Humphrey Bogart stars in this World War Two drama as a tank commander in charge of a collection of allied soldiers. Here’s my review of the film, Sahara (1943)
Tagline – SENSATIONAL! DRAMATIC! EMOTIONAL! MEMORABLE!
What’s going down?
Sometime during 1942 during WW2 the Allied forces were fighting General Rommel in the North African Campaign around Tobruk in Libya. Emerging from the aftermath of a fierce battle which had resulted in many Allied casualties and scores of destroyed tanks and vehicles. A tough US Sergeant Joe Gunn and his crew head off in their M3 tank, nicknamed Lulu Belle, after finding themselves the lone survivors. They set off in the beat up but trusty tank trying to rejoin the rest of their unit. Tracking across the Libyan desert they come across a group of soldiers hiding out in a bombed-out field hospital. After refueling and finding what supplies they can they all set off. The groups numbers are once again about to rise as they come across a tough Sudanese Sergeant Major dragging an Italian prisoner by his side. With the tank filling up like a tin of sardines they aren’t ready to receive one more guest! A very unwanted one. A Luftwaffe pilot Captain. Water supplies and fuel are dangerously low as the plight is about to take another blow. Finding themselves ready for an ambush with a pursuing German squadron. With one tank and a motley crew of thirsty soldiers they will try and make a last stand against all the odds.
The main players
Humphrey Bogart as Sergeant Joe Gunn
Dan Duryea as Jimmy Doyle
Bruce Bennett as “Waco” Hoyt
Rex Ingram as Sergeant Major Tambul, (Sudan Defence Force)
J. Carrol Naish as Giuseppe
Richard Nugent as Captain Jason Halliday, (Royal Army Medical Corps)
Lloyd Bridges as Fred Clarkson
Patrick O’Moore as Osmond “Ozzie” Bates
Guy Kingsford as Peter Stegman, (South African Army)
Carl Harbord as Marty Williams
Louis T. Mercier as Corporal Jean “Frenchie” Leroux, (Free French Forces)
Kurt Kreuger as Captain von Schletow
John Wengraf as Major von Falken
Tagline – A mighty story of adventure, courage and glory in the desert!…tender human emotion…triumphant action…matchless thrills…a memorable entertainment experience!
Sure I’ve seen them in something?
Too many cast members to do them all but here’s a few. First up the Humphrey Bogart’s I’ve reviewed on my site. The Desperate Hours (1955), The Harder They Fall (1956), Dark Passage (1947) and The Petrified Forest (1936)
Bruce Bennett has starred alongside Bogie on a few times. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Dark Passage (1947) and Nora Prentiss (1947) with Ann Sheridan and Mystery Street (1950) with Ricardo Montalban to name a few.
A very young Lloyd Bridges turns up for a wander in the desert. Known for many films but I’m going for Steve McCroskey from the two Airplane classics and also starring alongside Charlie Sheen in the two Hot Shots comedies.
I don’t really know Rex Ingram but I’m sure I’ve seen him on telly over the years. It looks like he played some interesting characters. Like playing God in The Green Pastures (1936) to Lucifer in Cabin in the Sky (1943) which incidentally was directed by Vincente Minnelli the husband of Judy Garland and the father of Liza Minnelli. Also I liking the sound of a Film Noir called Moonrise (1948). Please recommend me more if you know of his work.
Notes on production?
Sahara was directed by the Hungarian Zoltan Korda. He had made the 1942 version of The Jungle Book that starred Sabu as the young Mowgli. Apart from that film I don’t know any more. Recommend away.
The Sahara idea has an unbelievable journey from it first incarnation as a novel by a British fiction writer called Philip MacDonald. He had wrote a story called Patrol in 1927 which centered around British soldiers lost in the desert surrounded by an enemy. With soldiers getting picked off one at a time by a hidden sniper. It was turned into a British silent film called Lost Patrol (1929). Then remade by American director John Ford in The Lost Patrol (1934) which had Boris Karloff in the cast.
But it doesn’t end there. Sahara is supposedly more based on the Soviet film adapted from the book called The Thirteen (1936). Then in 1953 it was re-imagined as a western in Last Of The Comanches and then getting a direct remake of the Humphrey Bogart version in the TV movie of the same name starring Jim Belushi as the tank commander, Sgt Gunn. To be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more?
Hits like a sledge hammer
Sahara features lots of scenes of bravery that hit the heartstrings but the one scene that really wacks you in the emotional ticker is when the captured Italian begs for his life. With room aboard the tank, crushed together, ten men full, as it drives across the blazing hot sands. Sergeant Joe Gunn makes the decision to leave the Italian behind. At that time the Italian’s were fighting alongside the Nazi’s. As Giuseppe desperately shows his treasured picture of his wife and baby it takes the medical officer to try and reason with the sergeant. The look on the Italian’s face is enough to break you.
Capt. Jason Halliday – “Sgt. I’d wish you’d change your mind. This man is a prisoner of war and, as such, he is entitled to certain rights. We’ve got to take him with us. We can’t leave him here to die. If we ask the men I’m sure they’d agree.“
Sgt. Joe Gunn – “Mm-hum. They’d agree now. What about when they’re starving to death and dyin’ of thirst? It’s why you put me in command. To look ahead.“
Capt. Jason Halliday – “But, this is a matter of a man’s life.“
Sgt. Joe Gunn – “You’re wrong Doctor. It’s the matter of the lives of ten men. We’ve got a long ways to go and we need every crumb of food and every drop of water. I’m taking the Sudanese along because he’s a soldier and he’s entitled a share with the rest of us. I’m NOT taking on a load of spaghetti. He’s walked this far and he can walk back. That’s the end of it.“
I do enjoy a good war movie. Doesn’t have to be gun-ho, just realistic is all I ask for. It always surprises me when you watch a WW2 film made so close to the date of the actual events. Especially when the war was still raging across Europe and the Pacific. It might be based on a fictional story but the screenplay, settings and acting bring such a realism. It’s refreshing to see the addition of Rex Ingram as the North African soldier from the Sudan Defence Force included. He’s shown as an equally alongside the all the other Allied nation’s. What’s impressive is Sahara does a great job of including many nations from Australia, South Africa and a Free French troop all fighting side by side the British and American troops. It’s what impressed me about 633 Squadron (1964). Showing that it wasn’t just the British and American’s that won the war but we had a big help from our friends.
In the blistering heat, the thirst and constant danger from the pursuing enemy always on their minds. Soon they will have to make a stand. Sahara does well giving everyone a good amount of screen time and it features a fantastic script. Spectacular explosions, fantastic scenery with California and Arizona deserts stepping in for the Libyan Desert. Even with sand makeup experts adding wind markings in the landscape. If you like a good war yarn it’s a superb drama.
Wolfman’s rating 8.5/10 IMDB 7.5/10
Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf