Adapted from Anthony Perry’s novel, during the Mau Mau uprising the privileged Europeans in Kenya find that they are in danger of being murdered.
An African rides a bicycle and sees a wounded European and kills him with a machete. An airplane lands in Nairobi, and Alan Howard (Dirk Bogard) is met by Mary Crawford (Virginia McKenna. She drives him in a car into the country, and he asks about his brother. She says he is a confirmed bachelor. He says she told him that he had too many girlfriends. She admits she missed him. She says this place has changed. He asks if they have trouble with the Mau Mau there, and she says not so far. She sees the police at the farm. Inspector Tom Drummond (Donald Sinden) asks if he is David Howard’s brother. He goes inside and finds that David is dead. Alan says he was good to them. Drummond says he trusted them too much. The word SIMBA is painted in red, and the officer says it means “Liar” in Swahili. The African Kimani (Ben Johnson) will stay with them, but Alan tells him to go away.
After dinner with Mr. Crawford (Basil Sydney) and Mrs. Crawford (Marie Ney) Alan asks why David was killed. Mrs. Crawford says the Mau Mau want to drive the white men out. Mr. Crawford says they are not rational, and he blames ideas of self-government. They are served by Chege (Slim Harris). Mrs. Crawford says they have lived there for thirty years, and now they feel betrayed. They ask Alan if he is going back to England, and he says no.
Alan and Mary go to a gathering, and Alan greets the police officer. Africans sit on the ground. When a man tries to run off down the road. Drummond orders the guard to fire, and he is killed. Drummond says he was one. Inside Mary helps Dr. Karanja (Earl Cameron) who says that no one trusts him unless she is there working with him. Alan meets Dr. Karanja and leaves with Mary.
Drummond speaks to a meeting of Europeans and advises them not to take unnecessary risks. Some say they trust their servants. A soldier wants to put the fear of God in them. Some say the Kikuyu are in greater danger and have been killed in greater numbers. Dr. Hughes (Joseph Tomelty) advises them not to carry on like hooligans. He suggests they reason with them and make friends with them, or they will all be killed. Mrs. Crawford says they worked and did all they could. A man says they have to face facts and not be sentimental like Davy was. Alan gets up and goes out. Mary follows him. Alan asks her if they are being weak. She asks if he is learning to hate the Africans. He asks her not to let it come between them. She says it is like a flood they are caught in.
Africans walk toward drumming. At night a witch doctor performs a Mau Mau ceremony and feeds raw meat and blood to a man. Another man is grabbed, but he runs off and is heard screaming.
In the morning Alan sees an African boy outside and asks what he wants. Then the boy runs off. Alan asks his servant Kimani about the boy, and he says he belongs to nobody. Alan says he can stay and tells him to feed him. Alan finds a note telling him to go home because Africa does not want him. Dr. Karanja comes in and warns him that he is in great danger there. He advises him to leave that farm at once. Alan asks if he told Inspector Drummond of his suspicion. Karanja says no because there has been no action.
Alan shows the note to Drummond in his office. They see Dr. Hughes driving his car, and Hughes comes in to bring Dr. Karanja something. Karanja says the murder has frightened away some of his patients.
Alan looks at two dead cattle and a dead boy. Alan tells Mr. Crawford, who says he has extra grazing land. Alan looks for a blood report and goes to his house where an African with a fez hides. Alan sees scars on his stomach, and the man attacks him with a machete. Alan fights him. Kimani sees them and runs for help. Mr. Crawford comes in and shoots the African.
Mary treats Alan’s arm. Alan learns the man is dying. Alan goes to Karanja, who denies he is implicated. Karanja calls Alan a fool for disregarding his warning. Karanja says his brother was the only white friend he had. Karanja says he studied for six years, and he shows he has no scars on his chest. Drummond comes in to question the man. An African officer questions him. He says only “Simba” and dies. Drummond says he is taking in Karanja for questioning, and he tells Alan not to undermine his authority.
