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Young, lovely Naila becomes queen of the ancient Egyptian kingdom of Khemis when her father is killed in a slave revolt. Continuing her penchant for going incognito among the people, she seeks out rebel leader Herua. But through palace treachery, she herself is captured and enslaved. After various adventures, she finds herself rescued by (and attracted to) the very rebel she was seeking. Will gratitude or revenge win out? Gorgeous scenery and costumes. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Enjoyable romp in Ancient Egypt with Maria Montez and Jon Hall
SUDAN (1945) was the sixth and final film in a series of Technicolor costume adventures made by Universal Pictures from 1942-45 which starred the duo of Jon Hall and Maria Montez. The formula for these films included a lot of action, some comedy, a smattering of romance, and an exotic setting created on the Universal backlot. The earlier films were ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942), WHITE SAVAGE (1943), ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1944), COBRA WOMAN (1944), and GYPSY WILDCAT (1944).
SUDAN stars Montez as Naila, the daughter of the monarch of a small Egyptian city on the Nile who takes over after her father is murdered. She goes on an undercover mission to find Herua, the rebel leader who is blamed for the murder. She's captured, branded with the "S" mark of a slave (who knew the Ancient Egyptians used the Roman alphabet?), and sold to a slaver. There's a lot of escape, recapture and release in this one. At some point she is aided by two pickpockets, Merab and Nebka, played by Jon Hall and Andy Devine, one of whom (Hall) falls in love with her. She races her speedy golden stallion in a horse race and beats the handsome challenger (Turhan Bey) who also falls in love with her and takes her to his secret outpost in the mountains, a haven for escaped slaves. When she learns his identity, she has a crisis of conscience. Little does she know (as the viewers have known practically from the start) that her father's "trusted" adviser, Horadef (George Zucco), has been behind the evil doings all along, eager to get his hands on the throne and get rid of the young queen. At one point, Merab is imprisoned by Horadef and tortured by being bound to a large wheel and slowly "stretched." It looks less like torture than a simple chiropractic exercise and Hall comes out of it quite relaxed and seemingly sorry it ended.
There's quite a lot of action in this, with excellent second unit work shot on desert and mountain locations in the dry regions of southern California far to the east of Los Angeles and made to resemble Egypt's deserts and locations along the Nile. There's an exciting and well-staged horse race that may not rival the chariot race in BEN-HUR, but offers ample thrills for a comparatively low-budget film like this. The illusion of Ancient Egypt is further created by expert matte paintings used to supplement the studio sets. The illusion is, however, sometimes shattered by Andy Devine's comic antics, which would seem more at home in a western.
Montez is pretty and glamorous and seems unusually tolerant of the sweet nothings continually uttered to her first by Hall and then by Bey. The resulting romantic triangle has a rather startling resolution given the pattern established by the previous five outings for the starring team. George Zucco makes a suitably oily villain and familiar character actors pepper the proceedings, including the Three Stooges' constant foil, Philip Van Zandt, who plays one of Zucco's weasel-like henchmen. Tor Johnson, a famous wrestler and member of Ed Wood's notorious stock company, is listed in the cast as a "slaver" and is recognizable only by his bulk in one scene. The man credited as the film's Dialogue Director is none other than Stacy Keach, the father of the actor famous for playing Mike Hammer on TV in the 1980s.
This may not have the sheer copious entertainment value of ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES and COBRA WOMAN, but it's a novelty item that certainly deserves a look. It may not have the budget of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and LAND OF THE PHARAOHS, but it certainly deserves to be grouped with them as one of Hollywood's rare forays into the most ancient of mankind's advanced civilizations (at least among the ones acknowledged by establishment historians). If there's a scene that explains why the film is called SUDAN, after Egypt's southern neighbor, a locale that never figures in the plot, it wasn't included in the print I saw.
I've seen four of the five earlier Hall-Montez teamings. I'm only missing WHITE SAVAGE, which, for some reason, never got revived on television when I was watching (and taping) all the others.
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