A year after he made the classic film Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart starred as Sergent Joe Gun, who with a mix of soldiers are forced to face down a squad of Nazi’s during the height of WWII. There were plenty of war films during this time and Sahara is one of my personal favorites.
Navigating his tank Lullabelle with a ragtag group of soldiers aboard, Bogie ventures deep into the Sahara Desert with the hopes of finding something just as vital to their survival as their allies – water. Managing to find a nearly dried up well, the men get to rest and try to come up with a plan. That is until they realize a squadron of Nazi’s are just as desperate for water as they are and are headed their way.
Now this eclectic mix of soldiers are forced to make a stand at the well. They either have to hold off the German’s until backup arrives, the water runs completely out or they are killed. It’s a rough situation.
There’s a lot to like about Sahara. First you have Bogie, who was at his peak of popularity. His tough attitude and good-hearted screen persona was by now already sealed. He’s the classic Bogart here. He might not be wearing the trenchcoat and hat, but he looks awful cool in his army outfit.
Then we have the never-can-miss story of a group of outnumbered good guys who are forced to deal with an insurmountable situation. This always has the makings for some great drama. So many war films have used this setup and when it’s done well it can be suspenseful and inspiring. Here it’s done very well.
On top of all of that, this particular war films takes place in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Separated by their command, the German enemy heading their way along with the desert heat, sand and lack of water in their mouths adds even more tension and problems the characters have to deal with.
The film does slip into the flag waving mode that was prevalent at the time. There is clearly a ‘despite our differences we have to work together’ – kind of message illustrated by some of the scenes and dialogue. These lessons can feel clunky and preachy now, but that’s the message Hollywood was trying to get across with these war films at the time. They weren’t just meant to be entertaining, but also help the war effort by inspiring everyone.
It is somewhat blatant watching it now that every character in the film has some redeeming qualities, except the Nazi who has no shadings at all. He’s just plain bad and can’t be trusted, but you need a villain and that’s what they wanted the public to accept.
Despite that it’s a unique and satisfying WWII war film and one that I find a very entertaining one to watch.