|SWORD IN THE DESERT (director/writer: George Sherman; screenwriter: Robert Buckner; cinematographer: Irving Glassberg; editor: Otto Ludwig; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Dana Andrews (Capt. Dillon), Jeff Chandler (Kurta), Stephen McNally (David Vogel), Marta Toren (Sabra), Philip Friend (Lt. Ellerton), Hugh French (Maj. Sorrell), Lowell Gilmore (Maj. Stephens), Liam Redmond (Jerry McCarthy), Stanley Logan (Col. Bruce Evans), Hayden Rorke (Capt. Beaumont); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Buckner; TCM (Universal International); 1949-UK)|
historical thriller about illegal Jewish
immigrants smuggled into British-occupied
Palestine in 1947 by the Jewish underground."
by Dennis Schwartz
rare film about the conflict between the Brits and
the Jewish refugees after WWII,
just before the birth of Israel. It's the first film
dealing with this struggle of Jews from all over the
world seeking refuge in their homeland but denied
entry by a quota the Palestine Arabs forced on the
Brits. Shot in b/w, director George Sherman ("Against
All Flags"/"Johnny Dark"/"War Arrow") helms a fine
historical thriller about illegal Jewish immigrants
smuggled into British-occupied Palestine in 1947 by
the Jewish underground. Writer Robert
Buckner is relentless in making the Brits the
sole bad guys and the idealistic Jewish underground
the good guys, a reason the pic was banned in England
for a long time. A great cast keeps the action and
opens with the cynical American freighter captain,
Dillon (Dana Andrews), smuggling a ship full of Jewish
refugees from Europe onto the seacoast of Palestine.
The apolitical captain, doing it only for the money,
is forced to go with underground field leader Vogel (Stephen
McNally) to the beach to collect his
$8,000. When the Brits locate the illegals on the
beach, they will eventually imprison them after a
chase through the desert and also the leader of the
underground, Kurta (Jeff Chandler,
his first film role), whom they have never seen before.
The Brits bribe Dillon to point out Kurta and they
will release him. On Christmas Eve, near Bethlehem,
the underground raids the British prison camp and
frees the refugees and their leader, and Dillon
refuses to be a Judas.
Toren plays the feisty underground radio broadcaster,
who broadcasts anti-British propaganda. When not
broadcasting, she's McNally's chaste lover.
Liam Redmond robustly plays the Irish
fighter for the Jewish cause.
film can be criticized for its simplistic
understanding of the conflict, but by emotionally
identifying with the victimized Jews of WWII
it's hard not to applaud the heroics of the partisans
fighting for survival and the birth of a new state.
That the climax takes place on Christmas Eve, allows
the filmmakers to compare the struggle for a Jewish
state as not that different from what happened in the
Holy Land during the birth of Christianity.
REVIEWED ON 4/19/2015 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