A semi-propaganda film made by the Americans to show how the Second World War was affecting the various European nations. Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) leads an American unit who escape from the fiasco of the Battle of Tobruk and then pick up stranded European soldiers as they cross the Sahara Desert. The motley band of survivors finally have to outwit a huge group of German soldiers in a battle for supremacy over that most precious of desert commodities, a well. The film was later re-made as a Western, 'The Last of the Comanches'.
Columbia's biggest hit of 1943, Sahara
confirmed the superstar status Humphrey Bogart attained with his Warner Brothers' North African adventure, Casablanca
(1942). Surrounded by the Germans on three sides, Bogart's tough-as-they-come Sergeant Joe Gunn takes his tank and a crew of American, British and French soldiers into the Sahara to reach the retreating allied forces. But when they find that the only water for 100 miles is also the target of a German battalion they decide to take a desperate stand. Early scenes present the characters with assorted perils: thirst, sandstorms and a German air attack. The characters are rather stereotypical: the cowardly Italian prisoner, the Frenchman obsessed with food, the German humourless and fanatical, though the British come out well, and there's a sympathetically drawn black British Sudanese soldier (Rex Ingram).
The director was Zoltan Korda, the man behind such British classics as The Four Feathers (1939), and though Sahara lacks the scale of that adventure, Korda's experience pays off in mounting the extended and suspenseful siege/action climax. With support from Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, Oscar-nominated photography by Rudolph Mate and a fine score by Miklós Rózsa, Sahara is a taut, gripping desert war thriller which wouldn't be bettered until Ice Cold in Alex (1958).
On the DVD: The black and white picture is presented in the original 4:3 ratio and looks very good for its age, though there are numerous brief instances of substantial print damage. Audio is strong, clear mono. Given the age of the movie it is not surprising the only extras are filmographies and a small selection of beautifully reproduced original advertising posters. The film is presented with alternative soundtracks in French, Italian and Spanish, as well as with English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Finnish subtitles. There are trailers for The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). --Gary S Dalkin
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