Wednesday 10 July 2024

Movie Review: Escape From Zahrain (1962)

Genre: Action Adventure  
Director: Ronald Neame  
Starring: Yul Brynner, Jack Warden, Sal Mineo, James Mason, Madlyn Rhue  
Running Time: 93 minutes  

Synopsis: American companies are exploiting the oil wealth of the (fictional) Arab country Zahrain. Imprisoned inspirational revolutionary leader Sharif (Yul Brynner) is freed in a daring rescue mission led by idealistic university student Ahmed (Sal Mineo). American embezzler Huston (Jack Warden) and maniacal murderer Tahar (Anthony Caruso) are accidental beneficiaries of the breakout. To escape across the desert, the group steals an ambulance and take nurse Laila (Madlyn Rhue) hostage, but army troops are in hot pursuit.

What Works Well: This B-movie ambulance desert trek carries echoes of Ice Cold In Alex and Sahara, while the Robin Estridge script, adapting a Michael Barnett book, offers basic but still perceptive commentary about foreign power resource exploitation in the Middle East. Director Ronald Neame pauses only briefly for conversations, preferring to keep the ambulance on the move and pointed towards trouble, including skirmishes with ground and air enemy forces, dwindling water and fuel supplies, unforgiving terrain, and internal group tensions. The talent-rich cast is allowed to dwindle in size as the hazards multiply, with James Mason stealing his one scene in an uncredited appearance.

What Does Not Work As Well: Character depth is lacking, some of the locales are painfully studio-set, and after a promising prologue, Sharif's enemies dissolve into a mirage of hardware operated by tactless troops.

Conclusion: Dusty, gritty, and a bit sunburnt.

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