Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sahara (1995) – the one with Jim Belushi

                For those of you who are not war movie fanatics or are able to erase bad memories, there was a remake of the Humphrey Bogart classic starring Jim Belushi.  I kid you not!  It appeared on TV in 1995 and I believe I watched it when it premiered.  That’s right – I had no life even back then.  The movie was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith (“The Siege of Firebase Gloria”).  He used extras from the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Army for the Germans.
the guy on the left is not Humphrey Bogart, trust me
                The movie opens with faux newsreel to review the situation in North Africa in June, 1942.  A lone M3 Lee tank (a real one) is commanded by Sgt. Joe Gunn (Belushi).   It’s his baby.  They pass through a battlefield full of corpses until they encounter some Brits.  They head into the Qatar Depression where they pick up a Sudanese soldier and his Italian prisoner.  A German fighter (actually a British Hurricane) attacks and Gunn shoots it down.  The pilot bails out at a ridiculously low altitude, but survives for plot purposes.  He is a racist Nazi, of course.  The motley crew reach a fort, but the well has only a trickle.  Each man gets only three swallows at a time.  The water is “sweet – just like a woman.”  The Italian endears himself by helping fix the tank and spouting off against Mussolini.  There is a nice little scrimmage with a German patrol that features actual bullet holes and blood (we’ve come a long way since the Bogart version).  With 500 thirsty Germans coming, Gunn decides holding the fort will save Cairo.  This decision commits the movie to “who will survive?” mode.  Short answer: not many.  The deaths of the main characters are consistent and varied.  A good quiz for after the movie would be to match the character with his death.  For an easy bonus:  true or false – the soldier that shows off a picture of his girl, ends up dying.  Fast forward to the end – they are responsible for the British victory at El Alamein.
the tank that won the Battle of El Alamein
                “Sahara” sticks pretty closely to the original script so it was obviously intended to bring a color version to a new generation.  In that respect it succeeds fairly well.  If you have not seen the original, this is an acceptable substitute.  It’s the pyrite version.  Besides the color, you do get more realistic combat with more authentic wounds.  Actually, I don’t remember a single German being just wounded.  The mortality rate is 100%.  The two despicable Germans get what they deserve.  Some of the good guy deaths are surprising and poignant.  The acting is acceptable.  No one embarrasses themselves, including Belushi.  He actually is comfortable in the role if you can get beyond prejudice against him as an actor.  The dialogue is not terrible and there is some character development of the “where ya from?” ilk.  The music is TVesque.

                I know you were expecting me to rip this movie apart and I am sorry if you are disappointed.  Those of you who follow this blog know that I am not enamored with classic war movies.  Older does not automatically mean great.  The original “Sahara” is a very good movie and did not need a remake, but to judge the new one on its own merits is only fair.  It is a decent little time waster and a nice effort for a made-for-TV movie.  Get over the fact that it stars Jim Belushi.

  GRADE  =  C


  1. Good write up! I'm watching it as this is being typed. This is the second viewing, and it's as good as the first one. Also, I am a Belushi fan and that adds to the enjoyment of seeing a SERIOUS performance by an erstwhile actor. Thank you for mentioning it. Take care.

  2. Wow, a Jim Belushi fan (the one and only?). Seriously, he is not a bad actor and does fine in this role.

  3. It's always bad when the viewer has a more logical battle plan than the combatants in the movie. Had the Germans waited for nightfall, they would have had no problem overunning the fortress, instead they did head on attacks in daylight and lost more than half their number. Movie directors think we're stupid.

  4. Bogart was better as the Sgt... But the remake is OK.

    If I remember correctly, its based on (highly dramatized) a small group that did hold a well vs overwhelming odds during WWII.

    Its not that the viewer might have a better battle plan... its a docudrama. The plan is essentially fact and worked.

    The small group was a bit larger than in the movie... But "The Alamo" movies only show a few defenders when there were about 200 defenders. (reports vary slightly over 180 to almost 260)

  5. I love your review. I read the plot and said "well this sounds bloody terrible, they're all going to die". I looked at my husband and said "the geniuses are going to take a stand against a troop of Nazis at a waterhole". How bad was it? Meh.. Reading your review was the best part, thanks it was great.


Please fell free to comment. I would love to hear what you think and will respond.