Ghost and the Darkness, The
The Ghost and the Darkness is a 1996 thriller based on the true story of lions that terrorized railroad construction workers in 19th century Africa. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (Blown Away, Predator 2), the movie takes place in Kenya along the Tsavo River during the year 1898. When railroad workers are found slaughtered by what appears to be a lion, Col. Patterson (Val Kilmer) is assigned to hunt down and kill the predators. On later hunts, Patterson is accompanied by professional hunter Remington (Michael Douglas). Though the film ventures somewhat away from the actual details of the hunt, it is an exciting adventure movie with a well-written script by William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplays for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Maverick, All the President's Men and Marathon Man). It is also notable for featuring multiple British firearms, some of which almost never appear in American productions such as the BSA Lee-Speed Sporter rifle used by Patterson (Val Kilmer), a Howdah Pistol and a Farquharson Rifle. The movie was filmed in South Africa in 1995.
The following guns were used in the film The Ghost and the Darkness:
Birmingham Small Arms Lee-Speed Sporter
The BSA Lee-Speed Sporter rifle is used by Patterson (Val Kilmer) throughout much of the movie. It appears to have a 26" barrel and is probably chambered for .303 British though the BSA was available in different calibers. The Lee-Speed was popular with British officers and other hunters who wanted a fine rifle but couldn't afford the expensive double barrel rifles made by Purdy and others. The Lee-Speeds were also popular because they fired the British service round and had the same action as the Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle. In the primitive conditions of Africa in the late 19th and early 20th century, the British Army was often a source of supply for hunters and colonists, which would have included spare parts and ammo. There were not many Cabelas sitting around on the grasslands of Kenya.
The Farquharson Rifle is used by Doctor Hawthorne (Bernard Hill) and Patterson (Val Kilmer). A popular design in the late 19th century with British hunters. The Farquharson Rifle design is still in use. Most notably the Ruger No. 1 single shot rifle.
Holland & Holland Double Rifle
Though it is unknown which company (or gunsmith) manufactured the double barreled rifle used by Remington (Michael Douglas) and later Patterson (Val Kilmer) it appears to be a hammerless model. Given the time it is probably supposed to be a Westley - Richards, Purdey, Rigby or Holland & Holland Double Rifle. It would likely be in 450 3.25" Nitro Express or 500/450 3.25" Nitro Express since those were the premier Nitro calibers at the end of the 19th century. For the sake of convenience I'm electing to classify it as a Holland & Holland. If anyone has more information please contribute.
Used by different charcters in the movie. Most notably by Angus Starling (Brian McCardie) when the two lions invade the camp in the daytime and kill Angus. Historically accurate. By 1898 the British Army was using the Lee - Enfield bolt action rifle in .303 British. The Martini-Henry Mk. III was a black powder rifle and was classified as obsolete. It was available on the surplus gun market and it would have been cheap and plentiful. It fired a powerful round (.577/.450 Martini-Henry) and was considered effective against lions and other dangerous game.
Snider Enfield Mk.II* Artillery Carbine
Snider Enfield Mk.II* Enfield Artillery Carbine is used by Samuel (John Kani) during the first hunt for the lions involving Remington (Michael Douglas) in the thicket. It's a nice touch and showed that somebody was thinking. In 1898 the Snider rifles were surplus and would probably have been readily available in Colonial Africa. Samuel is a native and though trusted by the Europeans would not have been a wealthy man. A surplus Snider rifle would have met his needs and been affordable for him. The fact that the rare Artillery Carbine was used also shows a good eye for detail. Easier to carry and maneuver with than the full length infantry rifle version.
The Howdah Pistol used in the film was a very powerful double barrel handgun developed by the British hunters in India for close range, last ditch, defense against Tigers and other dangerous game. Though it appears that a Lancaster Howdah Pistol is used in the movie, other makers produced Howdah-style handguns. A Howdah was the basket that hunters rode in on top of elephants in India. Tigers were known to climb up the Elephant to reach the hunters in the Howdah. At such a close range, a long-barreled rifle was less than effective. The Howdah Pistol was perfect. They typically had two or four barrel designs. They were massive, powerful and delivered a hell of a wallop at both ends. However, it was believed that in a life and death situation heavy recoil would not be noticed. The now very collectible handgun is seen in the film used by both Patterson (Val Kilmer) and Remington (Michael Douglas). In a nice bit of technical realism, the Howdah Pistol is used as a last ditch defense weapon in the movie. The image below is not the same gun seen in the movie. There are rumors that the Howdah pistol carried by Remington (Michael Douglas) was actually fabricated by the armorer so that Remington would have a very distinctive pistol. At this time the rumours can be neither verified nor repudiated.
12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun
It appears that Samuel (John Kani) owns both a Snider Enfield Mk.II* Short Rifle and what looks like a hammerless 12 Gauge Double Barreled Shotgun with a box lock action. The gauge or bore (as the British would call it) of the shotgun is just a guess, but doesn't appear to be as big as a 10 Gauge. In one of the screencaps it looks as if Samuel is wearing a bandoleer of shotgun shells. The shells look to be red in color and could be made of paper which would be consistent with the late nineteenth century. Initially, it would seem insane to go after a lion with a shotgun, but many hunters over the decades have used shotguns against lions and other big cats with great success. It also makes sense that Samuel would own both a rifle and a shotgun. The two weapons would give him greater flexibility for different game and situations.
Ghost and Darkness Trio
Examples of the three main rifles used in the movie. From top to bottom. A BSA Lee-Speed Sporter, Farqueson falling block single shot rifle and a Holland & Holland double barrel rifle. Just a neat photo from the Nitroexpress.com forum.