Friday, June 13, 2014


Charles Holland's brother David (Anthony Steel) was reported dead in action in North Africa during the war; years later, a claim for native reparations with his name on it comes to the attention of Charles (Donald Sinden) who heads off to the desert to find the Bedouin tribe that presented the claim. In flashback, we get David's story: in 1942, badly wounded in a skirmish with the Germans, David made his way to a Bedouin camp and collapsed. The men of the group, tying to stay neutral, are a little nervous but young Mabrouka, daughter of Sheik Salem ben Yussff, tends to him and as he recovers, a romantic attraction develops about which the Sheik is not pleased as she is already promised to another Bedouin. When a German patrol arrives, Mabrouka hides David in some nearby ruins. The man to whom Mabrouka is engaged winds up betraying David, and the Sheik eventually sides with David to fight off a Nazi patrol. He gives his daughter to David in marriage and soon Mabrouka is pregnant, but when David finds out that British troops are near, he feels compelled to join them. On the way, he sacrifices himself to save the Sheik. Back in the present day, as Charles learns the truth, he tries to talk Mabrouka into letting him take their light-skinned child back to England to claim his inheritance.

An odd little film; not a war movie as implied by the poster, but a romantic melodrama set against a war background, and an action movie fan would not find much excitement here. The whole idea of the Anglo falling for the Exotic Other and going native is hardly new—this was the basis of many romance films from Valentino's THE SHIEK onward—nevertheless, the plot is just different enough to hold interest. I've just recently discovered the minor pleasures of Anthony Steel as a B-movie leading man, and he is good in this, though Andre Morrell may be better as the Sheik who actually grows and changes during the film (as do both Holland brothers, leading to an ending which is predictable but satisfying). A young Donald Pleasance with a duskied-up face has a small role. Not bad for a second-feature melodrama. [Netflix streaming]

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