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TEN TALL MEN (director/writer: Willis Goldbeck; screenwriters: Roland Kibbee/Frank Davis/story by James Warner Bellah & Willis Goldbeck; cinematographer: William Snyder; editor: William Lyon; music: ; cast: Burt Lancaster (Sergeant Mike Kincaid), Gilbert Roland (Corporal Luis Delgado), Jody Lawrance (Mahla), George Tobias (Londos), Mike Mazurki(Roshko), Nick Dennis (Mouse), Kieron Moore (Corporal Pierre Molier), John Dehner (Jardine), Gerald Mohr (Kayeed Hussein), Raymond Greenleaf (Sheik Ban Allal), Robert Clary (Mossul), Ian MacDonald (Lustig), Stephen Bekassy (Lt. Kruger), Mari Blanchard (Marie DeLatour), Donald Randolph (Yussif), Gene Gary (Orderly), Gregory Gay (Major Bertot); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Hecht; Columbia Pictures; 1951)
Goofy, tongue-in-cheek, escapist adventure film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Goofy, tongue-in-cheek, escapist adventure film set in the Sahara Desert among a group of rowdy French Foreign Legionnaires trying to delay a tribal Riff attack on their headquarters city of Tarfa until their regiment returns from a maneuvers exercise led by Major Bertot (Gene Gary). Not taken seriously for a New York second by director Willis Goldbeck (“Dr. Gillespie’s New Assistant”/”Three Men in White”/”Love Laughs at Andy Hardy”), who shoots it in a face pace and bases the breezy film on a story he wrote with James Warner Bellah. The writers, Roland Kibbee & Frank Davis, allow for broad comedy and a farcical over-the-top climax that gives it a happy Hollywood ending.

Two-fisted ladies man, Sergeant Mike Kincaid (Burt Lancaster), is jailed by temporary Legionnaire post commander, the unlikable twit Lt. Kruger (Stephen Bekassy), for slugging him over a hot new dancer (Mari Blanchard) in the local nightclub that the officer considers off-limits to any other Legionnaire. In jail the sergeant shares his water and a salami smuggled into jail by his two loyal corporal friends, Luis Delgado (Gilbert Roland) and Pierre Molier (Kieron Moore), with the Riff captive Yussif (Donald Randolph) he arrested in the morning in the hopes of finding the location of Kayeed Hussein (Gerald Mohr), the warlike leader of the Riffs. The holy Islamic prisoner rewards the sergeant’s kindness by telling him to escape from Tarfa or he will be dead, as all the tribes in the area plan an attack on Tarfa tomorrow because they know the full regiment is not there. The sergeant thereby talks Kruger into allowing him to take a mostly lovable band of petty criminal prisoners in jail and his two corporal friends, making it ten in all, to be heroes in diverting the Arab tribes by guerilla warfare tactics until the major returns and in turn all volunteers, if in need, will receive a full-pardon.

The soldiers while raiding a Riff encampment at night, discover Sheik Ban Allal’ (Raymond Greenleaf) daughter Mahla (Jody Lawrance) is set to marry rival tribal leader Hussein so the enemies can unite as friends and tomorrow in full strength both tribes will attack Tarfa. The sergeant executes the kidnapping of Mahla in the hopes he can keep the feisty princess captive for five days and have the tribes halt their attack to rescue the would-be bride, and then he’ll join the major in Tarfa.

The so-so pic was tailor-made for the rugged-looking Lancaster to prove his mettle, once again, as both a ladies man and a man’s man, as he carries off his dashing role with aplomb in this minor film that might entertain some more than others.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”