Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sahara (1943 movie)
Sahara is a 1943 film starring Humphrey Bogart as a tank commander of an American expeditionary force assigned to British forces during the Egypt campaigns of World War II. When the tank is separated from the main force during a retreat before Rommel's forces, the crew picks up stragglers (British doctor and troops, Free French soldier, a Sudanese Muslim, and an Italian POW) and begins seeking water for survival. They soon find an oasis with a well but then must defend the oasis when a large battalion of German troops, as thirsty as they are, show up. A stand-off and battle of willpower begins...
War movie cliches
The movie is filled with standard war movie cliches, most obviously as in most American war movies that the heroes are culturally and ethnically diverse (with the black Sudanese covering the fact that U.S. forces were segregated during the war). All of the characters have distinctive traits (British, French, African, Italian, German) reflecting the international scope of Allied efforts against the Nazis (even the captured Italian soldier becomes an ally, as opposed to a captured German pilot who remains evil throughout) except for Bogart's heroic leader, who simply refers to himself as an 'American'. The movie, however, excels in working with the cliches to make for effective characterizations.
The movie's final third is the dramatic stand-off and fight for control of the oasis well, which has dried up by the time the German forces arrive. Thinking they could at least delay these Germans from attacking the main Allied forces, the heroes pretend the well is still active and try to trade water for the Germans' guns. Eventually the Germans attack, and most of the Allied troops die heroically. The conclusion turns on two 'miraculous' plot points: the final German assault turns into a full-blown surrender as thirsty Germans claw across the sand toward the well, and everyone discovers that all the tank firing had shaken the ground enough for the well to tap into another bountiful water source. The movie ends with news of Montgomery's victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, implying the dead heroes had not died in vain.
Awards and recognition
The movie has gone on to be something of a cult film, considered one of the better at-war movies made during the Second World War itself and is regularly shown on the cable channel American Movie Classics. A television remake starring Jim Belushi in Bogart's role was filmed in 1995.
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