Tuesday, November 20, 2001


Of the "action in the desert" movies of the time, this ranks between GUNGA DIN and FOUR FEATHERS for me. GUNGA DIN is a more exciting film--what action there is in GESTE consists primarily of soldiers firing guns from a fort at marauding Arabs on horseback, with no close-up brawling or fighting as in DIN. It's closer to the atmosphere of FOUR FEATHERS (family, loyalty, courage, respect) with a plotline concerning three brothers who enter the Foreign Legion to escape scandal. It's not really a spoiler to note that it's clear from early on that the brothers are not at the root of the scandal, the apparent theft of a precious jewel from their family home. In fact, the movie is more like a mystery. The jewel theft is the more traditional puzzle that eventually gets explained. The other mystery is what is behind the discovery at the beginning of the film of a desert fort "defended" by dozens of corpses standing in place along the parapet. (I got "parapet" from an online summary of the film, and I had to look it up to make sure I was using it correctly, because my only other acquaintance with the word is Mel Brooks' raunchy metaphor of "walking the parapet" in BLAZING SADDLES!). That opening scene is still powerfully creepy. The performances are fine, better than in FOUR FEATHERS, although Gary Cooper, playing Beau, isn't quite up to the whimsey and childlike aura that is supposed to be part of Beau's character. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. might have been a better choice. Ray Milland and Robert Preston are quite good as the other brothers, and Brian Donlevy practically steals the movie as the sadistic commander. A very young Susan Hayward is the love interest who, as in most movies of this type, vanishes early on and returns briefly at the end. An enjoyable movie, certainly equal to its strong reputation.