on February 13, 2002
It was 1943 and the United States was at war. Humphrey Bogart had just finished "Casablanca" (considered the #2nd greatest Movie of the last 100 years by the American Film Institute (AFI)1998) with Ingrid Bergman at Warner Brothers.
As the war effort continued Hollywood began to use the power of their stars with patriotic themes, against all odds stories to give Americans and the world hope for victory.
Warner Brothers having the greatest stable of stars lent the services of Humphrey Bogart to Columbia Pictures for the making of the Classic Desert War story "Sahara".
This movie had a great ensemble cast which included a very young Llyod Bridges, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish and Dan Duryea. Filmed in the Mojave Desert near the great Salton Sea in Southern California. The filmed was endorsed by the War Department and the extras were supplied by the United States Army (playing the Germans, Americans and Allies).
"SAHARA" became Columbia Pictures top grossing film of 1943 at a whopping $2.3 million and a very effective propaganda war vehicle.
Summary: Sgt Joe Gunn (Bogart) a WWII tank Commander and his crew (Bennett & Duryea) are surrounded by Germans in the Sahara desert. Their only escape is south into the desert with only their tank "Lullabelle". The race is against time, finding gas, water & their allies before the Germans find them.
This DVD quality is outstanding !! (remasterd video & audio.) FullScreen (before Widescreen) and Black/White presentation. Extras include a picture montage of original lobby poster art, trailers from other WWII movies and star film chronoligies.
This is a "WWII Sleeper Classic Bogart Film". Bogart is a master craftsman, an American Icon Hero. You become very attached to this cast of desert marooned characters in a grand story about unsummountable odds and the pure devoted attitude to succeed!! Enjoy.
If anyone wants to see how effective a WWII propaganda movie can be, I'd recommend Sahara. It's the story of a small group of Allied soldiers, led by Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart), lost in the Libyan desert, who are determined to defend a small outpost against a battalion of Germans. The outpost has a well, but the well is almost dry. It produces only drops of water. Joe and his comrades will use the promise of water to delay the Germans, fighting them off in an almost hopeless battle, to give the Allies after the fall of Tobruk a chance to regroup. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed.
Sahara hits its marks to get all of us civilians back home a reason to be proud of our fighting men, to be resolute in the fight against the Germans, and to dedicate ourselves to do what we must to win. Let's see. We've got Humphrey Bogart leading us. His Joe Gunn is sympathetic, tough and smart, a natural leader, and at heart Gunn is just an average guy. The men he winds up leading are his tank crew and a collection of men from other countries he encounters in the desert. They come from Brooklyn, of course, and from Texas, from London, South Africa, Dublin, France, the Sudan. We have the black Sudanese portrayed as a resourceful and brave man, not as comedy relief, who not only develops a friendship with the Texan but who twice saves the day for his comrades. We have an Italian prisoner who represents an Italy which is oppressed by the Germans, and a Nazi prisoner who is arrogant and vicious. We have a battle in which ingenuity and bravery manage to hold off brutal frontal attacks. We have good men dying for a cause which is larger than they are. And we have two quiet but effective speeches which establish why we fight and why the fight is worth the cost.
Sergeant Gunn calls everyone together in the blazing sun just outside the mud-brick outpost to explain what he wants to do against the oncoming battalion of Germans. He intends that they will fight to hold off and delay the enemy. He has fewer than ten men. The Germans have several hundred. "I look at it this way," he tells the group. "Because it is a 100-to-one shot, because it is so much more than line-of-duty, because there's so little chance of us coming out of it, I felt I ought to put it up to you. You've all got families at home, wives, mothers, sweethearts. I ain't got none, so it doesn't matter about me. I know how you feel about 'em...maybe havin' none I know even better. What you decide, you'd better decide quick." One British soldier speaks up, "Well, nobody minds giving his life, but this is throwing it away. Why?" "Why?" Joe answers, "Why did your people go about their business when the Germans were throwing everything in the book at 'em? Why did your little boats take the men off the beach at Dunkirk? Why did the Russians make a stand at Moscow? Why did the Chinese move whole cities thousands of miles inland when the Japs attacked 'em? Why Bataan? Why Corregidor? Maybe they were all nuts but there's one thing they did do. They delayed the enemy and kept on delayin' 'em until we got strong enough to hit 'em harder than they were hittin' us. I ain't no general, but it seems to me that's one way to win."
