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A cavalry outpost in the Wild West of nineteenth century U.S. is in need of horses. The Captain of the outpost gets word that they're about to receive a shipment of fine Arabians. What he gets, is a shipment of camels.Written by
Loosely based on historical events. In the late 1850s, the U.S. Army experimented with the use of camels in the southwestern territories, the present states of Arizona and New Mexico. Hi Jolly (Hadji, or Haci Ali, 1828-1902) (portrayed by Gino Conforti) was a Syrian camel expert and driver hired by the Army to help with the experiment. Unfortunately, the project was deterred by the Civil War, and never resumed afterward. Hi Jolly became something of a local legend, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen, and living out his remaining days in Arizona. See more »
FOLLOWING THE UNEXPECTED success of his BENJI (Mulberry Square, 1974), Writer/Director/Producer Joe Camp came up with another brainstorm. Why not take a true, albeit little known story about the U.S. Cavalry and turn into a true "G" rated, family picture? THE STORY TO which refer concerned an experiment that the U.S. Army tried with the use of camels as transportation of troops. This occurred circa 1850 in the Southwest (Arizona or New Mexico*). We hear that the tryouts for "the Ship of the Desert" failed; but we can't fault Uncle Sam for trying.
WHEREAS CAMELS DIDN'T pass muster, their legacy has proved to be the perfect sort of fodder for Hollywood Producers; who are looking for something to put o the screen. After all, we've all seen Westerns featuring bank hold-ups, train robberies, cattle rusting, range wars, battles with hostile Indian tribes and so on.
BUT WE DON'T know of any one of these Horse Operas that featured camel bronk-riders, camel rodeos, camel stage coaches or camel stampedes. (Catch on?)
ALTHOUGH THE STORY is historical in origin and is proof of the old adage that: "Truth is stranger than fiction!"; the production team* decided to give it decidedly comic tone.
IT REALLY DIFDN'T take much to move it into the camp of Family Comedy, or really Farce; as the opening premise seemed to be so incredible. All that had to be done was to assemble a cast, dress 'em up Cavalry style and go out to the Mojave and film it.
ANDSWERING THE CALL to "humps" were a talented cast of mostly supporting people. James Hampton, a mostly TV actor (Hannibal Dobbs on F TROOP) headed up the list**. Following up Mr. Hampton's lead were: Christopher Connelly, Slim Pickens (from DR. STRANGELOVE), Denver Pyle (BONNIE & CLYDE), Gino Conforti, Mimi Maynard, and durable, versatile Herb Vigran. Even the trainer of "Benji" and the other four legged actors, Frank Inn, stepped before the cameras as Cavalry Camp Cook.
THE STORY ON screen, such s it was, gave plenty of opportunities for hamming, obvious humor and family friendly goings on. The writers' embellishment on what is so little known about the real occurrences of the 1850's incident gave them plenty of leeway to steer the movie in any direction that they wanted. That led us to Matinees, Family Fare and of course a "G" Rating.
HORRORS! TODAY THAT would be considered a Kiss of Death!
NOTE * We cannot lose out without mentioning how kind Writer/Producer/Director, Mr. Joe Camp, was to us so may years ago. After we had seen it with our older girl, Jennifer age 3, we dropped him a note of appreciation. He replied with a letter on official MULBERRY SQUARE PRODUCTIONS Letterhead and enclosed a BENJI Movie Poster for little Jen. Whenever a now production was coming out, he'd send her another poster; as he did for HAWMPS!
NOTE ** In all fairness, we aren't trying to relegate any of these fine thespians to a lower status. Remember, "There are no small parts, only small people!" In the case of Mr. Hampton, we remember him best for is role as prison inmate, "the Caretaker" in Burt Reynolds' starring vehicle, THE LONGEST YARD (Paramount, 1975).
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