Sahara (1943)    3 Stars


Sahara (1943)
Sahara (1943)


Director: Zoltan Korda

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish

Synopsis: Crossing the Libyan Desert to rejoin their command after the fall of Tobruk, Sergeant Joe Gunn and his tank crew pick up five British soldiers, a Frenchman and a Sudanese man with an Italian prisoner before encountering a German tank unit.






If you were stuck in the Sahara desert with no water in the middle of a war, you’d surely find at least some crumbs of comfort from the fact that your leader is a man named Joe Gunn. Joe Gunn – now there’s a man’s name for you. In fact, it’s a man’s name, worthy of descriptive italics for emphasis. A man with the name of Joe Gunn would never steer you wrong. And, even better – he looks just like Humphrey Bogart…

Sahara wastes no time with back story. Lulubelle the tank’s battles have all been fought by the time we join the action, and she’s in need of urgent attention from Gunn (Humphrey Bogart – The Roaring Twenties, The Maltese Falcon) if she’s to outrun the advancing German front line. Tobruk has fallen and the allies need to fall back and re-group. Having coaxed and sweet-talked his trusty old tank back to life, Gunn and his men come across some British (and one French) soldiers whom they persuade to run away bravely with them. Water’s low though, and they have to find a well to replenish supplies. Fortunately, they stumble across Tambul (Rex Ingram – The Emperor Jones), a British Sudanese soldier, and his Italian prisoner (J. Carrol Naish – ‘Gung Ho!’, Rio Grande) – yeah, it’s one of those unaccountably busy movie deserts – who knows the location of a local well. However, when they finally locate it, they discover that the well’s nearly dry, and must spend precious days painstakingly catching the last few drops before continuing to safety. Just as they run the well dry, however, a thirsty German unit shows up…

Sahara makes no attempt to disguise its propagandistic motivations, with its characters providing a microcosm of the war that was raging in 1943. Gunn’s convoy of one beat up tank is a veritable United Nations of nationalities. In addition to the Americans, we have a few plucky Brits, a laconic Frenchman who tags along because he likes American cigarettes, a Colonial of unwavering loyalty, and an Italian who, although technically a bad guy is actually a good guy in disguise, as the Italians were in the midst of swapping sides when the film was produced. We also have a German, in the form of a downed pilot (Kurt Kreuger) who is taken prisoner by Gunn so that we can see up-close just what a nasty, fanatical bunch the Nazis are. Although clichés abound, and it gets its message across in ways that seem a little simplistic, Sahara is still great fun to watch, and Bogie proves surprisingly adept at the kind of role that only occasionally came his way.

(Reviewed 30th May 2015)

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