The Seekers (1954 film)

The Seekers (released in the United States as Land of Fury)[1] is a 1954 British adventure film produced by the Universal-International studio syndicate from Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, directed by Ken Annakin. It starred Jack Hawkins, Glynis Johns, Noel Purcell, and Kenneth Williams.

The Seekers
(USA) Land of Fury
Land of fury poster.jpg
U.S.A. Theatrical release poster
Directed byKen Annakin
Produced byGeorge Brown
Written byWilliam Fairchild (screenplay)
John Guthrie (novel)
StarringJack Hawkins
Glynis Johns
Inia Te Wiata
Noel Purcell
Kenneth Williams
Laya Raki
Music byWilliam Alwyn
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Distributed byUniversal-International
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
New Zealand

It was the first major international studio film shot in New Zealand. The film was adapted from the novel The Seekers by New Zealander John Guthrie (real name John Brodie).


In 1821, a British sailing ship, the Becket, anchors on the New Zealand coast. Philip Wayne (Hawkins) and Paddy Clarke (Purcell), respectively First Mate and Bos'un, land to explore. They discover a Māori burial cave, but are captured by the local tribe. Accused of sacrilege, they manage to impress the tribesmen enough to be offered a trial by challenge, which Wayne succeeds in. The Māori chief, Hongi Tepe (Inia Te Wiata) is impressed enough to adopt Wayne, and allot him a portion of land. The sailors return to the ship.

Back home in England, they are set up by the corrupt Captain Bryce on charges of murdering the natives and bringing Britain into disrepute because they have a severed Maori head in their trunk (in fact this was presented as a traditional gift by their Maori friends) Found guilty, they manage to pay the heavy fine (500 guineas). Wayne has to leave Britain to find a new life and decides to return to New Zealand. Nevertheless his fiancee, Marion, still wants to marry him. They sail over on a private ship and Wayne builds a house close to his Maori friends. Clarke joins them.

The house is completed and a tenuous peace is established with the local Maori, although some remain hostile. Marion starts teaching English, and also Bible classes. The chiefs wife hovers around Wayne frequently.

The Becket returns and Wayne confronts Bryce, who is found to be smuggling decapitated heads of dead Maori captives into Britain as potentially profitable 'souvenirs'. News later arrives by the six-monthly ship that Wayne has been appointed a Justice of the Peace, and also that he and Clarke have been exonerated by a court of appeal.

Wishart and Sgt Paul join the small group just as Marion finds herself pregnant. After the birth the chief's wife kisses Wayne while he sleeps. He leaves his wife in bed and goes out where she is waiting seductively. The chief sees them kiss and wants to kill his wife as is the tribal custom but his new-found Christianity sways him to let her live. However a rift between the English and Maoris begins.

Wishart accidentally shoots a Maori's dog (thinking it is a goat) and the owner starts fighting him. His gun goes off and shoots the warrior dead (as it is a single shot musket this would not actually be possible). The Maoris capture Wishart. Wayne is just about to confess his affair when they hear the news. Wayne's determination to dispense justice is put to the test. The chief's loyalties are also torn as he knows of Wayne's adultery. He gets Wishart away but swears to him that he will indeed be sent to trial. However they then fear a reprisal attack by the Maoris.

The local tribe forms a truce with their local enemy. The enemy tribe however declare a desire to kill the colonists. The chief's wife hears this and goes to warn Wayne. She does not get there in time.

A battle begins in the night, and the colonists are forced to defend themselves. Initially victorious because of their superior weapons (the flintlock muskets are used for repeating fire as if they operated as rifles), the colonists find themselves under siege. The friendly tribe appear and start fighting their old enemy tribe (the attackers). Wishart is killed by a spear and the house is put on fire with all inside. In mid-battle Wayne saves the chiefs life by firing on an attacker. The house collapses killing all the colonists.

The sole British survivor is Richard, Marion and Philip's young baby, who is found and adopted by Hongi Tepe.

The film ends with a new group of colonists arriving on the beach.



Production detailsEdit

Jack Hawkins was attracted to the role because it represented a change of pace from the war films in which he had become a star.[3] German actor Laya Raki was cast as a Maori. A publicist for the film argued at the time that:

Laya has a strong Polynesian cast of feature. We had tested several Maori girls, some of them beautiful, but somehow the cameras didn't take to them. You know how people photograph differently from the way they really look... Well, when we stumbled across Laya Raki and tested her, she photographed ideally for the part. She looks more like a Maori than a Maori.[3]

Location shooting was undertaken around Whakatane in the eastern Bay of Plenty.[4]

The world premiere of the film was held in Wellington, New Zealand on 24 June 1954.[5]


  1. ^ Theiapolis Cinema
  2. ^ BFI database – synopsis
  3. ^ a b "Top British film star visits Sydney". The Australian Women's Weekly. National Library of Australia. 3 February 1954. p. 38. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Time Gentlemen Please". Whakatāne Museum and Arts. 17 May 2017.
  5. ^ NZ Film Archive

External linksEdit