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DESTINATION GOBI (director/writer: Robert Wise; screenwriters: Everett Freeman/story by Edmund G. Love; cinematographer: Charles Clarke; editor: Robert Fritch; music: Sol Kaplan; cast: Richard Widmark (C.P.O. Sam McHale), Ross Bagdasarian (Sabatello), Earl Holliman (Svenson), Don Taylor (Jenkins), Casey Adams (Walter Landers), Darryl Hickman (Wilbur Cohen), Martin Milner (Elwood Halsey), Russell Collins (Cmdr. Wyatt), Murvyn Vye (Kengtu), Rudy Acosta(Tomek), Richard Loo (Commanding Officer, Japanese POW Camp); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stanley Rubin; 20th Century Fox; 1953)
Seems odd for awhile but drifts into the usual ‘B’ movie war story.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A somewhat entertaining WW11 action movie with a twist, it’s a Navy story set in the Gobi desert. Robert Wise efficiently directs this curio, allegedly based on fact, that seems odd for awhile but drifts into the usual ‘B’ movie war story. According to the introduction, in the Navy records the events covered in the film are recorded under “Saddles for Gobi.”

On November of 1944 decorated and veteran Chief Petty Officer Sam McHale (Richard Widmark) is called into military headquarters and told by the officer in charge that he’s assigned to a secret expeditionary weathermen mission in Inner Mongoli’s Gobi desert (filmed in the Arizona desert). Serving under Cmdr. Wyatt, the reluctant CPO is to be in charge of six weathermen whose mission is to observe the weather and relay it to the fighting units. The mission is run by SACO, a secret government agency to aid the war effort.

McHale is a by-the-book sailor, and gets the undisciplined youngsters at the weather station to conform doing things the Navy way by filling out forms for everything. The desert setting is in a remote area, where daytime is boiling and nighttime freezing. The men are surprised one day by a passing tribe of nomads, led by their chief Kengtu (Murvyn Vye). He might be illiterate, but he conveniently speaks English as well as any Brooklyn resident.

When warned of an impending Japanese attack against their station, the weathermen are informed that the Pentagon can’t spare soldiers to guard the outpost and that they must rely on their remoteness to keep them from the enemy. As a precaution, McHale orders 60 horse saddles from the Quartermaster Corps in the hopes of trading with the Mongol tribesmen for their support against the Japanese. When the Japanese planes drop bombs and destroy all the weather equipment and kill the commander, McHale takes charge and decides to go on foot across the desert to reach the sea and then secure a boat to Okinawa. The Mongols, who are untrustworthy, return their saddles rather than get involved in a fight with the Japanese. But the men push on, and as implausible as it is run into a camel salesman in the oasis. When the shifty salesman and his gang attempts to steal back the camels fails due to the Mongols coming to their rescue, the men don Mongol uniforms as a disguise from the Japanese patrols by air and cavalry and push on to the China sea.

Widmark barks orders out in a gruff manner as he leads his meteorologists through the wilderness to the “promised sea,” and the men bond with him and he predictably transforms them to sailors as they commandeer a Chinese junk boat and fight off a Japanese garrison where they just escaped as POW’s.

REVIEWED ON 12/10/2003 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”