(director/writer: Zoltan Korda; screenwriter: short story by Philip MacDonald/James O’Hanlon/John Howard Lawson; cinematographer: Rudolph Maté; editor: Charles Nelson; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Sgt. Joe Gunn), Bruce Bennett (Waco Hoyt), Dan Duryea (Jimmy Doyle), Lloyd Bridges (Fred Clarkson), Rex Ingram (Sgt. Major Tambul), J. Carrol Naish (Giuseppe), Richard Nugent (Capt. Jason Halliday), Kurt Kreuger (Capt. von Schletow); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Joe Brown; Columbia Pictures; 1943)

“Thanks to the strong performance by Bogey, at his heroic best, it’s watchable.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s aremake of the 1937 Soviet film Trinadtsat (The Thirteen); it was later remade as a Western, Last of the Comanches (1953), starring Broderick Crawford. Zoltan Korda directs the all-male cast; it’s based on a short story by Philip MacDonald and scripted by Mr. Korda, James O’Hanlon and John Howard Lawson (one of the Hollywood Ten).

Tough Sergeant Joe Gunn (Humphrey Bogart) and two other survivors from his M-3 tank crew, Waco Hoyt (Bruce Bennett) and Jimmy Doyle (Dan Duryea), are retreating in their battered tank named Lulubelle in the Libyan desert after the Nazis overrun their detachment, allied to the British Eighth Army, in their losing battle at Tobruk. Following orders from their command center to retreat south, the only place the Germans don’t have them surrounded, they pick up a motley crew of stragglers that include five British soldiers from a medical unit including a doctor Captain Jason Halliday (Richard Nugent), a Frenchman, a Sudanese sergeant (Rex Ingram) with an Italian prisoner (J. Carrol Naish), and later capture Nazi Captain von Schletow (Kurt Kreuger)–his plane is shot down after killing Clarkson (Lloyd Bridges). The narrative acts as an allegory calling for brotherhood in the future world, as these different ethnics have to work together to survive while they search the desert for a well. When they find a mudhole, called an oases, they have to fight off a Nazi Army of 500, who want their water supply.

It’s hardly much more than a wartime propaganda film or are its allegorical pretensions realized without seeming forced, but thanks to the strong performance by Bogey, at his heroic best, it’s watchable and passes for a realistic actioner as far as Hollywood is concerned. What I learned from the film was that God was on the side of the Americans (now, that’s realistic!).