Review: Sahara

1920s-set car race flick in which Brooke Shields plays Dale Gordon, a rich daddy’s girl who masquerades as a man to enter the ‘Trans-Saharan International’ race, across the Sahara Desert (!). Women are forbidden to enter, but Dale promises her dying daddy (Steve Forrest, playing a good guy for once, albeit briefly) she’ll fulfil his dream by donning a phony moustache and hiding her long hair. Never mind that this ‘guy’ sure has purdy eyes and porcelain skin! But things don’t go according to plan for poor Dale, as she’s kidnapped by warrior John Rhys-Davies, and a handsome, young Arab ruler named Jaffar (Lambert Wilson, a Frenchman trying to be Omar Sharif, it seems) plans to make Dale his own (by this time the disguise has been discarded, by the way. Ain’t no man-man love in the Middle East, just ask the current leader of Iran!). At first, she resists, but then she sees his waterfall! (A waterfall in the fucking Sahara Desert? Just go with me here, OK?). Respectable British actor Sir John Mills (Yes, that Sir John Mills!) turns up as a displaced Brit amongst the locals, seemingly happy to be subservient, and advising defiant Shields to do the same. Ronald Lacey and Horst Buchholz play Snidely Whiplash-like, villainous race entrants, in the kinds of roles Donald Pleasence and Herbert Lom often played (and both have indeed appeared in films for Cannon Films).

The Cannon Group, makers of just about every film Chuck Norris, Michael Dudikoff, and Charles Bronson did in the 80s, produced/distributed such an overwhelming amount of crap during their time that when a halfway decent, competently made film comes along, it damn near sends me into hyperbole. This 1984 Andrew V. McLaglen (A B-western veteran of films like “The Rare Breed”, “Chisum”, “The Last Hard Man”) old-school adventure is actually not too bad, and I’m surprised by how badly it has been treated by critics. Sure, Shields couldn’t act her way out of a hat and makes for the least convincing cross-dresser since I dunno, “Tootsie”, but just about everything else here works...on a corny, brainless B-movie level.

I’m not sure the film’s attempt to market Frenchman Wilson as the screen’s next handsome foreign sex symbol quite comes off, with Wilson being OK next to Shields, but still rather bland. However, it looks surprisingly lavish for a Golan-Globus effort (i.e. It doesn’t look like it cost 50c), the supporting cast gets into the right hammy spirit (notably Rhys-Davies, that most subtle of character actors, having a whale of a time, though uber-villain Lacey’s not in the film often enough for my liking), and it’s overall quite watchable.

Well, I’ll be buggered! The Cannon Group have made a film that works rather well on its intended minor level. Who’d have thunk it? Scripted by James R. Silke (Cannon’s “Ninja III: The Domination”), the film also features a score by the great Ennio Morricone (“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, “The Untouchables”, “Once Upon a Time in the West”), though it’s not terribly memorable.

Rating: C+


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