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Desert Legion (1953) Online

Desert Legion (1953) Online
Original Title :
Desert Legion
Genre :
Movie / Action / Adventure
Year :
Directror :
Joseph Pevney
Cast :
Alan Ladd,Richard Conte,Arlene Dahl
Writer :
Irving Wallace,Lewis Meltzer
Type :
Time :
1h 26min
Rating :
Desert Legion (1953) Online

Paul Lartal leads a troop of legionnaires into ambush at the hands of Omar Ben Calif. Returning later at the request of Princess Morjana he is led to the hidden city of Madara, currently harrassed by the evil Crito. Lartal must do in the bad guys (which includes participating in a bare chested spear-throwing contest), save the city and comfort the Princess.
Complete credited cast:
Alan Ladd Alan Ladd - Paul Lartal
Richard Conte Richard Conte - Crito Damou / Omar Ben Khalif
Arlene Dahl Arlene Dahl - Morjana
Akim Tamiroff Akim Tamiroff - Pvt. Plevko
Oscar Beregi Sr. Oscar Beregi Sr. - Si Khalil (as Oscar Beregi)
Leon Askin Leon Askin - Maj. Vasil
Anthony Caruso Anthony Caruso - Lt. Massaoud
George J. Lewis George J. Lewis - Lt. Lopez
Sujata Rubener Sujata Rubener - Dancer (as Sujata)
Asoka Rubener Asoka Rubener - Dancer (as Asoka)

Based on a 1927 novel by Georges Arthur Surdez titled "The Demon Caravan". Surdez (1900-49) contributed many "adventure" stories to such publications as "Collier's", the "Saturday Evening Post" and "Argosy". He was especially noted for his French Foreign Legion tales.

User reviews



Following a band of Omar Ben Calif's villainous raiders into the foothills of the mysterious Iraouen Mountains, Captain Paul Lartal (Alan Ladd) realizes too late that he has led his men into a trap... A bullet hits his forehead, & his last image is of his soldiers being slaughtered by menacing bandits...

The image that greets him upon awakening is much more different & pleasant... A ravishing maiden, Princess Morjana (Arlene Dahl) is bending over him as he is lying on silken cushions in an elegant desert tent... Before he can find out anything, the injured captain falls again into unconsciousness...

Later, he discovers himself back at his home base, and tries to relate his story... The high command was clearly skeptic to his tale, as reluctant to his depart in search of the elusive Omar Ben Calif...

When a note comes from Princess Morjana asking his help, Lartal & his loyal friend Private Plevko (AkimTamiroff - the obligatory comic relief) leave the fort and follow the bearer of the note into the high mountains to the lost city of Madara...

There, they are welcomed by an ex-legionnaire, Si Khalil (Oscar Beregi) who deserted the army in order to help the building of the rich hidden city... Si Khalil has already chosen the courageous legionnaire to marry his daughter... But Paul feels that he must get first the evil Omar Ben Calif...

Several events convince him that the bandits who attacked his troop of legionnaires are there in Madara... His suspicions leads him to unmask an enigmatic ambitious man named Crito (Richard Conte).

With highlights that include true cliffhanging, as well as a bare-chested spear-throwing competition, 'Desert Legion' is a romantic desert fantasy (photographed in Technicolor) quite entertaining for those who prefer the old predictable outdoor action movies...


French Foreign Legion Captain Paul Lartal (Alan Ladd) travels to the hidden city of Madara in Northern Africa after a request for help he receives from local princess Morjana (Arlene Dahl). He met the woman under mysterious circumstances after his regiment suffered a deadly ambush at he hands of Omar Ben Calif's bandit gang. Lartel is convinced that Calif is in Madara under an undercover personality.

"Desert Legion" is an unpretentious adventure film with a fine cast, great color, acceptable settings and lots of action.

Alan Ladd doesn't add much to his carrier with his movie but it doesn't hurt it either. Arlene Dahl was made for Technicolor and plays her part fine. But perhaps the most interesting role is that of Richard Conte as Crito in one of the usual villain characters he played decently so often (no surprise there). The spears duel between Ladd and Conte is a highlight of the film most of all because of its originality back in 1953.

Light entertainment but enjoyable if you like adventure films.


