from conservationists Frank and Mary Beckett (Travers and McKenna). The first half of the film finds our trio travelling uncomfortably, Finch’s city-living type not cottoning on to the Beckett’s nature loving ways. After they find the elusive elephant the second half becomes a kind of dirge with their every attempt to help the sickly survivor failing. At the end the world’s media convenes on this dying elephant, filming it as it expires. Finch’s conversion is complete when he is asked by a newscaster what the big deal is – “We have elephants in zoos, right?” Finch shakes his head. “No,” he says, “This wasn’t an elephant in a zoo. This was the last real elephant there will ever be.” A heartfelt film with no embellishments in it’s vision of the future – no hover cars or ray guns – that would suggest either the film’s modest budget or that the story they’re telling is something less than allegory.

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