March 13, 2012

Would you believe that, after hours of staggering around sand dunes in the Sahara Desert, being chased by camels and getting attacked by a horde of squirmy little scorpions, her hair still looks just great? I’m talking about Brooke Shields, of course, the teenage starlet who’s build a small conglomerate based on that hair, those lips, and those eyebrows.

Naturally, there’s no way that hair is going to get mussed, even in the Sahara. Sahara, Brooke’s latest opus, is very much her movie. At this point in her career, she can fairly well dictate what goes on when she’s in front of the camera.

Brooke decided to go the adventure route this time out, in still another would-be Raiders of the Lost Ark package. She plays the daughter of a legendary racer, with a yen to compete in a race across the Sahara Desert (the picture is set sometime in the early part of the century).

When race day comes (she’s allowed to race because she’s disguised as a man—you gotta see this to believe it, folks), the participants are perturbed to discover that a tribal war has broken out across the race route. Turn back? You underestimate Brooke’s pluck.

The road is somewhat hard to follow (at one point someone actually says, “Turn left at the camel”—the film is full of gems like that), and after the first day, Brooke and her racing team are captured by some bad guys. Actually, it turns out later that they might be good guys, but we don’t know that yet. The burly captain of the nomad fighters (John Rhys-Davies) wants to have his way with Brooke. But his nephew, the coincidentally handsome ruler of the tribe (Lambert Wilson), invokes executive privilege and takes Brooke for himself.

Don’t worry, she makes life rough for them. No way a gang of Bedouins is going to push around Brooke Shields, especially when her mother is the executive producer of the movie. Oh, there’s some sexy stuff, but only on Brooke’s terms: She won’t do nude scenes, but she will stand under an oasis waterfall in a sheer T-shirt. When she gets captured by the rival tribesmen, and their horrible leader tries to get overly chummy with her, she pummels him right back. “Fight me! I love it when you fight me,” he cries. “It heats the blood!” Hmm. Different countries, different customs.

So anyway, she and Wilson start liking each other, but Rhys-Davies and the tribespeople think she’s a demon, and want to boot her out of camp. That would suit Brooke fine; she wants to get back to the race, and tries to escape (along with Wilson’s British valet/slave, played by—John Mills! How’d he get in here?), but she’s abducted by that other tribe, who are an even more barbaric bunch.

They throw her into this chamber in which she stands on a rock, surrounded by a moat full of panthers. Brooke gets to really let fly with some high-energy emoting here.

Poor Brooke Shields. It’s almost a shame that a kid like her will probably take so much flak for this movie. It’s not her fault if she doesn’t have an ironic or witty bone in her body, and her acting talent—even her simple screen presence—is non-existent. But I’ll say this for Brooke: Her hair looks just great.

First published in the Herald, March 1984

Pretty easy pickings, I guess. The movie was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, the maker of some sturdy big-scale projects, the son of Victor McLaglen, and friend of the Duke. And oh yes, Sahara was a Cannon Film, not just produced by Golan-Globus but with an original story credit for Menahem Golan.