LEGEND OF THE LOST
(director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriter: Ben Hecht/Robert Presnell, Jr.; cinematographer: Jack Cardiff; editor: Bert Bates; music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino; cast: John Wayne (Joe January), Sophia Loren (Dita), Rossano Brazzi (Paul Bonnard), Kurt Kasznar (Prefect Dukas); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Hathaway; MGM; 1957)
“This was the only time Loren and Wayne appeared together on film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Spare us from tedious adventure tales that have a thin plot, are completely loony and the three stars are miscast! Local prostitute and thief Dita (Sophia Loren) treks through the Sahara Desert, clad in a formal dress, as a batty dame looking for salvation from her sinful life; Paul Bonnard (Rossano Brazzi) is a religious nut from Europe posing as a wealthy do-gooder, clad in a suit, looking for gold in a lost city his father wrote him about during an expedition ten years ago he never returned from; Joe January (John Wayne) is the practical American hard-drinking drifter turned into a guide by dire circumstances, wearing a guide’s outfit he could have picked up off the rack in a 5th Avenue department store, who takes the obsessed treasure hunter out in the desert even though he thinks he’s dealing with a fool. The best moment is when Wayne casts an eye across the vast desert wasteland (beautifully filmed on location in Libya and with several breathtaking shots of the Bedouins crossing the desert) and exclaims “A couple of men and a dame are a strain on any civilization.” And there you have it in a nutshell, what this film was ultimately all about.
Bonnard arrives in Timbuktu, and when the greedy Prefect Dukas learns of his intentions to go to the Sahara for a fee gets him as a guide Joe January–currently sleeping off a drinking binge in the jail. After Dita steals Bonnard’s watch and he refuses to press charges, even letting her keep it, she falls in love with him and even though not wanted tags along in the desert. Once in the desert Bonnard announces that he’s on a mission to locate the treasure in the ruins of the ancient holy city of Timgrad, a place his religious father discovered and sent him a map of its location. The father said he wished to get the treasure so he could build a refuge for the needy. When this odd trio finds the lost city, which is not Timgrad but an ancient Roman unholy city, they also find the skeletal remains of Bonnard’s father, his guide and a woman. Reading a letter left behind, it turns out the old man was filling his son’s head with lies and was really a greedy pig not a devoutly religious person. The letter professes a love for this Cairo woman and telling her to join him in spending all their new wealth together in a hedonistic life. Evidently she hit it off with the guide and the jealous father killed both of them and then took his own life. When rubies and valuable gems are found, the disillusioned son chucks all his previous ponderous religious sermons and becomes insane like his father, and steals the treasures while criminally abandoning the other two with hardly any water to survive. But, wouldn’t you know it, Wayne and Loren, who at first couldn’t stand each other, fall in love and survive their ordeal, while Brazzi dies in the desert at the hands of Loren!
This was the only time Loren and Wayne appeared together on film, which is okay by me–I didn’t see any thing special in their romantic moments. The cleverest bit of directing from Hathaway is putting a rip in Loren’s dress over her right breast. Ben Hecht and Robert Presnell, Jr. come up with a dullish script that is incredible in only how insipid it is.
REVIEWED ON 5/27/2005 GRADE: C