Monday, June 01, 2015


Paramount really wanted this to be another CASABLANCA. The cast includes Peter Lorre, Paul Henreid, and Claude Rains, with Rains playing a rather amoral character who winds up being helpful to the hero just as his Captain Renault character was; some of the action is set in an exotic café that looks like Rick's; there are ceiling fans, gaming tables, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, an African setting, and a character named Renault, though in this case, a female. But calling attention to Casablanca does this film no favors, even though it's a fairly well done action melodrama in its own right. Diamanstadt in South Africa is basically a company town for the Colonial Diamond Company, which owns acres and acres of desert land rich in diamonds. Many people are tempted to trespass in the hope of finding loose diamonds in the sand, but they are always caught and punished by police chief Vogel (Henreid). Mike Davis (Burt Lancaster) is a safari guide for tourists, and when Ingram, one of his clients, runs off into the restricted territory, Davis goes after him. Ingram discovers a handful of diamonds but starving and dehydrated, dies when taken back off the land, and Davis refuses to tell Vogel the spot where the diamonds were found, despite a beating. Davis is unable to get work, and eventually comes back to Diamanstadt, intending to go back and claim the diamonds that Ingram didn't get. But still standing in his way is Vogel.

Rather than Casablanca, this really calls to mind TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, though this film is not as rich in acting or moral ambiguity. Lancaster is a solid lead, sort of an anti-hero, though cleaned up to be a full-fledged hero by the end, and Henried is more effective here as a sadistic villain (torturing Lancaster in the picture above) than as a suave but passive hero in Casablanca. French actress Corinne Calvet takes Ingrid Bergman's place as the exotic heroine, and she's quite good as a tart hired by a diamond company supervisor (Claude Rains) to get information out of Lancaster. Lorre is a weasely little fellow who pops in now and again, and Sam Jaffe is an alcoholic doctor whom both sides try to use to their advantage. There is eye candy in the person of the handsome John Bromfield as one of the diamond company guards. The film is a little slow getting going as all the story parts are put in place, but a vicious fight in the desert between Lancaster and Henried near the climax is quite exciting, and it's fun to see how all the just desserts are arranged. [DVD]

1 comment:

dfordoom said...

I do love tropical melodramas and I think this one works pretty well. Thoroughly enjoyable.