Tuesday, August 08, 2006


A rather drab desert melodrama that is technically a sequel to the silent BEAU GESTE (better known by classic movie buffs from the 1939 remake), carrying over a couple of major characters from the original story about a group of brothers and their adventures in the Foreign Legion. In this, one of the brothers (John, played by Ralph Forbes who played the same role in the silent film) is accused of insubordination and given 10 years of hard labor in the Legion's penal battalion. Back in England, Forbes' American childhood buddy (Lester Vail) finds out from Forbes' fiancee (Loretta Young) about his predicament. Though (or perhaps because) Vail also loves Young, he decides to join the Legion to find Forbes. He tries to provoke his commander into throwing him into the prisoner detail, but his heart isn't really into being subordinate. Nevertheless, during a long desert march gone wrong, Vail is accused (wrongly) of mutiny and ends up in the penal detail. He is put into a deep underground cell with a handful of other men, one of whom is Forbes, and they all wind up being left to starve when a native uprising leaves everyone above ground dead. Just as Forbes and Vail, the last two left alive, are about to expire, the arrival of an Arabian emir saves them. There is more plot surrounding the central narrative, mostly involving the tricky relationship between Vail and an Arabian princess (Leni Stengel), known as the Angel of Death, and the film ends with Vail leaving Stengel, whom Forbes refers to as a "half-caste dancing girl," to head back to England with Forbes. The movie is fairly well made and moves along at a decent pace. The plot does not unfold in chronological order, which gives the movie an effective and intense opening scene involving the dying Legionnaires in the pit. The main weakness is the acting, very much of the old-fashioned melodramatic declaiming style. Vail is OK, but not memorable, and Young has only a very small role. [DVD]

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