A tale of the French Foreign Legion, Outpost in Morocco (1949) is action & adventure with an unlikely love story woven throughout.
Captain Paul Gerard (George Raft) is a womanizing officer & a gentleman. He is assigned the mission of leading a convoy that is to safely transport the daughter of the Emir of bel-Rashad to her father's desert city, with explicit orders to use his skills at seduction along the way to find out what mischief the Emir (Eduard Franz) is planning against the French.
Marie Windsor is cast as Cara, the exotic Emir's daughter, & exotic she is, a stunning beauty with enormous eyes & an amazonian baring. Raft as the leading man momentarily just looks miscast, as his image is so perfect for gangster roles, but he's a fine enough actor to make the role totally credible after the first couple scenes.
The script never acknowledges Cara is Moslem & would be apt to be killed by her own family if actually seduced by a Frenchman. She was educated in Paris, so is very westernized, & that's enough to fall in love with her father's enemy, according to cinematic mythifying at least.
Deserts, horses, turbans, oases, those funny billed hats Legionaires wear, but rather too few camels for some reason, these plus the authentic Arabic architecture, make Outpost in Morocco feel truly of another time & place. Actual members of the French Foreign Legion & the Moroccan Spahi cavalry served as extras in the big scenes.
Captain Gerard successfully seduces the Emir's daughter & finds out what he needs to know. When she realizes he's been a spy the whole time, she's hurt & angry. Of course he really does love her, but when it comes down to a choice between love & duty, he must fulfill his duty.
Scenes of the suffering during the fort's siege & of desert battle are nicely staged & convincing. The Emirah has been taken captive at the Legionaires' fort.
Although Captain Gerard disapproves of Lieutenant Glysko (Akim Tamiroff) having taken this measure, it does allow for Cara & Paul to more or less confess love in troubled times that have made them enemies.
Cara sneaks out of the fort hoping to stop her father's final assault, but the charge has begun, & she ends up riding with, & dying with, her people. There is no coda so it's hard to know what Paul Gerard thought she was doing, but from his vantage point it would've looked like she really was riding as part of the charge.
It's a little surprising to realize the film had lots of location shoots & the support of the Moroccan Royal Family & the French Foreign Legion, as much of the time what we see could've been done on a studio back lot or on sets, & the film does not feel "large."
There are a couple scenes, like Captain Gerard fleeing across the rooftops of bel-Rashid, that took great advantage of real architecture, but most of the interior shots look like Hollywood sets & probably were.
So, too, the huge cavalry charge at the end, well done though it was, looks exactly like a charge of Indians in a well-made western, except with turbans instead of feathers. So it comes off overall as a minor film steeped in Hollywoodisms, although an effective one with surprisingly appealing leads.
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