DESERT COMMAND (directors: Colbert Clark/Armand Schaefer; screenwriter: story by Alexander Dumas/Ben Cohen/Colbert Clark/Barney SareckyWyndham Gittens; cinematographers: Tom Galligan/Ernst Miller; editor: Ray Snyder; music: Lee Zahler; cast: John Wayne (Tom Wayne), Lon Chaney Jr. (Lt. Armand Corday), Raymond Hatton (Renard), Jack Mulhall (Clancy), Francis X Bushman (Schmidt), Ruth Hall (Elaine Corday), Robert Frazer (Major Booth), Noah Berry Jr. (Stubbs), Edward Peil Jr. (Ratkin), Gordon De Main (Colonel Duval), Rodney Hildebrand (Colonel Demoyne), Al Ferguson (Ali), Hooper Atchley (El Kadur), George Magrill (El Maghreb); Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Levine; Alpha Home Entertainment; 1946)
“Though ridiculous, it’s action-packed entertainment that captures in a disarming way how Wayne became a popular star early on in his career.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors Colbert Clark and Armand Schaefer(“The Three Musketeers”) have fun with this escapist Three Musketeer cliff-hanger romp in the Sahara Desert, with John Wayne leading the way as an adventurous American pilot. It’s the condensed version of the 1933 Mascot 12-installment serial “The Three Musketeers,”that was released in 1946 as a movie cobbled together from archive footage. It reduces the 210-minute serial to a 72-minute film, and as one would think there’s a lot missing in the choppy editing. It’s loosely inspired by Alexander Dumas’s classic The Three Musketeers, and is inanely written by Clark, Ben Cohen, Barney Sarecky and Wyndham Gittens. Though ridiculous, it’s action-packed entertainment that captures in a disarming way how Wayne became a popular star early on in his career.
American Lt. Tom Wayne (John Wayne), stationed with the American embassy in Paris, flies his small plane over the Sahara Desert to visit his girl friend Elaine Corday (Ruth Hall) in North Africa and ends up using his machine gun to rescue the pinned down in a foxhole Three Musketeers–the Brooklyn native Clancy (Jack Mulhall), the Dutchman Schmidt (Francis X Bushman) and the French native Renard (Raymond Hatton)–as scores of Arab horsemen wipe out their company of French Foreign Legionnaires. We learn the Arabs, under a sinister leader of the Devil’s Circle, called El Shaitan, is planning to over-run the Foreign Legion and is conducting a campaign of gunrunning. To get Tom out of the way, the mysterious El Shaitan forces Elaine’s Legion brother, Lt. Armand Corday (Lon Chaney Jr.), to frame Tom as a gunrunner. When Tom is arrested in Paris, he escapes and returns to the Sahara to try and clear his name. Armand recants and writes a letter exonerating Tom, but is killed by El Shaitan and the part of the letter telling of the frame-up is missing. When Elaine believes Tom killed her brother and he’s now wanted as a murderer, he’s helped by the grateful Three Musketeers. When the sand finally clears in the desert, the reign of terror ends, the surprise identity of El Shaitan is revealed and Elaine flies with Tom to Paris to marry him.
There’s probably no reason for someone who is not a fan of the Duke to like the film. But, let me tell you Pilgrim, this is a pleasing John Wayne film for better or worse. Also, Wayne’s pal, Yakima Canutt, excels as a stuntman.
REVIEWED ON 5/4/2014 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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