Sahara (1943)

  • “A film dedicated to the IV Armored Corps of the Army Ground Forces, United States Army, whose cooperation made it possible to tell this story.”
  • Directed by Zoltan Korda (who also co-wrote the screenplay). (And yes, Zoltan is Alexander’s brother.)
  • “In June, 1942, a small detachment of American tanks with American crews, joined the British Eighth Army in North Africa to get experience in desert warfare under actual battle conditions. History has proved that they learned their lesson well.”
  • Three Americans – a sergeant (Humphrey Bogart), a radio man named Jimmy (Dan Duryea), & a gunner named Waco (Bruce Bennett) – abandon their post in the North African desert, obeying instructions they’ve been sent over the radio. They roll out in a tank called Lulubelle, which Bogart seems very personally attached to.
  • They come across a British camp that’s been heavily bombed, leaving only a handful of soldiers alive, who decide to join the Americans on their journey south, in/on Lulubelle.
  • Lulubelle is not in good shape, but the Sergeant (Bogart) has a lot of stubborn faith in her.
  • The tank soon comes across a British Sudanese soldier & his Italian-soldier prisoner. Sergeant Bogart takes the British soldier into their crew, because he has a better knowledge of the surrounding area than they do – but opts to leave the Italian prisoner behind, because they don’t have any food or water to spare.

The scene in which the Italian (Giuseppe, played by J. Carrol Naish) begs to be brought along is very well acted on Naish’s part. Brief, but super convincing display of emotion, nonetheless.

  • The shot of the tank pulling away, leaving Giuseppe standing there alone, is a good one (shot from well behind Giuseppe, with his figure standing on the left side of the screen, & the tank pulling away on the right).
  • After roughly 30 seconds of driving, Sergeant Bogart caves & has the tank stop so that they can pick up Giuseppe.

It’s pretty cute when all the guys on the tank yell back to him to come aboard. They’re all so welcoming & happy that the Sergeant changed his mind. Aw. Enemy camaraderie. That’s adorable.

  • Lulubelle shoots down a German plane that’s attacking them, & the pilot parachutes out safely. He insists, in German, that he will be taking everyone prisoner. The 12 members of the crew have a good chuckle over that one, because, hello – it’s 12 against 1, and that 1 is unarmed. So…nice try, Nazi Pilot.
  • Noooo! The well they were a’scurrying to in order to replenish their water supply is dry when they reach it! Dang!
  • Oooh! I thought that looked like Lloyd Bridges! Sadly, his character’s been shot (damage done by the German pilot, pre-plane abandonment) & seems like he’s a goner, probably.
  • Team Lulubelle gets a radio command not to retreat another inch – the commanders have changed their minds, & want everyone to re-form their ranks & continue to fight.
  • (Meanwhile, Lloyd Bridges dies. Sad times. But…to be fair, we barely knew him. I think his name was Fred.)
  • Is this a remake of THE LOST PATROL (1934)? Good God, I hope not.

(I say this because they just made it to some desert ruins, and are thirsting for water…and it’s very much like the setup to that movie. I can also see Bogart fitting perfectly into the Victor McLaglen role.)

It’s gonna be so tedious to watch all of these soldiers get killed off, one by one, if this is a LOST PATROL copycat. I really hope it’s not.

  • Great news! The well at the ruins is still trickling water! Hooray!
  • Unfortunately, we are shown that some German forces are on their way to the same well for water…and it seems like they way outnumber the men of Team Lulubelle.
  • Oh hey! Giuseppe used to be a mechanic! Bet you’re glad you brought him along after all, aren’t you, Sergeant Bogart?
  • There are several nice scenes mixed in that promote understanding/learning about each other’s cultures – first with Tambul (the British-Sudanese soldier, played by Rex Ingram) & Waco, and then with Giuseppe & the Sergeant. These are nice touches – emphasizing the importance of being open-minded & listening to people who, on the surface, are different than you. Well done, writers.
  • Louis Mercier as Frenchie is pretty good.
  • Oh no! The German scout car has been spotted, quickly approaching the ruins!
  • Ooooh. Miniature plot twist! Their German prisoner can speak English, & plans to have Giuseppe, his fellow prisoner, join forces with him to fight back against their captors (“When the time comes, I will tell you what to do!” Nazi Pilot says).
  • They find out from the two German scouts they opt not to shoot that the battalion of 500 is on its way to the ruins (by the way – the well has since stopped trickling).
  • Sergeant Joe (Bogart) makes a valiant speech, citing lots of grand WWII actions, to convince his 9 guys to stay & put up a fight against the Germans. He figures if they delay them even slightly – because there is no more water within 100 miles – they will manage to defeat this battalion. Even if Team Lulubelle is killed completely – the Germans will never be able to make it to another water source before they all die of heat exhaustion & dehydration – which would ultimately assist in a larger victory for the Allies.
  • Waco departs for the nearest Allied camp in the now-vacant Nazi Scout Vehicle. Here’s my concern, though – this vehicle has a massive swastika painted on its side. Waco can make it to the camp as fast & as successfully as he likes – the second they spot the Swastika Car, though – won’t they blast him to smithereens? They couldn’t drape something over the sides before they sent him on this mission???

