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Gene Tierney, Bruce Cabot and George Sanders star in this classic war film set in a small African outpost during the Second World War. As the British fight to control East Africa word reaches them that a vicious local tribe are being smuggled guns from a unknown source. When the soldiers encounter the exotic and beautiful Zia, the leader of a travelling trader caravan, she is assumed to be the supplier of the illicit firearms. But in this thrilling drama the African desert hides many secrets beneath its ancient sands.
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The cover and menu of this DVD are both misleading in that each shows jeeps being attacked by German planes. The film is set on the borders of Kenya and Italian war gained territory in 1941. Germans are not present in the film or historically in that conflict.} That said it is not really an action film. Rather is shows the stoic British colonial administrators dealing with native uprisings - this time fermented by the Italian forces. The love interest intervenes in the form of a mysterious femme fatale; in the days when women in films were "trouble". Needless to say the Italian attempts are foiled by the British authorities. The film is well structured and holds the attention. The dialogue is credible. It is perhaps the only film set in a forgotten part of the Second World War where the British had to fight back to regain their overrun colony of British Somaliland.
Sundown is an efficient, better than average programer which is directed in a professional way and keeps the action going. There are no great surprises and many things typical of a movie of this type: The good natives are all handsome and child-like, all seem grateful for the wisdom and guidance given them by the Brits. The bad natives all look like they came from a gene pool where good looks weren't dominate. And the movie is careful to point out, first, that Zia is the daughter of an Arab and a European, so no black blood in her. Then when the romance between Zia and Crawford is confirmed, we learn that she's actually British so there's not even Arab blood (or French) to worry about.
The acting is fair, with Gene Tierney acceptable and gorgeous, Cabot stolid and brave, and Sanders condescending but trying to do the right thing. He has a great death scene, and I mean it; not a hint of the usual Sanders curled lip.
What a strange career George Sanders had. I really don't think he was a particularly good actor. He did a good job, in my view, only when he had a first-rate script and/or a sense of challenge. He was charmingly amoral in Rebecca, funny and even a little romantic in Foreign Correspondent, and very good as a single-minded, obsessed artist in The Moon and Sixpence. And that's about it, for me. His turn in All About Eve was funny to watch, but I often felt he was waiting for his next cue to sneer out his lines.
Dorothy Dandridge has a bit, uncredited, part that lasts all told probably less than five minutes at the start. She has no dialogue, and plays a shy young girl happy to wed a poor native soldier, then plays a heart-broken young widow. She was good, and I couldn't take my eyes off her.
This is a solid programer with the faults of its time, but is professionally put together, moves at a brisk pace, and is a reasonable way to spend an hour and a half if you like 40's movies.
The DVD transfer is far better than I expected.
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