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BROOKE SHIELDS STARS IN SAHARA

year: 1983
During the entire eighties, CANNON FILMS attempted to cover just about every cinematic moneymaker in their own fashion, from Sylvester Stallone providing testosterone-driven ROCKY residual in the arm-wrestling camp classic, OVER THE TOP, to Arnold Schwarzenegger's popular starring role as CONAN THE BARBARIAN prompting two Lou Ferrigno HERCULES  ADVENTURES, and the list goes on and on... and on some more...

But we'll now center and focus on how the more creative of the two Israeli filmmaking Moguls, an actual writer (of this film) and director (of a few others), Menahem Golan, partner of the wheeling-dealing Yoram Globus, attempted to recreate his/their own LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, which is actually more funneled through a prior, completely legitimate David Lean homage in THE WIND AND THE LION directed by CONAN maverick John Milius while, at the same time, riding the INDIANA JONES bandwagon and later going full-blown in that pulpy adventurous route with KING SOLOMON'S MINES: and here we have two LOST ARK actors, including John Ryhs-Davies as a sort of Anthony Quinn whose powerful, bullying yet overall friendly grouch is outmatched by a young, handsome Arabian prince who Brooke Shields... during the peak of her outrageously gorgeous perfection on the big screen (though at times sounding like she's reading dialogue instead of living it)... is forced to marry in order to remain, well, breathing...

Brooke with mustache
Okay, here's where the complication starts to become annoying: in a motion picture that was initially promised (via exposition dialogue) to be a big "cross country" racing adventure through the sands of the SAHARA in a newly developed hot rod created by Brooke's father (Steve Forrest), who, if he wins, could be worth millions... But after winding up dead it's up to his high-class tomboy daughter, traveling overseas for the "Trans-African Auto Race," with hair slicked back beneath a hat and a fake mustache since there's no possible way for a woman to compete...

Now You Can Own This
Two of the most unnecessary characters in cinema history are played by otherwise talented and likable actors, Cliff Potts from SILENT RUNNING and ALLIGATOR rookie cop Perry Lang as her sidekick/co-pilots. And when the race begins, also including a couple of goofy Englishmen in their own souped-up machine, thus ignites what seems will be a fun and involving twist on THE BIG RACE or THE GUMBALL RALLY. That's until Brooke, after a minute's worth of roaring down the desert road, frees her long, flowing hair and, upon being spotted, the trio are quickly captured and alas, we're stuck in a boring, drawn-out yet rushed romance within a rural, sand-swept village where (thanks to the otherwise talented director Andrew V. McLagle, if you can possibly forgive him for MITCHELL) there are a few suspenseful action sequences, like when Brooke sets bombs in the sand to stop an approaching death machine... Although at this point the entire premise has already sunk... But once again, hope arises after she escapes, gets back in the car and (leaving poor Potts and Lang behind as if they didn't, and really shouldn't have, existed in the first place) sustains the desert race...

Brooke and her Arabian Prince
Only to be quickly captured by RAIDERS second alumni, Ronald Lacey, who played the Peter Lorre-esque Toht... that classic creep getting a hand-burning tattoo and later melting upon the morphing ghost attack... who is actually described by one of the captured Englishman as a LION OF THE DESERT (another movie this borrows from)... And he's a really bad dude, opening the movie with a rifle, slaughtering a handful of innocent villagers, and as the main heavy he eventually (despite bouts of previously awkward, comical music by Ennio Morricone, of all people, while this evil marauder learns to drive) thrusts Brooke's Dale into an underground deathtrap that has hungry panthers and one leopard as opposed to those deadly LOST ARK snakes: And at this point, rescued by her handsome Arab husband, while a Western style gunfight between the two rival tribes is underway, the real question still remains – what about that anticipated race we were promised from the very start? Well not to spoil the party, but the term "final stretch" also means 11th hour and "too little, too late"... So we can conclude that if this movie delivered what was promised, it might not be the infamously catastrophic bomb that, unlike the aforementioned OVER THE TOP and HERCULES, isn't even so-bad-it's good: for SAHARA, like the location, albeit visually beautiful, feels both searing and endlessly hopeless throughout.

RATING: **
TRIVIA: This wasn't the first time John Rhys-Davies starred in a Cannon Film RAIDERS homage... he appeared in KING SOLOMON'S MINES while the other LOST ARK actor Ronald Lacey worked again for Golan/Globus in the Judd Nelson comedy MAKING THE GRADE. And let's not only blame The Cannon Boys for being influenced by David Lean and John Milius... The latter's close friend Steven Spielberg was heavily influenced by WIND AND THE LION for the making of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, which there is, in style and direction, many similarities of.
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