An Egyptian archeological adventure set in 1900, this film was shot on location in Egypt. The adventurers are the daughter of “the greatest” Egyptologist/archeologist Dr. James Barkley; her husband, who is new to all this, but wants to please his wife; and the man she enlists to help them complete her father’s work. The married couple, Ann and Philip Mercedes (Eleanor Parker and Carlos Thompson) are outwardly in sync, but he has unvoiced reservations about Mark Brandon (Robert Taylor). After all, Mark has agreed to help her, not them.
When Ann has a carriage take her to see Mark, he is supervising a dig near the oldest structure known to man, the tomb of King Djoser, nearly 5000 years old (according to the script). He speaks Arabic, reads hieroglyphics, and is suitably tough but honest with his workers. He doubts her immediately, suspecting she is a daddy’s girl, but then she knows something of his reputation and chooses not to mention the husband right away. She also already knows his qualifications and very badly wants him to agree. She overcomes his objections by showing him a solid gold statuette of the pharaoh she is interested in: Ra-Hotep. This is certainly a funerary piece that would have been in the fabled tomb, and her father bought it some years before at an antique shop nearby. Mark is in as soon as he sees the statuette.
The ensuing trip through the desert involves a massive sandstorm, threats from Tuaregs, a battle with swords and shields, a traitor in their midst, and some great stunt work for a fight to the death atop a huge statue that is part of a tomb. So in its general structure the film bears a resemblance to “King Solomon’s Mines” from 1950. There’s even some “native” dancing by an entertainer in the marketplace (Samia Gamal). Additional solid performances are furnished by Kurt Kasznar as Hamed Bachkour (pronounced Bahsh-koor) the grave robber, Victor Jory as the Tuareg Chief whose face is always covered, and Leon Askin as Valentine Arko the weaselly antiques dealer.
Written by Robert Pirosh and Karl Tunberg (and suggested by historical data from “Gods, Graves and Scholars” by C.W. Ceram), the film is epic and exotic, and perhaps just what was needed in 1954 to get people away from Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody, and Bil Baird’s five-a-week show, and Kookla, Fran, and Ollie, and out to the movie theater.
Aside from the writers and actors, two other men must be cited for their excellent contributions: Miklos Rozsa wrote the score, and Robert Surtees was the Director of Photography.
This is one of the best adventure movies I’ve ever seen.
Note: Carlos Thompson, who plays Philip Mercedes, was not needed on the set for a period, so he went to Spain and had a car accident, breaking his nose and needing rhinoplasty. He said that he wanted a better-looking nose, but someone (possibly the director, or maybe a studio rep) said, “Not in the middle of the picture!” And his nose was restored to its original shape. It’s a reasonable objection, and anyway, the studio’s insurance was paying for it. AND practically the exact same thing happened to Mark Hamill during the shooting of “Star Wars: A New Hope”.