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Not Casablanca, but enjoyable.
on December 21, 2014
I was expecting something in the vein of a post-Casablanca film, with Bogart in the desert fighting against the Nazis. Instead, the movie is set in Syria in 1925 and Bogart's character is supplying arms to the Syrians who are fighting the French in order to enforce the Mandate given to them by the League of Nations. The French are facing an urban insurrection and are proposing to execute hostages. Lee J. Cobb as the French officer in charge of intelligence wants to meet with the Emir leading the insurrection to propose a cease fire. Cobb has a mistress who ignites Bogarts interest. Complications ensue. Lee J. Cobb braves death and Bogart's character - like Rick Blaine - has to decide whether he is going to be a man or the weasel everyone thinks he is.
I found the historical elements fascinating, as if they were from a different world, which they were, namely, the pre-World War II world, where France was a victorious military power and viewed the execution of colonials as the price of doing business. The movie was made in 1951, and is based on a pre-World War II book, so the memories of that world were still fresh (and still existed in French Indochina and Madagascar and Algeria.)
Seeing a young Lee J. Cobb is fun also, and he doesn't disappoint in his role as a noble French officer. Bogart is good also, but this character is not Rick Blaine, albeit he has Rick's cunning and knowledge of the world. The female lead - Marta Toren - didn't make the sale for me. She seemed vapid, disloyal,annoying and mercenary, which she probably was, but it wasn't a major prop to move the story forward.
This is not Casablanca caliber. Except for the history part, and viewing this as a kind of Bogart completist, I give this a four. It was decent and had enough hooks to keep my interest.