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During the 1960s, in a fictitious strife-ridden Arab nation, captured revolutionary nationalist leader Sharif is being transported to a prison for execution. The police van transporting him to the prison is attacked by Sharif's fanatical followers. Ahmed, the leader of the students' revolt frees Sharif along with three other prisoners. Among them is Huston, an American who has embezzled money from the Zahrain Oil Company. The fugitives capture an ambulance and its nurse, Laila. They flee from the city toward the border but during their trek across the desert, the convict Hassan is killed in a police ambush. A romance starts between Ahmed, the student leader and Laila, the ambulance nurse. Unfortunately, Ahmed is later killed by a government strafing fighter plane. Later, Tahar, another convict, is also killed.The three lone survivors are Laila, Sharif and Huston. Will they reach their destination? Written by
With an obligatory bow for a few political polemics regarding the Middle East, Escape From Zahrain is essentially an action adventure film about the leader of a rebel faction being broken out of custody and escaping from a Middle Eastern principality. Zahrain is a mythical country along the lines of Muscat-Oman, Yemen, or Qatar or better still the more well known Kuwait. With the ruling class living fabulously wealthy lives due to oil, most of the people are barely scratching out a living. In the next century a place like Zahrain would be a breeding ground for terrorists.
Yul Brynner is the rebel leader and Sal Mineo is an idealistic student who leads a group that springs Brynner and a few others who are along for the ride. They include some common criminal types Anthony Caruso and Jay Novello and one unusual one in Jack Warden, formerly employed by the big oil cartel, but now in prison for embezzlement. Can't be too pleasant for him in a third world jail.
Losing the truck they escaped in, they hijack due to Warden an ambulance belonging to the oil company and get driver Leonard Strong and nurse Madelyn Rhue as well. This then is the crew trying to Escape From Zahrain.
The rulers want Brynner real bad and they're out in force for him. Probably the biggest manhunt in the history of the country.
In a recent biography of Sal Mineo, Mineo was pleased to be reunited with Brynner whom he had played on Broadway with in The King And I. Mineo took over the part of the crown prince during the run and Brynner was like a father to him in real life. Brynner was not an easy guy to know or get along with, but apparently he and Mineo hit it off, very few did with this man who kept an air of mystery about him his entire life.
Warden and Caruso are a pair of interesting characters. In contrast to the idealistic Brynner and Mineo, these two are a pair of realists. Caruso is a real low life, but he does prove useful, but only when one keeps an eye on him. Warden is a cynic in the Bogart tradition, but kind of comes around in the end even though all he wants to do is get out the whole middle east.
Escape From Zahrain moves at a pretty good clip. It doesn't let the political polemics get too much in the way of the action.
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