When the four Nazi escaped prisoners show up, three of them wear overalls with big letters of PW on their backs. Actor Kurt Kreuger is wearing a military uniform which would never have been allowed. All prisoners would have either PW or POW on their backs. See more »
Fun wartime remake of THE PETRIFIED FOREST (1936) moves at a fast clip...
This updated cinematic remake of Robert E. Sherwood's 1935 play "The Petrified Forest" concerns four Nazi prisoners-of-war terrorizing the occupants of an isolated gas station deep in the California desert. Will these arrogant, vicious escapees manage to make it to the Mexican border in a stolen vehicle or be discovered and apprehended by the local authorities?
As a fan of Dutch actor Philip Dorn (RANDOM HARVEST, I REMEMBER MAMA) and Austrian actor Helmut Dantine (CASABLANCA, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA), this film was wish fulfillment for me because it was a joy to see Dorn and Dantine in the lead roles of a heroic Dutch protagonist (based on Leslie Howard's role as the philosophical Alan Squier) and a ruthless, cold-blooded Nazi (based on Humphrey Bogart's role as bank robber Duke Mantee), respectively. And it was also a delicious treat to see German character actor Rudolph Anders (THE MORTAL STORM, THE GREAT DICTATOR) as a wide-eyed Nazi thug who is treated with a toothache by dentist Alan Hale as Hale is held hostage. Enhancing the entertaining story were the moody black-and-white cinematography by Robert Burks (STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, VERTIGO) and fast-paced direction by Edward A. Blatt (BETWEEN TWO WORLDS).
I haven't seen the original film version of THE PETRIFIED FOREST and I'm not particularly a big fan of Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, and Bette Davis but I might give it a try someday after seeing this remake. And as for ESCAPE IN THE DESERT, it's a lot of fun seeing the typically cultured, intelligent Philip Dorn playing an action hero and beating the crap out of Helmut Datine in a stolen car that's about to crash and explode like a cliffhanger in a Republic serial! Unrealistic? Sure. Suspenseful? Of course. A lot of fun for classic film fans? Yes!
Unfortunately, the film was rushed into production to capitalize on the real-life Camp Papago Park escape of 25 German POWs in Phoenix, Arizona in December 1944 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Papago_Park). It was released on May 1, 1945 and the war in Europe was coming to a close then. Audiences weren't interested in a film based on old news and critics were certainly displeased towards a wartime remake of Robert E. Sherwood's famous play. But to a fan of Dantine, Dorn, and Anders the film is enormous fun. Just don't expect a masterpiece and have an entertaining excursion for 80 minutes.
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