Joe and the others start digging in. They only have a few hours before the Germans, with no water of their own, arrive. Joe bluffs the German commander. "Water for guns!" He knows they won't give in, and he knows he has almost no water himself. The Germans attack and keep attacking. One by one, Joe's men die. The lone British officer, a medical man who has backed Joe up, is with Joe in a shallow trench. "We've got to do it," Joe tells Doc. He sounds tired. "It looks like somebody's gotta work a miracle." Doc looks at him. "It seems to me," he tells Joe, "the four of us holding off several hundred of them is nothing short of a miracle. You know why we're able to do it? Because we're stronger than they are." Joe looks at him. "What do you mean, stronger?" he asks. "Oh, I don't mean in numbers," Doc says, "I mean in something else. You see, those men out there have never known...well, the dignity of freedom." "Dignity? That's a funny way to put it," Joe says, "but maybe you got something there." "We've all got something," Doc says quietly.
Soon, we're down to two men. Then that miracle happens. See the movie and find out. Yes, the speeches are obvious, but they work in the context of the movie. The first third is Joe, his tank and his crew, trying to find their way back to their lines and slowly gathering up the others. They are attacked by a German fighter and have to keep moving through a scouring sandstorm. The middle of the film is spent watching their struggle to collect the few drops of water coming from the well. More importantly, now we get to know most of the men as individuals. We also get to know just how dangerous the Nazi prisoner is. And the last third is a rouser...the preparation for what appears to be a hopeless battle, the dedication of the men as they fight and die, and then the final victory.
For a film that isn't especially well known, this is, in my opinion, one of Bogart's best roles. There's no false heroics about Joe Gunn. He's just a gritty sergeant who rises to the occasion. With the exception of J. Carrol Naish, who gives one of his over-played little-man Italian performances, the actors all do fine jobs. I particularly liked Dan Duryea, Rex Ingram and Louis Mercier. One other thought. If you're ever in a battle, never show your pals a photo of your sweetheart or your child. You'll soon be dead if you do.
The DVD transfer is just fine. There are no significant extras.
The release of the current movie titled "Sahara" brought back to mind one of the great WWII movies of the same name. It doesn't seem to have the fame and respect that it derserves but it will stir a lot of emotions when watched from beginning to end. It tells the tale of a lost American tank in the African Desert. They pick up a few straglers looking for water, their unit, etc... Without giving away the plot, let's just say that fate pits them against a large force of German soldiers. The action is hot and heavy and the ending is rather unique.
The cast is pretty good and it's lead by Humphrey Bogart in just his kind of a role. I remember J. Carol Nash in another one of those ethnic roles he was always so good at. One thing struck me about his role ever since the first time I saw the movie. Nash plays Guiseppe, a Italian soldier who is one of the enemy yet not one of the Germans. Apparently, in 1943, there was already a sense that there was a difference between Italians and Germans. Either that or there was somebody influencial in the script who wanted to put Italians in a good light. I don't have any problem with it either way; I just thought it odd that a movie would depict a beligerent soldier in such a sympathetic manner.
I grew up watching a lot of the movies and cartoons of WWII vintage. I got used to cheering for the US military in combat to save the world. This is the style of movie that got me energized back then and it's good enough to do it again now.
on November 19, 2006
IN A NUTSHELL: A WORLD WAR II ACTION EPIC FILMED DURING THE WAR
This is an fictionalized action war film starring Humphrey Bogart set in the Sahara during the Desert War in 1942. With a great deal of emotional, ideological, and personality components blended into the story, the audience too is drawn into this against-all-odds adventure with the vaunted "Afrika Corps."
WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT:
The British 8th Army has just been dealt a decisive blow by the Axis and they are broadcasting the order for a "general retreat." Among those hearing the bad news is Sergeant Joe Gunn [Humphrey Bogart], a rare American already on station near Tobruk and in command of a very campy looking M3 [General Lee] Medium Tank.
