Monday, June 20, 2011
Drums of the Desert (1940)
I keep forgetting to post a review of this film. It's something that has been on the must post list pretty much since I started this blog, but I never can find the time to sit down and actually wite up the film anew. To that end I'm going to respost the piece I put up at IMDB for the film so I can cross off another goodie off the list.
I'm going to make a stab at simply explaining the story of this film. Because there are a good many characters and a great many plot threads its going to sound much blander than it is since I'm compressing so much into so few lines (trust me its much better than this): Ralph Byrd plays a member of the French army stationed in Morocco. Taking a ship from France to Africa he meets and woos a young lady who suddenly disappears when the ship docks. Picking a contingent of Senegalese troops he heads off to his fort where he's to teach them to be paratroopers. Upon arriving at the fort he again meets the woman who has stolen his heart and who is the fiancé of one of the officers stationed there. While out on training maneuvers Byrd and his men are attacked by Arabs who want them out of the country. They manage to capture one of the attackers who is the brother of a sheik that Byrd had met on the ship from France. The brother denies his involvement to the sheik, who then plots revenge when the brother is executed.
This is a very breezy very complicated little movie moves like the wind. Byrd and the rest of the cast are excellent in this tale of conflicting loyalties, romance and action.
I must single out Mantan Moreland as the New York native now in charge of the paratroopers. Moreland, best known as Charlie Chan's butler Birmingham Brown gets to be an action star showing little of his trademark fear and anxiety as he charges in with his men on more than one occasion (his method of getting information will be positively frightening to Chan fans). Moreland also is allowed to be more than just comic relief in a role that is more than just jokes and reaction (The scene where he asks Byrd if they can bury one of his men with a parachute is especially touching). This film is more proof that Moreland was an under used actor.
I really liked this movie a great deal. Clearly a low budget programmer, this film some how rises above its humble origins to become an excellent little adventure film. Regrettably its not better known. This is one to keep an eye out for.