Sahara – Bogart at his heroic best
It’s a remake of the 1937 Soviet film Trinadtsat (The Thirteen); it was later remade as a Western, Last of the Comanches (1953), starring Broderick Crawford.
Zoltan Korda directs the all-male cast; it’s based on a short story by Philip MacDonald and scripted by Korda, James O’Hanlon and John Howard Lawson (one of the Hollywood Ten).
Tough Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) and two other survivors from his M-3 tank crew, Waco Hoyt (Bruce Bennett) and Jimmy Doyle (Dan Duryea), are retreating in their battered tank named Lulubelle in the Libyan desert after the Nazis overrun their detachment, allied to the British Eighth Army, in their losing battle at Tobruk.
Following orders from their command centre to retreat south, the only place the Germans don’t have them surrounded they pick up a disparate crew of stragglers that include five British soldiers from a medical unit including a doctor Captain Jason Halliday (Richard Nugent), a Frenchman, a Sudanese sergeant (Rex Ingram) with an Italian prisoner (J. Carrol Naish), and later capture Nazi Captain von Schletow (Kurt Kreuger)–his plane is shot down after killing Clarkson (Lloyd Bridges).
The narrative acts as an allegory calling for brotherhood in the future world, as these different ethnics have to work together to survive while they scour the desert for a well.
When they find a mud hole called an oases they have to fight off a Nazi Army of 500 who want their water supply.
It’s hardly much more than a wartime propaganda film or are its allegorical pretensions realized without seeming forced but thanks to the strong performance by Bogey, at his heroic best, it’s watchable and passes for a realistic action film as far as Hollywood is concerned.