With a smile that’s bigger than life and the he-man brawn to match, Victor Mature flexes his heroic tendencies opposite sexy Yvonne De Carlo for a director who has steadily gained in cult status over the years, Jacques Tourneur.
The year is 1940 and the forces of France are thinning out in the French-African-Sudan territory due to Hitler flexing his muscles on the continent. Taking over the French troops is new company commander George Dolenz with his lovely wife, Miss De Carlo, by his side. Why any officer would be bringing his wife into an unstable situation is anyone’s guess. What the hell am I thinking? She’s there because the plot demands it and Big Vic is going to catch her eye in this romantic triangle set amidst the backdrop of an impending war. No we’re not talking Casablanca here, just an enjoyable flick for a Sunday afternoon viewing.
Mature is a gun runner who appears to be doing business with some unsavory characters including Paul Wexler. Is Vic playing both sides against the middle working for the French while attempting to have Wexler take him to the stronghold of bandit leader John Dehner who is attempting a coup? Maybe but when Vic approaches newbie Dolenz, the commander isn’t so sure where Vic’s sympathy’s lie.
At one point our leading man is quick to point out, “There’s only one thing I risk my neck for …. money!” When Vic takes one look at those saucer like eyes of Lily Munster, that statement will be called into question. Cocky and sure of himself, Vic lets De Carlo know his intentions are not noble and he has no qualms whatsoever about seducing another man’s wife.
Dolenz who is looking to crush the rebels cautiously takes Mature up on his gun running scheme and allows him to use Wexler to make contact with the well known character actor and onetime Paladin on radio broadcasts, Dehner. Mature will barely make it alive when Wexler proves to be planning a coup of his own prompting Dehner to utilize the traitor to his cause as a target when testing the new machine gun Vic has brought him.
Complicating matters is the fact that De Carlo is also falling for Vic but she has vows to respect. What’s a girl to do when her own husband suggests she be friendly to the gun runner so that he can ensure the mission goes as planned?
A few plot twists are sure to follow and what’s to happen when Dehner suspects Vic isn’t dealing his cards from a full deck? Well if he has De Carlo in his possession then maybe he’ll be able to deal the cards he so chooses to Vic and Dolenz. Yes it would appear as if our action star is going to have to team up with Dolenz to take out Dehner’s gang of cutthroats and save the damsel in distress. But which man will she be riding off with atop a camel at the end of the picture?
Plenty of questions to consider here under the sure handed direction of Mr. Tourneur. Will Vic take Yvonne for his own? Will she forgo her marriage vows and run off with the man of action? Will Dolenz make the final reel still standing and in one piece? OBJECTION! Strike that last line from the record. No spoilers allowed here!
Despite the fact that this was and is probably considered a run of the mill entry starring a pair of fading stars who were never quite at the top of the pecking order working for a director who was never granted an “A” list budget this is a pretty decent action flick for it’s time. Aside from the less then stellar The Tartars in 1961, the year 1959 proved to be Victor Mature’s final year as a Hollywood leading man. Aside from a few small appearances and one hilarious role opposite Peter Sellers in 1966’s After the Fox, he all but backed out of the movie industry.
While Vic backed off the Hollywood race, De Carlo kept busy in movies and TV finding everlasting fame as Lily opposite Fred Gwynne on The Munsters. Born in Vancouver, Canada, she’d finally retire from the profession in 1995, passing away in 2007. Cult fans will always recognize the name of the director, Jacques Tourneur, for his work with Val Lewton and beyond. He directed such notable thrillers as Cat People and Night of the Demon. On top of these he also directed what for many might be considered the supreme Noir effort, Out of the Past in 1947.
Trivia buffs who excel in the horror genre will instantly recognize the name of actor Robert Clarke in the credits. No idea? Look him up and enjoy some of the low budget romps he appeared in. Titles include ……. as I said, look him up.
With Utah subbing in for the desert regions of Africa, Timbuktu is available on DVD as part of MGM’s made on demand division offering film fans a light action flick from simpler times with a couple of leading players who knew their strengths on camera and played them well.