Stephen Boyd in South Africa- “Control Factor”, 1972

Stephen Boyd filmed two movies in South Africa sometime in late 1971 to early 1972; “The African Story” and “Control Factor”. Both films feature virtually the same obscure cast members (the incredibly bland Michael Kirner and Marie du Toit) and the same Cape Town setting.   “Control Factor” (or “The Big Game”) seems to be the second of the two as Stephen’s mustache is fully grown here and would remain with him for the next couple years! The story was written by Ralph Anders, who also wrote “African Story”. It’s an action/science fiction tale which features Stephen as the main protagonist Leyton Van Dyk who is trying to help implement some sort of government mind-control device which has been invented by a scientist. The scientist has two sons, one of whom is a diplomatic attaché who gets kidnapped and brainwashed in Hong Kong by terrorists who know about this special device.  As the device is shipped out to South Africa with Van Dyk aboard, the vessel is attacked by the terrorists who want to seize the device for themselves. It was directed by Robert Day, who was also a prolific television director. The movie features a couple of other well known actors, Ray Milland  (the scientist) and France Nuyen (the terrorist).  The soundtrack is an excellent example of early 70’s Italian film music by Francesco de Masi.

This is a very low budget production, but it is entertaining to see Stephen as an action hero. This would probably qualify as one of Stephen’s ‘slumming’ assignments (or golf vacations!) for which he was probably paid a nice sum to do very little. But, hey,  it’s the irrepressibly handsome Stephen in all sorts of shades of 70’s brown; brown shirts, brown jackets, brown pants. Also, check out the plethora of 70’s wood paneling- everywhere!! It is also refreshing to see a movie filmed in South Africa. The dramatic shoreline and interesting Cape Town setting makes great scenery for the story.

Since it is impossible to find any production material on this film, I made a number of screen shots below.

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Part 3. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Barbarian Who Thinks


“You’ve been too much at Rome, Commodus. You— should be more with your father.”

Commodus roared. “Will you tell me how I must live? Must I try to live as you do? Like a pupil, drinking in every word of my illustrious father’s? Live you do!” His voice was hoarse. “Oh, I’ve heard all the rumors. Why Father has gathered everyone here…Why you were at his side.” His voice broke suddenly, his mouth twisting. He shook his head. “No…No, Livius, don’t let it come from you….I need you as my friend. Don’t tell me any more…I don’t want to hear it.”

In the pregnant silence, Livius sighed, deeply moved. “I am your friend, Commodus.”

Commodus stared at him, his mouth pulled petulantly, for a long time. Suddenly then, he shook off his thoughts and heeled around, staring at Xenia.

“Ah, Princess,” he said. “You boast that you are a nation of warriors…Well, then, warrior, every solider knows that sometimes his side loses–and he becomes part of the spoils of war –even a princess becomes a slave. to be used as the master wishes.” When she did not move, he shouted at her. “Do you hear me? You are lost. You are prisoners of war.” He stood up. “Come here to me.”

Xenia did not move. There was no way to tell from her expressionless face even if she heard him at all. His voice rose. “Come! Drink with me. You may as well accept that you are lost. You may as well relax.” He laughed. “You may as well enjoy it. Wine will help you put a brighter edge on everything–Drink!”


When the slender young girl still did not move, he went around the table to her.

He knelt, offered the beaker of wine, but she turned her head away, stiffly.

Commodus caught her head in his hand, tried to pour the wine down her mouth. It ran trickling across her lips, filling her nostrils, discoloring her cheeks.

Suddenly, gasping, she struck at him savagely, spilling the beaker of wine all over him.

Commodus yelled at her, like a child in a tantrum. “I am sill Caesar’s son! Do you understand? I could have you burned alive.”

Commodus slapped at the droplets of wine splattered upon his clothing. His eyes were wild, fixed on her, his mind churning with the indignities that would degrade her, show her the depths a woman could reach when she fought him.

Suddenly he realized that Livius was watching him silently, shocked by his lack of self-control.

Commodus, trembling, managed to get hold of his emotions. He moved to gaze over Xenia’s body and then turned slowly to face Livius.

His voice was casual. “I don’t want this one after all, Livius. I thought I did. She rouses me more to rage than to passion and–that doesn’t fit my mood tonight.” He jerked his head toward Tauna. “I’ll trade you – even before I’ve used the princess at all…This little blonde animal quivering like a frightened animal is more for me.”

Livius nodded. “Take Tauna then, Commodus. She’s yours.”

Commodus stared at Livius another moment. Then he walked to Tauna and grabbed her. She bit her lip, but did not cry out. She was quivering and kept her eyes closed. Pleased, Commodus knelt, swung her easily up into his arms and strode out of the room into his quarters.


Livius was shaken. It was as if Commodus were full of hatred and his only satisfaction came from venting it upon the helpless.

Livius took a long drink of wine, but it was tasteless, less than water. He was troubled, wondering if he would remain cold, and beyond the touch of wine for the rest of his life.

Xenia stirred slightly across the table and, remembering her, he turned, looking at her. he said gently, almost teasing. “Is it true, girl, as Commodus fears – that you think?”

She got slowly to her feet, came around the table to him, knelt between his knees, mouth parted, looking up, pale, as if waiting.

Livius did not touch her. He drew his tongue across his dry mouth, seeing the way she trembled before him, waiting, and he remembered this morning when Marcus planned with Lucilla to give her in a marriage-alliance to Sohamus of Armenia. The only woman he had ever loved; he had feared all his life that he would never marry her, now his fear was grounded, and he would not.  What else mattered? Perhaps Commodus was partly right. If only he could hear the gods laughing as Commodus did. Perhaps this girl’s kiss might waken him, and make him forget for a little while.

Throat taut, he lifted his hands, cupped them over Xenia’s ears. He turned her pallid face up, holding her with more force than he realized, but she did not protest.

“A warrior who thinks?” he said. “You’re a fool–that’s what you are–just as I am a fool to forget I’m only a solider, and trying to think. What will it get us? Where?”  He shook his head. “But I will not threaten to burn you alive–just for your crime of thinking.” His mouth twisted. “I will offer you a more generous treaty of peace. A treaty of peace. Rome and the barbarian who thinks.” His hands tightened on her head. Her eyes searched his face, shadowed, in fear and misunderstanding. Cruelty she could understand, the force of his hands, the use of her body, all this she understood–but the tone and quality of his voice troubled and frightened her. She drew her tongue across her parted mouth, trying to move closer to him, waiting.

Suddenly Livius got to his feet. Xenia fell back, eyes wide. Livius stepped over her and walked past the guard, going out of the tent. Xenia stared after him, bewildered and chilled.