DATELINE: Bogie in a Tank
Seventy-six years old, and still modern. It is called Sahara from 1943. That is the condition of the new HD version of Humphrey Bogart’s best World War II movie.
It was meant to be a throwaway propaganda piece. Director Zoltan Korda made something far more reaching and lasting.
You can take all the clichés here and wrap them up as a gift. Three lost American soldiers in a tank (Bogart as Sgt. Gunn, Dan Duryea and Bruce Bennett) motivate their lone tank, Lulubelle, across the desert south to avoid the Nazi onslaught.
Along the way they meet a bunch of ragtag men without units: South African, Sudanese, Dublin, France, and even an Italian prisoner of war.
The cast is your exemplary second-banana team, including Lloyd Bridges and J. Carroll Naish. Every costar is given a big scene in which he bares a soul to the others and has a moment of glory.
There is plenty of foreshadowing with talk of miracles, and the dirty bunch end up at some abandoned mosque in the middle of nowhere with a dry well. Well, not so dry. There is a trickle of water to give them life and hope.
Rex Ingram, notable black actor and director, has a particularly large role and heroic one as Tambul. When a Nazi officer resists being searched by Ingram, Bogart tells him not to worry: the black won’t rub off on his pretty uniform.
The movie is loaded with timeless bits that were the stuff of a great America.
Korda even films one moment of flowing sand that is a mirage: it looks like cascading water.
The Nazis are ruthless and nasty, demanding “Wasser,” and dying of thirst while a handful of rainbow troops from all manner of places and races holds them off in a kind of Alamo stand. It was filmed at Palm Springs desert, but you’d swear you were in Africa.
You owe yourself to see what a studio could produce in its heyday of glory.