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Duccio Tessari. Sergio Donaiti. Ennio Morricone. George Eastman. Elliot Gould. Omar Shariff. Rutger Hauer ... ehh Carol Alt, whatever. Some high powered talent here behind this project, which I guess was a sprawling made for TV mini series in Italy running about 300 minutes, reduced to 2 hrs on the home video release from Japan I managed to find. During the 1980s the Italian genre movie directors all turned to television after B grade cinema evaporated in favor of small screen projects that could be brought in at 1/3 of the cost, fast-tracked to home video or cable and marketed without the fuss and bother of mounting a cinematic campaign. Antonio Margheriti made YOR, Umberto Lenzi made his GHOSTHOUSE project films, and Joe D'amato started making outright hardcore porn. To each his own I guess.
From the looks of this and a couple of his Spaghetti Westerns I am familiar with, Duccio Tessari has a "thing" about LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and always wanted to make his own version of it. We have the white warrior who effortlessly enmeshes with the Arabic culture, a sweepingly epic depiction of life, war and death on the sands of Arabia, the tragedy of tribal factionalism claiming those who would otherwise be brothers, and of course the misplaced boy who could inherit the kingdom. I kind of glazed over with the story's complex weavings of betrayals, double crosses, vengeance and displays of machismo and just enjoyed the individual moments. Which is a way of affirming that this pretty much is a Spaghetti Western but with Muslims carrying AK-47s instead of Pistoleros with their six shooters.
Rutger Hauer got to enjoy a nice vacation in Morocco and ape a former CIA agent turned private contract operator, pitting opposite sides against each other in an effort to rescue the son of Carol Alt, who gets to trot around in a form fitting Armani skirt with matching suit jacket for much of the film but has little to do except look glamorous and give Hauer someone to pull out of harm's way. Elliot Gould looks surprisingly sober as Alt's duplicitous lawyer and Omar Shariff gets to reprise his role from LAWRENCE & provide a direct connection to that film.
If I sound unimpressed it's because I wasn't really floored by anything. There are some nice action pieces, Morricone's music is right on the marks as usual and Hauer a pleasure to watch as always in garbage like this ... No matter how trivial or seemingly inept the film project he always invest himself in the role and made so many lower budgeted films like this more enjoyable than they would have been with a lesser talent in his place. He has a sort of contained violence about him that creates a situation where the audience is usually just waiting for him to go postal & start killing people.
Hauer, Gould and Shariff also share the distinction of seeming to know that the movie was perhaps just more career extending filler material than a stand out role opportunity. Ms. Alt, by comparison, seems to be trying to act herself into a tizzy and is way out of her league when doing anything more than showing some thigh or beaming into the camera with her steely blue eyes. The classic Spaghetti Cinema sirens like Rosalba Neri, Erika Blanc or Evelyn Stewart would have acted circles around her just by lighting a cigarette, so her presence in the film comes down to a name recognition factor for jaded audiences. All that you can really say about her presence in the film is that she has great legs.
And on the subject of looking great this movie does look wonderful, Tessari is an artist for sure and every shot is composed with an almost painterly hand. One of the most amusing is a bar lounge scene with Hauer seated in front of and to the right of a gigantic poster of Humphry Bogart with Bogie's gat pointing right at Hauer's head. Tessari also knows how to stage an action sequence, photograph the desert and pack a scene with elegant trappings. I wish I was seeing the full 300 minute version when evaluating the story however: One of the reasons why LAWRENCE's story becomes so involving is that David Lean spent time allowing scenes to swell and develop on their own, parts of the 2 hour version of LAW OF THE DESERT (as the version was called) seemed a bit rushed, or as if we knew information that was supposed to be surmised by the time it happens on screen.
But that's Spaghetti Cinema for you: What matters are the individual moments rather than the whole composition. And just based on personal taste I would rather waste my time watching junk like this than ever be subjected to one evening of "American Idol", "Lost", or whatever crummy movies the big shot critics are giving bomb reviews too that viewers are going to see regardless. That's why Italian genre cinema is so relaxing: You KNOW going into it the thing is junk and can just relax and let it be whatever it will end up being. Tessari even revealed with the final shot that he too was aware of this, ending the film with a shot of a jet engine shown from the front where it sucks in the air.
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