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Friday, April 12, 2013

ADVENTURE IN SAHARA (1938)

Not much call for Foreign Legion pics these days. But a biggy was due @ Paramount in ‘39, a new BEAU GESTE*, the likely prompt for Columbia topper Harry Cohn to rush out this sandy programmer. The not-so 'original' story was an early screen credit for young Samuel Fuller, and Fuller mavens will enjoy watching him plop BEAU GESTE’s characters, settings & circular revenge into a narrative template lifted from MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY/’35. He even manages to graft on a love interest with a doughty female pilot who must be the most disastrous helpmate ever seen on screen. With love interest like this, who needs enemies? Running a bit under an hour, the acting is plenty blunt, but megger D. Ross Lederman gets what he needs from his B-list cast. (Everyone is very fit, unlike those pampered A-listers.) And he gets a bit more from C. Henry Gordon as the sadistic commander. The real standout element is Franz Planer’s lensing. Fresh off the boat and giving a million-dollar sheen to this quickie, he’d just made a Stateside debut in Cukor’s HOLIDAY/’38, with Zinnemann, Ophuls & Wyler among past & future collaborators.

DOUBLE-BILL: *William Wellman’s 1939 BEAU GESTE was a near copy of the even better silent version made by Herbert Brenon in ‘26 with Ronald Colman. (Hard to believe, but Colman, with that one-in-a-million voice, thought this silent film was his best.) Alas, no video edition has ever done justice to this beauty, even though the original elements are in great shape.

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