Take a bit of "Beau Geste," add a dab of "Lost Horizon," and you'll wind up with an enjoyable bit of escapism called "Desert Legion." It's just one of those modestly-scaled but colorfully-mounted 1950's movies which placed not-quite-A-list stars against exotic backgrounds in plots filled with traditional elements of action and romance. While predictable and unremarkable in most respects, these movies hold up surprisingly well today and remind us of a time when a trip to the movies meant stepping, however briefly, into a world of carefully-controlled glamor.

Though pushing 40 at the time he filmed this, Alan Ladd still makes an attractive hero and his fans are treated here to three scenes featuring him in "beefcake" situations. First, at the 38-minute-mark, he's seen in a bathtub being lathered by muscular black servants. Then, at the 55-minute-mark, we see him bare-chested in bed as he's attacked by a man with a dagger. Finally, at the 59-minute-mark, he fights a spear-duel with Conte while both men are stripped to the waist. Curiously, all three situations are placed within virtually all-male milieus so that only other men can get a close-up look at Ladd's physique.

Another touch of "beefcake" occurs when a bare-chested legionnaire played by George Lewis is whipped in an attempt to force information from him. (This flogging ranks 32nd in the book, "Lash! The Hundred Great Scenes of Men Being Whipped in the Movies.") Once again, this scene occurs only with other men as witnesses.

Note: the scene of the acrobats entertaining at the planned marriage of Arlene Dahl to Richard Conte is actually a clip from Universal's 1942 movie, "Arabian Nights."

Addendum (April 4, 2010): "Desert Legion" uses the main characters and general plot outline of its source, a 1927 novel by Georges Surdez titled "The Demon Caravan." However, some of the movie's more memorable incidents were invented by the screenwriters: the assassination attempt on Alan Ladd while he sleeps, for example, or the spear-duel between Ladd and Richard Conte, or the flogging of Legionnaire Lopez. Also, the character played by Akim Tamiroff, apparently added for "comic relief," does not appear in the book. The book's 18-year-old female lead bears only a passing resemblance to the movie's Arlene Dahl and the unnamed "lost city" in the book is referred to as "Madara" in the movie. Incidentally, one of the screenplay's two writers was Irving Wallace who later achieved fame as the author of such popular novels as "The Chapman Report" and "The Prize."


Desert Legion was Alan Ladd's second film after leaving his nurturing studio of Paramount. It was hoped he would get better parts by his agent and wife Sue Carol. But sad to say this was the run of film he got.

It's a typical action potboiler with Alan Ladd in the French Foreign Legion on patrol and in pursuit of a local Algerian bandit who no one can seem to locate. On patrol one day after a couple of raiders, Ladd and his patrol are surprised by reinforcements who come from out of nowhere and everyone is killed, but Ladd. He wakes up and finds desert princess Arlene Dahl nursing him back to health. The next thing he knows he's back at Legion headquarters with this wild tale of a lost city in the desert.

Ever since Universal made Arabian Nights with Jon Hall and Maria Montez they had these middle eastern sets and so you could depend year after year on one or two pictures with that setting. So on this one shot deal Alan Ladd got to do Desert Legion with those same sets.

Maureen O'Hara in her memoirs said no one thought she was more ludicrous cast in these films as a redheaded Middle Eastern princess. But I will say that Desert Legion did provide some explanation why redheaded Swede Arlene Dahl was in North Africa.

Had this film been done a decade earlier it might have made great material for a serial. It has all the ingredients and you just write a bunch cliffhanger semi-climaxes and it would have done well.

Looking like he's having a great old time is Akim Tamiroff as Ladd's sidekick who deserts with him to find this lost city. Richard Conte however just doesn't come off as an Arab.

Desert Legion is the kind of film Alan Ladd should have been done with at his stage of life and career.


