Wed 19 Apr 2017
THE BLACK TENT. J. Arthur Rank, UK, 1956. Donald Sinden, Anthony Steel, Anna Maria Sandri, André Morell, Terence Sharkey, Donald Pleasence. Screenplay: Bryan Forbes & Robin Maugham. Director: Brian Desmond Hurst.
Filmed in color on location in Libya, what you see on the screen in The Black Tent is often quite spectacular. Unfortunately this is one of those “travelogue” movies common in the late 50s — lots of great scenery in a far away location but not nearly enough story line to make you wonder if the effort in staying all the way to the end was worth the effort.
As the movie opens, it appears that a British officer, thought lost in the war ten years earlier, just may still be alive. If so, he would resume his role as owner of a vast and very valuable English estate. His brother undertakes the journey to north Africa to investigate.
The trail leads to a Bedoin tribe which, as it turns out, rescued Captain David Holland (Anthony Steel) during the war. Saving him from his injuries, he was gradually brought back to health, thanks to the loving care of the sheik’s daughter (a very young-looking Anna Maria Sandri).
If I were to tell you that this is a romance novel more than it is a war novel, you can probably write the story yourself from this point on. I hesitate saying more myself, mostly because there is so little to tell.
But if I were to say to you that the war scenes take up less than five minutes of the movie, while the marriage ceremony goes on for at least 15 minutes (or at least it seems that way), you will see what I mean.
There is at the end a very large decision to be made, one that, when revealed, should come as no surprise to anyone watching. All it does. in spite of some very nice photography and one or two good scenes — no more — is to emphasize the overall lack of luster the movie had all along.