-----> THE M3 'GENERAL LEE' MEDIUM TANK IS AN IMPORTANT CHARACTER IN "SAHARA"
I could go right off on a tangent here and discuss the amazing evolution in tank design that led to this very unusual-looking but capable medium tank that was the immediate precursor of the universal and more conventional "Sherman Tank" which has been accurately depicted in literally every World War II film, except this one. Nevertheless, the unusual design of the M3 tank was probably deliberate, as it mirrored the rather unusual configuration of the ensemble cast that ultimately operated in and around this high-profiled military vehicle. In the end, the M3, like the international cast, shows itself to be superior both to the Master Race itself and its "superior" machinery.
"SAHARA" IS A FICTIONALIZED ACCOUNT, BUT A REPRESENTATIVE ONE:
It is true that Sergeant Gunn did not really win the battle of El-Alamein, but what happened to them was a kind of microcosm, in spirit, of the actual climactic battle in the desert. "Sahara" is a sort of myth or fictionalized legend about how a band of men from diverse backgrounds joined together for a common cause to defeat an awesomely-powerful foe, just like the multinational Allied war effort that was the key to the Allied victory in World War II.
-----> THE CAST <-----
Humphrey Bogart - Sgt. Joe Gunn
Bruce Bennett - Waco Hoyt
Lloyd Bridges - Fred Clarkson
Rex Ingram - Sgt. Tambul
J. Carrol Naish - Giuseppe
Dan Duryea - Jimmy Doyle
Richard Nugent - Capt. Jason Halliday
Pat O'Moore - Ozzie Bates
Louis Mercier - Jean Leroux
Carl Harbord - Marty Williams
Guy Kingsford - Peter Stegman
John Wengraf - Maj. von Falken
Hans Schumm - Sgt. Krause
-----> THE PRODUCTION CREW <-----
Zoltan Korda - Director / Screenwriter
Harry Joe Brown - Producer
John Howard Lawson - Screenwriter
Philip MacDonald - Short Story Author
James O'Hanlon - Screenwriter
Rudolph Maté - Cinematographer
Miklos Rozsa - Composer (Music Score)
Morris W. Stoloff - Musical Direction/Supervision
Charles Nelson - Editor
Lionel Banks - Art Director
Eugène Lourié - Art Director
William Kiernan - Set Designer
Lodge Cunningham - Sound/Sound Designer
Abby Berlin - First Assistant Director
on January 2, 2004
Sergeant Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) is the chief for an American tank in the war against the Nazi's during World War II. As they pull back they come across a group of soldiers consisting of a Frenchman, a South African, and four Brits. These soldiers join the Americans on their retreat, since it is easier to ride on a tank than walking and because they are low on water. As the party journeys deeper into the Sahara desert, they meet a Sudanese soldier who has an Italian prisoner. The Sudanese soldier is great help for the international group of armed forces, since he knows where there is water. The journey becomes a pilgrimage for water and it leads the men into a tough decision, which will most likely lead them to their death. Sahara is an interesting film, since it was filmed during the war and enhanced the support for soldiers that were fighting in World War II. In addition, it has some elements that offer some understanding for different cultures, which was needed in the time of war. Overall, the film offers an adventure for those who seek entertainment, which in the end provides the audience with a good cinematic experience.
on March 1, 2000
Anyone wishing to understand the American mindset in the middle of World War II would be hard pressed to do better than "Sahara". It successfully combines the elements of Allied unity against great odds and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for ultimate victory against Nazi tyranny.
Paradoxically, the even-handed relationship between the caucasian British and American troops and a British Sudanese soldier in the movie flies in the face of the official segregation in the U.S. armed forces of the time.
How good is "Sahara"? Good enough to inspire a retiree who lives in my area to construct a full-scale, wooden replica of Bogart's tank Lulubelle in tribute to the film!
on June 4, 2006
This is a very realistic war film,with a great cast.It is the kind of a movie that makes one feel GOOD about being an American.Humphrey Bogart leads with cast in this story of rag-tag bunch(of mixed nationalities) of soldiers on a retreat mission from Tobruk and their search for water,where they are joined by a shot down(nasty) Nazi pilot Kurt Krueger,who tries to spread discord in the ranks,especially with the Italian prisoner(J.Carroll Naish-who steals the film)but Guiseppe(Naish) who is now anti-fascist will not fall for Krueger's tricks,and he delivers a very eloquent speech against fascism.Rex Ingram lends geat dignity to the proceedings with his excellent portrayal as a Sudanese officer AND he is treated with respect by his fellow soldiers,except of course Krueger.This is truely a FINE PATRIOT ,anti-fascist,and anti-racist film.Directed by Zoltan Korda,with the screenplay by Korda and Marxist John Howard Lawson,who latter a foul of HUAC-HUAC won and Lawson went to prison. See this film!