Another trip to the ex-village sexton/film buff yielded a pleasant evening of movie talk and viewing – in this particular case, the former being more rewarding than the latter in view of the fact that the 25-year old print of the obscure Alan Ladd vehicle DESERT LEGION was so washed out as to belie its having been originally shot in "glorious Technicolor"! Indeed, the only color scheme prevalent throughout the screening was a reddish hue that, more than anything else, is a tell-tale sign that a celluloid print is well past its "best before" date. But, as if that was not disheartening enough, the film kept sticking in the projector, making the image jump up and down, requiring our host to make his expert manual interventions a handful of times. For better or worse, the film we were watching was a routine star actioner that even I was unaware of before seeing its worn poster proudly displayed during the latest exhibition of such rare items held regularly for the public by our host. The script requires the viewer to accept diminutive Ladd as a formidable Legionnaire who possesses the only credentials to capture a renegade Arab rebel (played by one of the least likely actors suited for this role, Richard Conte!) that has been preying on their sentries and save the mythical Shangri-La-like community of Medara, buried deep within the desert, from his evil clutches. For support, Ladd only has his old, tale-spinning buddy Akim Tamiroff, while the inevitable love interest is provided by Arlene Dahl – with Universal clearly believing that the audience would not have anyone but another statuesque Arabic redhead (a' la Maureen O'Hara) for a leading lady!! Despite the intermittent sprinkling of intriguing ideas – Ladd is abducted by the mysterious Dahl and taken to her hidden abode in clear imitation of Pierre Benoit's much-filmed "L'Atlantide"; the two confrontations between Ladd and Conte are both unconventional in nature and setting: in the arena with the two contestants sharing one spear between them and, the climactic one, atop a mountain's rock-face – this particular mix, unfortunately, fails to rise to any particularly memorable or even satisfactory level…which makes the possibility of a future revisit via superior elements highly improbable!


The legion étrangère has always been a topic that makes people dream.Lots and lots of movies were made ,not only in France.Here,the most famous are probably Duvivier's "la bandera" and Jacques Feyder's "le grand jeu".Twas also one of Edith Piaf's favorite subjects of song (le fanion de la légion,mon légionnaire). This is a pretty ridiculous movie.At the beginning,I was thinking it was a remake of Pierre Benoit's "l'atlantide"(two most famous versions being Pabst 's (1932)with Brigitte Helm-Metropolis- ,and Edgar G Ulmer's (1963))It was certainly influenced big-time by Benoit's book.The blond officer lost in the desert who's taken in by a beautiful lady from a mysterious city of the sands,we've seen that movie before. After,Joseph Pevney and Pierre Benoit go different ways.THe director,abetted by unimaginative scriptwriters ,turn what could have been a trip into the fantastic element,à la "thief of Bagdad" or "lost horizons",into the run-of -the- mill hero-heroine-villain.The rest is so predictable :you can see where the characters are up to from a mile off."Desert Legion" fills its quota of treasons,duels,torture,and glamour.The setting is not impressive, a two-bit cardboard desert city,and for good measure,exotic dances.


Ladd is tough. Ladd a bad soldier, even though his men told him not to go into the mountains, he did and they all died. However, he is considered a great leader despite evidence contrary to this. Dalh is hot and costumes shows this. Good midday movie but that's all.


I enjoy watching Alan Ladd films but I still will be the first to admit that his choice of acting assignments was often suspect. For every exceptional film he made like "This Gun for Hire" or "Shane", he made a half a dozen movies that were essentially B-movies with A- movie budgets. So, they look great but are pretty much mindlessly entertaining...and that's how I see "Desert Legion".

When the film begins, French Foreign Legionnaire Paul Lartal is in command of troops who are attacked and massacred in the desert. Somehow Lartal is knocked unconscious and spared. When he awakens he sees a sexy redhead (sure, there must be millions of them in the North African desert) and then he lapses back out of consciousness...and now finds himself with the Legion. His superiors think he's imagining seeing the sexy redhead (Arlene Dahl) but when he realizes it must be true, he takes off looking for the hidden city of Madara, as the hot redhead, the Princess, needs his help. There he must fight against the evil Crito (Richard Conte) who is an amazingly jerky jerk! Lartal gets locked in mortal combat with Crito and spares him...and almost instantly Crito tries to kill him! What's next? See the film...or not.

If you're looking for an excellent Foreign Legion pic, I suggest you keep looking. This one is just silly with redheads and none of the Madarans looking even remotely North African. Overall, it's once again Ladd going through the motions to pick up a paycheck and it's far from his best work.