Death Drums Along the River

Death Drums Along the River (titled Sanders in the USA) is a 1963 British-German international co-production, using the characters from Edgar Wallace's 1911 novel Sanders of the River and Zoltán Korda's 1935 film based on the novel, but placed in a totally different story. Filmed on location in South Africa, it features Richard Todd and Marianne Koch leading a cast of British, German and South African actors. The film was the first feature film of British producer Harry Alan Towers.

Death Drums Along the River
Death Drums Along the River DVD cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed byLawrence Huntington
Produced byHarry Alan Towers
Written byHarry Alan Towers
Lawrence Huntington
Nicolas Roeg
StarringRichard Todd
Marianne Koch
Albert Lieven
Walter Rilla
Music bySidney Torch
CinematographyRobert Huke
Hallam Productions
Constantin Film
Distributed byConstantin Film (Germany)
Planet Films (UK)
Release date
  • 20 December 1963 (1963-12-20) (Germany)
  • 27 March 1965 (1965-03-27) (UK)
Running time
83 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
West Germany
South Africa


In an unnamed small British colony on the west coast of Africa, somewhat resembling the Gambia, two policemen patrolling a wharf sight a sack of peanuts dropped by stevedores. As the sack breaks the workers discover a pouch in it that is quickly grabbed by a man who then runs away. The policemen chase him and he eventually kills one of them before disappearing. Police Commissioner Sanders (Todd) questions Pearson (Bill Brewer), a suspected criminal, but finds no information.

At the same time, a Dr. Jung (Koch) arrives at the airport and is met by Todd's assistant, Inspector Hamilton (Jeremy Lloyd). Dr. Jung is going to a German-run clinic up country, close to the colony's eastern border. Also on the plane with her is an American journalist (Robert Arden) who wishes to visit the clinic to do a story, and also turns out to be an old friend of Pearson.

Commissioner Sanders begins to suspect the clinic as a location for smuggled diamonds from across the border.

Main castEdit


Todd would reprise the role of Harry Sanders in the follow-up film, Coast of Skeletons (1965).


Harry Alan Towers was active in South Africa producing several films with West German financing from Constantin Film and a cast of West German actors.[1] The film has very little to do with Edgar Wallace's Sanders of the River except the name of Sanders and the boat Zaire (which is now a small motorboat rather than a steamer). The film was marketed in Germany as one of the then popular Edgar Wallace series of films.

Richard Todd had been in Africa filming The Hellions and was attempting to produce a film of Ian Fleming's The Diamond Smugglers.[2]

The intertribal warfare of Edgar Wallace's work and the 1935 British film has been replaced by a standard detective story involving murder and diamond smuggling. The fictional colony is not given a name, but in the spirit of the times Dr Jung asks Sanders what he'll do when it is granted independence. Sanders replies he'll stay on "if they'll have me".


The film was shot in Durban, Durban North, Zululand and Lake St. Lucia.[3]


  1. ^ p.217 Bergfelder, Tim International Adventures: German Popular Cinema and International Co-Productions in the 1960s 2005 Berghann Books
  2. ^ Todd, Richard In Camera: An Autobiography continued 1989 Hutchinson
  3. ^ "The Witness".

External linksEdit