Cape Town Affair
Drama, Mystery | 100 mins | Released: 1967
Director: Robert D Webb
Starring: Jacqueline Bisset, James Brolin, Claire Trevor, Bob Courtney, John Whiteley, Gordon Mulholland, Siegfried Mynhardt
Our Rating: 6
In 1967, long-time Fox director, Robert D. Webb went to South Africa (for 20th Century Fox International) to slavishly remake Samuel Fuller’s Pickup on South Street (1953), this time titled Cape Town Affair. Webb literally transports Pickup on South Street to its new setting, crediting Samuel Fuller and Harold Medford for a script nearly recreated word for word and for characters and interior sets nearly duplicated except for two changes: a change in two characters’ names, from Mo to Sam and from Tiger to Donkey and – most importantly — a move to late 1960s Cape Town, South Africa, that becomes concretized by a portrait of the late Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd on the walls of a police station and an intelligence agency’s office.
The film is a natural to remake in this setting, not as a recontextualization but as a complete transposition of dialogue and ideology for several reasons: 20th Century Fox, Pick Up On South Street’s production company, produced the film for Killarney Studios, their South African subsidiary. The film in its original form reinforces anticommunist values, which, in South Africa, are equated with apartheid policies. The film was produced and distributed to white-only audiences in South Africa who were growing more and more paranoid about communist-led Black insurrections, especially on South African borders. Unlike with most remakes, Webb and Fox did not recontextualize Pick Up On South Street when it remade it in 1967 because it did not need to change the film to fit its 1960s South African location.
The Cape Town Affair is director Robert D. Webb’s 1967 glamorized spy film produced by 20th Century Fox at Killarney Film Studios in South Africa. The film stars Claire Trevor, James Brolin and Jacqueline Bisset; and is a remake of the 1953 picture Pickup on South Street.
Some of the Cape Town locations include Long Street, apartments along Beach Road in Mouille Point and Green Point, the harbour docks now within the Waterfront, the town centre near the railway station and city hall.
Commentators describe the film as dull, slow-paced, poorly acted and tedious. However, the film pants an interesting picture of life in South Africa under apartheid, as seen from the point of view of official government policy. All the leading characters are white and even street scenes contain few non-whites.