Sahara is a thrilling Second World War drama based on an incident in the 1937 Russian film Trinadstat / The Thirteen. James O’Hanlon adapted it for the screen and John Howard Lawson (who would later fall foul of the McCarthy anti-Soviet witchhunt in Hollywood) and director Zoltan Korda wrote the excellent screenplay.
The film is set in the Libyan desert in 1942 where American Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart), Waco Hoyt (Bruce Bennett) and Jimmy Doyle (Dan Duryea) become isolated in their tank during the retreat to El Alamein. As they drive across the desert they pick up a group of Allied stragglers, Sudanese soldier Sergeant Tambul (Rex Ingram), his Italian prisoner Giuseppe (J Carrol Naish) and downed German pilot Captain Von Schletow (Kurt Kreuger). With their supplies of fuel, food and water diminishing, Gunn pushes on to reach a desert fortress where Tambul says there will be desperately needed water. But a large German detachment is also heading for the fortress…
The film contains some of the finest and most convincing sequences of desert warfare to come out of the Hollywood war factory, realistically captured by the stark, Academy Award-nominated photography of Rudolph Mate and vividly orchestrated by Korda. Time summed up the exemplary performances when it wrote: “Bogart is the only well-known actor in the cast. To say that he is as good as the rest of the cast is high praise.” Naish was rather more than equal and was nominated for an Academy Award.
USA / 1943
Director: Zoltan Korda
Writers: John Howard Lawson, Zoltan Korda, from a story by Philip MacDonald based on an incident in the Russian film The Thirteen
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram, J Carrol Naish, Dan Duryea, Richard Nugent, Louis T Mercier