Alan works with his cattle. He rides off with Mary, and they sit on a rocky hill. He asks her to marry him and kisses her. She says she can’t answer, but she loves him. He says he loves her, and a war cannot alter that. She wants to be at peace with him, but she is afraid of what he might become. He suggests they run away, but she says this is their world.
The Crawfords ring for a meal, and the servant Chege serves their food nervously. Mrs. Crawford says Alan is a good man. Mr. Crawford says he has to get a temporary manager so that they can go to England for a year. She is happy. They hear a scream. He makes sure she has a pistol and tells her to lock the door. He finds Chege bloody in the kitchen. Africans come in and murder him. They ravage the house and take rifles. They find the door locked, and Mrs. Crawford shoots through the door. Then the leader shoots her through the door.
Alan and Mary see a rocket and ride back to her farm. They see the damage and find her mother. Alan looks around and finds her father. She asks about Chege, and he blames him. Drummond arrives, and they find Chege is dead.
Mrs. Crawford is being treated by Dr. Karanja and tells Mary that they were going to England. Mary tells Karanja that he is not to blame. He says sometimes to do nothing is worse than to do something. Dr. Karanja tells Drummond that Simba is his father. An officer brings a wooden staff to them, and Karanja says it is his father’s stick. Drumond drives off in a jeep with his men. They go to a village, followed by a truck with more African officers. Alan shows him a red blanket, and Drummond says he has been there. They see him running and chase him. Drummond says if he gets to the forest, they will lose him. Simba hides and then is confronted by a lion. Drummond has the lion shot. He explains he wanted to take Simba alive so that a legend about the lion would not grow.
Dr. Hughes tells Alan that Mrs. Crawford died. He tells Alan that Mary will return to him later.
Kimani wakes up Alan and tells him that all the boys ran away. Kimani offers to pack. Alan tells Kimani to take the boy with him, and they leave. Alan goes to Drummond and asks where they went. Drummond says that Simba has told people that white men’s bullets cannot hurt them. Alan drives a jeep. An African comes in and tells Drummond where Simba is. He wants a reward, but Drummond says later. The man is afraid, but Drummond says he will be safe there. Two jeeps and a truck full of men leave.
Dr. Karanja comes to Mary and says he is to blame for not speaking about his father sooner. She says she is staying with Dr. Hughes. She still will work with Karanja. Kimani comes in and asks Mary if he can work for her. He says Alan sent him away. She offers to take him back to Alan. He says no, and she sees he is afraid. She makes a call and learns that his line is out of order.
Alan drives the jeep, and Africans signal to each other. Kimani says if he tells, they will kill him. Mary asks what. Kimani tells Karanja, and Mary calls the police. Drummond is not there and ordered no one else to leave there. Alan goes to the farm and sees a cat hanging. He goes in and finds the phone does not work. He finds the boy. When Alan goes outside, he sees his jeep in flames. He loads a rifle.
Mary, Karanja, and two African officers are in a jeep that crashes from a damaged bridge. One man is injured, but Dr. Karanja says he will be all right.
At night Mary and Karanja walk to the farm. Alan with his rifle sees them coming. He hugs Mary. They see natives and run in the house. He gives Naranja a rifle and warns him not to waste ammunition. Alan wishes she hadn’t come. The huts have been set on fire. Alan stops Naranja from going out to talk to them. Alan says the rifle is better than words. Karanja says no and insists on going out. He walks toward the crowd with his hands raised. He talks to them in Swahili, and Mary translates for Alan. He says they must choose whether to bring more suffering on their people or to follow him. Simba comes forward and denies he is his son, calling him a white man. When Simba raises his machete, Alan shoots him. Others attack Karanja, and Alan shoots at them. The police arrive and shoot at the crowd. Mary and Alan try to treat Karanja. Drummond sees them and goes off. Karanja says they do not deserve peace. He sees the boy and tells Alan he has done nothing wrong. Karanja dies, and Mary cries. The boy walks to them.
This drama set in the continuing Mau Mau uprising portrays wealthy Europeans living on farms being served by poor Africans, some of whom have taken to murdering the white settlers. This violent rebellion against the extreme economic disparities in Kenya stimulated revolutions in Africa.