on June 13, 2002
If you've never seen Sahara you're missing out on a great Bogey performance and all out terrific WWII movie. It has all the elements of a great classic: Solid characterizations, stirring action, an excellent story, and one of America's greatest stars. Sahara really gets moving in the second half and I was surprised how violent and realistic the fighting was. I was a little disappointed in the DVD transfer. While the contrast and clarity are excellent, there are several white specks that pop in and out of the image especially in the first half. I've seen many pictures from the 30's and 40's that are perfectly clean, so I'm surprised that this big boxoffice hit didn't look better. The mono soundtrack is in need of restoration also, as the music is brilliant. Someday this one will be back out in a totally remastered collectors edition. This is not it.
This black and white film war film was made in 1943 for propaganda purposes and it was one of better Hollywood WWII morale raisers, mostly, but not exclusively, because of stellar performance by Humphrey Bogart. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
1. Origins and descendance of "Sahara"
This film traces its roots to a short novel called "Patrol", written by Philip MacDonald, a British veteran of World War I. It told the story of a group of eleven British soldiers surrounded by hostile Arab tribesmen in a small oasis in the middle of Iraqi desert, during 1918 Mesopotamian campaign. The novel became popular and was adapted to the screen first time in United Kingdom as a silent movie in 1929, under the title "Lost patrol". The film was quite good, Hollywood noticed it and in 1934 John Ford directed an American remake. His version, named "The lost patrol", became a worldwide success, thanks in large part to the amazing performances of Victor McLaglen and Boris Karloff.
Amongst people who loved this film the most was Stalin himself, who, unknowingly to most people, adored American cinema - when in the same time refusing his subjects the right to watch those "decadent" movies. Stalin enjoyed greatly those private séances in Kremlin's projection room during which he could relax between two campaigns of mass murder... "The lost patrol" pleased him so much that he ordered a Soviet remake, and it was indeed turned in 1936 and released in 1937, under the title "The Thirteen".
Soviet director Mikhail Romm changed of course the story, transferring the time of action to Russian Civil War (1917-1922) and the place of action to Central Asia deserts. The total number of defenders of the oasis was increased to thirteen (a number considered as unlucky in Russia too), including eleven Red Army soldiers and two civilians. The enemies were Central Asian Muslim tribesmen led by White Armies counter-revolutionary officers. Stalin liked this film too and as result Mikhail Romm wasn't executed or send to a concentration camp during the Great Terror (1934-39) as so many of his colleagues...
Then came December 1941, United States entered war and soon became allies of Soviet Union. Hollywood started a mass production of patriotic flag waivers the day after Pearl Harbor and in the end of 1942, with all the excitement around the operation "Torch" and battles of El Alamein and Stalingrad, somebody had the idea of making a film which would celebrate the allied soldiers fighting in the desert when in the same time being a nice gesture towards the Soviets - a Hollywood adaptation of "The Thirteen".
The film, released ultimately in November 1943, became a great success and was later remade twice more: in 1953 as a western "Last of the Comanches" (a.k.a. "The sabre and the arrow") and in 1995 again under the title "Sahara", with James Belushi taking over the main role once played by Victor McLaglen in 1934 and Humphrey Bogart in 1943.
2. The film
The action of this film takes place in 1942 immediately after the battle of Gazala (26 May - 21 June), which was Rommel's greatest and most brilliant victory ever - therefore ipso facto it was also a particularly difficult time for the British forces in North Africa, as their great fortress of Tobruk was lost and they were forced to retire deep into Egypt... In this film it was decided to add some American troops to British 8th Army even if in reality not even a single US soldier fought in North Africa before the operation "Torch" in November 1942.
