Legend of the Lost Reviews
Brazzi fares worst, being unconvincing as a rival to Wayne and as a romantic match for Loren. Pay close attention to the fist fight among the three adventurers.
Wayne's home base is Timbuktu and, for someone whose hip-swagger is obviously not the least bit Arabian, he's pretty durn experienced in guiding the adventurous across the vast sands of the Sahara. Strapped for cash, Wayne signs up to lead a rich man (Rossano Brazzi) on desert caravan. Brazzi wants to follow his dead father's map to lost treasure - perhaps the treasure of King Solomon himself - lost within the lost city of Ophir. "Gold, silver, ivory, gems ... rubies the size of eggs, emeralds as big as hands." But it's really the lost love and respect of his father for which Brazzi searches, far more than riches. Wayne, always the pragmatist, reminds Brazzi that "the desert is filled with bones that went looking for lost treasure." Also sparkling like jewels are the eyes of love interest Sophia Loren, a working gal craving the kind of redemption that an idealistic dreamer such as Brazzi can provide her.
This trio (and the viewer), properly set-up, saddle up and ride out into the dusty abyss. Though, for reasons known only to the film's producer, they saddle up on donkeys instead of camels.
Technicolor and Technirama (2.35:1; a brief competitor to CinemaScope). Meaning appropriately wide viewing of the film's many scenic panoramas, and with high-quality color that has endured. Such panoramas and cinematography don't invoke "Lawrence of Arabia" by any means, but they're still reasonably satisfying.
Unlike the aforementioned 1980s films, this one's not the stuff of hyper-fast action. It's more akin to a hunt for the gold in a mid-Century Western, re-set into this exotic locale. Instead of Comanches possibly looming over the next ridge-top, the viewer gets Tuaregs possibly looming over the next sand dune.
RECOMMENDATION: Sure, you already know what's waiting for all three at trail's end, but not what's waiting for them at the next oasis. Plus bonus points for an out-of-the-box Wayne & Loren match-up a-sizzling aside a camel-chip campfire. Cha-ching !
TRIVIA: Films such as these rightfully belong to a genre called "lost world," first defined over a hundred years ago, when places such as Troy, the Valley of the Kings and lost African cities were just being rediscovered by Western civilization. And the founding of that genre, surprisingly, is based on an 1885 work of fiction titled "King Solomon's Mines" telling of adventurer Allan Quatermain, that character based upon true British adventurer Frederick Selous.
First of all the script was written by Robert Presnell, Jr. & Ben Hecht.
I don't know very much about the former but as for Ben Hecht - he was considered one of Hollywood's greatest writers. Look up his resume sometime and it reads like a roll call of the most beloved films in Hollywood history: Scarface, Design For Living, Wuthering Heights, Notorious, Legend of The Lost - well...I guess they can't be all winners.
A wealthy frenchman, Paul Bonnard (played by Italian Rossano Brazzi) arrives at a dusty desert town called Timbucktu. He is in search of the best guide to lead him into the heart of the Sahara desert. The best guide happens to be - no, not some native guy who lived there all his life...but an american guy, Joe January (Marion Mo...err, John Wayne). He's much more louder & boisterous than any native guy anyway.
It seems Monsieur Bonnard knows the whereabouts of a long lost city somewhere in the middle of the desert. His long lost father had apparently been there years before and left instructions for his son on how to find it. How a long lost father could send instructions to his son - I do not know - but it sounds good. There are some things in this film that doesn't make too much sense - so don't dwell on them too much if you wanna enjoy this film.
Monsieur Bonnard instructs Mr. January to gather supplies for the arduous trek.
Bonnard visits the local brothel, in the meantime, and ends up with Timbucktu's fave lady of the evening, Dita (Sophia Loren - another Italian). Mr. January finds Bonnard & Dita talking religion the next morning. Seeing the unused bed, January quips "...struck out, huh. Let's mosey. You wanna scrub up Dita's soul - it may take some time..."
Dita shoots back: "Go...laugh at me...because Monsieur has been talking to me all night as if I were a human being, you desert pig!"
Between Bonnard talking lost city, January making disparaging remarks about Dita...and Dita calling January "a dirty pig"...well, you get the idea how the dialogue goes for the rest of the film.
Cinematographer Jack Cardiff lensed this and did a wonderful job too. The photography really is the highlight of this film - showing the beauty of the high african desert a good 5 years before Lawrence of Arabia. The print that I saw (broadcast on MGM-HD channel) was very pristine. Technicolor never looked any better, methinks.
Even with the star power of a John Wayne and a Sophia Loren - they really didn't have too much chemistry together in this. This being their only film together - I suppose other people thought as much also...
Nothing much happens in this film...or rather, nothing worth remembering anyway.
The story kind of reminds me a bit of The Treasure of The Sierra Madre.
Well, actually - not really. I take it back. The Treasure of The Sierra Madre a much richer viewing experience.
It is about a man seeking the treasure his long lost father wrote about and the love he had for a wayward soul, until he lost the faith he had in father, rather than in God.
It makes some interesting points about missplaced faith. It's worth seeing.