(I am quite upset by this.)

  • By the way…I wish Bogart’s ‘Let’s make a stand’ speech had been better. Content-wise, it was very cliche – but, given the plot circumstances, I don’t see how it could be anything different. I only wish Bogart had delivered the lines a little less flatly/methodically. He could have done better.
  • He redeems himself with the 2-on-1 negotiation scene, in which he tells the German leader he’ll trade him “water for guns” & refuses to make any other deal. It’s a classically Bogart scene, & it’s outstanding. Not too over the top – but plenty of grit & charismatic rigidity.
  • Williams (Carl Harbord) has died, as has Stegman (Guy Kingsford). This is definitely still LOST PATROL-ish.
  • Nazi Pilot (Captain von Schletow, played by Kurt Krueger) tries to get Giuseppe to make a break for it – but Giuseppe refuses & goes on an anti-Hitler, anti-German tirade, instead. (It’s another very well-played scene by J. Carrol Naish.) Nazi Pilot responds by killing Giuseppe. We are sad.
  • Tambul chases the fleeing Nazi Pilot down on foot & suffocates him in the sand. It’s very valiant – but of course, Tambul gets killed in the process.
  • As Tambul lays dying – he gives Sergeant Joe a thumbs up, from a distance, to signal that he took down Nazi Pilot. It’s really cheesy, and the filmmakers would have done well to edit it out. It’s definitely an eye-roller of a moment that could have been handled way better.
  • No! Not Frenchie! On the way back from a second attempted negotiation with the Germans, they open fire on him & kill him. Boo.
  • Richard Aherne (as Captain Halliday, the British leader) & Bogart have good acting chemistry. Their exchanges are very smoothly & naturally played.
  • Next, Jimmy is wounded.
  • Oh, lord. Doc (aka Captain Halliday) helps Jimmy into the building-ruins, & their exchange goes like this:

Doc: You’ll be alright, Jim.

Jimmy: You said it – it’s gonna take a lot more than this to kill me!

Doc: That’s the spirit. Never say die!

(Less than one second later, a bomb explodes the building, & they are both killed.)

That was groan-worthy timing. Add it to the list of Unnecessarily Silly Moments featured in this movie. (It’d have been so much better if they’d just left these out!)

  • Thankfully (depends on how you look at it, I suppose), Waco’s Nazi Vehicle has broken down, & he has continued on, on foot. Shortly after he collapses, an Allied patrol comes across him, & is able to revive him. Hooray!
  • In case you’re keeping track – only 2 (not counting Waco) men are left – Sergeant Joe & Osmond (Patrick O’Moore). Suddenly, the Germans surrender – desperate for water. They drop their weapons, & run to the well – which – GASP – is now full of water, because they accidentally bombed it in a way that sprung open an underground stream, or something.
  • So Osmond & Sergeant Joe are able to capture about 60 remaining Germans, and march them to meet Waco’s Help Squad.
  • I like the simplicity of the ending – of Bogart listing the names of their fallen compatriots, wishing they could know of what’s coming of their sacrifice. It’s not overly dramatized, but edited well, so the last shot is the tail end of Bogart’s musing, voiced over a shot of all the makeshift graves at the ruins. It’s a good way to end it.
  • This was a pretty decent movie – well shot, well acted…just a little too cheesily written in parts.
  • It’s worth mentioning that, in the context of its similarities to THE LOST PATROL – something that this movie did much better than that one – is establishing an emotional attachment to the soldiers, so that when they died, I actually felt a pang of sadness. With THE LOST PATROL, it was as though we were just crossing names off a list – and the viewer was given very little to connect with, in terms of the characters.

There was less of a feeling of ‘Oh – that guy died? Who is that guy, again?’ in this one, than there was in THE LOST PATROL…if that makes sense.

  • Probably won’t be watching this again, but I’m glad to have seen it this once – it was definitely worth my time.

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