Therefore, at the beginning of the film we can see five American trying desperately to repair their damaged tank "Lulu Belle" to avoid capture by Germans. Their leader is Sergeant Joe Gunn played by Humphrey Bogart in person. One the crewmembers, Fred Clarkson is played by Lloyd Bridges who, even if he is today more remembered for his "Airplane" and "Hot Shots" comedy roles in the 80s and 90s, was already in this time an experienced actor and since he began his career in 1936 "Sahara" was already his 43rd film!
A little bit later in the film the five Americans will be joined by five "Limeys", a Sudanese sergeant from British Army, his Italian prisoner and a Free French corporal. The presence in this time and in this place of Free French troops, which fought excellently at Bir Hakeim, a battle waged in the same time as the greater Gazala fight further north, is actually a historical fact. The last to join this group - very, VERY unwillingly - will be a Luftwaffe pilot, whose plane was shot down. Those fourteen ill-assorted companions and "Lulu Belle" will try to make it back to allied lines by going through the deep desert, when avoiding roaming German patrols, some of them pretty large and heavily armed. Then, of course, they will at one moment find a little abandoned oasis with a very small but incredibly precious water hole... And then the film really begins.
3. My general impressions about the film
It is a rather good war film and it is always a pleasure to watch Bogie in any film - as far as I am concerned I would watch him even in a commercial for broccoli...))) The desert and the abandoned oasis are very well filmed and the black and white actually adds to the charm of the film rather than diminishing it. Action scenes are not half bad, even if they are NOT so many and the ending is particularly STRONG!
That being said, the propaganda character of this film is obvious from the beggining to the end and many dialogs are actually just the recitation of slogans - and with time it becomes a little bit annoying. I found also amusing and very naive the attempts to explain that ultimately Christianity and Islam (the Sudanese sergeant is Muslim), well, it is more or less the same thing...))) The German pilot character is so evil that he is obviously a total caricature - as is, in the different register, the hapless and pathetic Italian prisoner Giuseppe...
4. Lulu Belle
The tank which carries the heroes deep into the desert and is their main weapon against the wandering Germans hordes is a M3 Lee, a medium tank introduced into service in US Army in August 1941, of which many hundreds were delivered to United Kingdom as part of lend and lease agreement. The M3 Lee was quite heavily armored and powerfuly armed, with one 75 mm and one 37 mm gun, as well as four machine guns. It took no less than six men to operate a M3 Lee. Many of those tanks took part in battle of Gazala and they performed well, as they were actually more powerful than Wehrmacht's Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks used in this time - still, Rommel's superior tactics allowed Germans to destroy and capture most of British tanks at Gazala. The M3 Lee and its improved version, M3 Grant, served in first line until the end of war in North Africa in April 1943 - after that, all the survivors were replaced by the much superior M4 Sherman.
At least 1300 of those tanks were also delivered to Soviet Union beginning with the end of 1941 and initially they served well, but with the arrival in summer 1942 on the Eastern Front of German new Panzer IVF2 tanks and Pak 40 75mm anti-tank guns, they became much, much more vulnerable. In 1943, with casualties mounting, their Soviet crews started to call them "Six brother's grave" but so great were the needs of Red Army that they continued to be used in the first line until the apocalyptic Kursk battle in July 1943. After this monumental fight the few that were left were send to secondary sectors, like Arctic Front.
This film is definitely the best occasion for all military history freaks to see a M3 Lee in action - a lot!
CONCLUSION: for all reasons explained above, this is a quite interesting war film. Not exactly a masterpiece, somehow aged and certainly damaged a little by the heavily served propaganda, but still quite worth seeing. Enjoy!
on September 6, 2012
I like this movie because it is a good old clean film with a good mix of battle scenes and human story-telling. It is not too one-sided with all action but no thought of characterization, nor is it all about human drama absent of action. The action is of course far more muted than war movies of recent years, but to show too much blood and guts fighting in that time was something of a taboo. I think the movie was well-balanced. As I do not know what tank crews actually experienced in the heat of the Saharan day, I won't comment on the somewhat lack of impact the hot sun had on the cast members. I do think, however, that the tank would have been like a bake-oven, and making repairs on a tank that had been running, at mid-day, would have been too hot to touch. But as I never rode on a tank in such weather, I'll let go of that one. I thought the movie very good.