A downbeat Middle East drama set in the milieu where Bogart had his greatest triumph in CASABLANCA. This time he's far less complex and sympathetic and he doesn't have Bergman as the object of his affection. It's 1925 in Syria, where Stevens heads a rebel Syrian force battling against the
French occupying Damascus and environs. Bogart is a black marketeer from the US who makes his living running guns to Stevens and his troops. This activity makes Bogart a target for Cobb, the chief of the French Intelligence Corps who knows that if Stevens can't get arms, he can't continue the
rebellion. Cobb sends his aide, Guardino, to nab the local gun runners, including Bogart, and tells them that they must sell their weapons only to the French or face severe penalties. Bogart reluctantly agrees, is released, and later meets Toren, Cobb's girl friend. Bogart romances her, but we're
not sure whether he really likes her or is doing this out of revenge. Toren tells Cobb she wants to go to Cairo and he must give her a pass. Cobb won't do it because he suspects the relationship between Toren and Bogart is growing. In a subterranean passage under the city, Bogart receives his last
payment from Stevens, then is told that his presence is no longer needed because he's been uncovered by Cobb. Bogart grabs Toren and they try to leave Damascus, but Cobb's men stop them. Bogart gets away, and Toren is arrested at the bus station. She's not taken to jail, though, but sent back to
her residence because Cobb is still in love with her. Guardino is killed, and when his corpse is sent to Cobb, the French officer would like to put an end to the killing. He arranges to meet with Stevens in an attempt to bring peace to the area. In order to effect that meeting, Cobb must enlist
the aid of Bogart as a go-between; he offers Bogart a bribe, a pass to leave Damascus for Cairo (sort of a parallel to the "letters of transit" that everyone wanted in CASABLANCA). Bogart introduces Cobb to one of Stevens' men and leaves immediately to get his pass at the French headquarters. The
moment he arrives, he is taken to see the General in charge, Sloane, who is annoyed that Cobb has taken it upon himself to try this peace move. There's no question in Sloane's mind that Cobb will never come back alive, so Sloane appeals to Bogart to help rescue Cobb. Bogart is adamant--a deal is a
deal. His part of the agreement was to get Cobb to Stevens. In return for that, he was to receive his pass. Now, what's it to be? Sloane gives Bogart two passes--one for Toren, too. It seems that Cobb, knowing that he might meet his death, has thoughtfully arranged safe passage for Toren as well.
Bogart has second thoughts; he sees that Cobb was a good man in doing what he did and deserves a better fate than death at the hands of Stevens. Bogart suggests that the rebels need money and that Cobb might be able to go free if they buy off the Stevens group. Sloane agrees, gives Bogart the
money, and Bogart returns to the catacombs under the city which he has been specifically instructed to avoid by the Syrians. Bogart could have just taken the money, the pass, and Toren and fled, but he has changed his way of thinking and, against his nature, will do this far, far better thing.
Stevens has Cobb and thinks that the whole idea of a peace treaty is ludicrous, but he admires Cobb for his heroism in walking into this lion's den. Bogart hands the money to Stevens, who orders Cobb's release but, in a cruel joke, Stevens has Bogart blown up with a hand grenade now that his
services to them are over. Zero Mostel appears briefly for a bit of comedy, and Nick Dennis plays a Bogart aide. Even though many of the same elements as seen in CASABLANCA are here, it just doesn't jell, mainly because the ending is so hopeless and the love story between Bogart and Toren seems
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A downbeat Middle East drama set in the milieu where Bogart had his greatest triumph in CASABLANCA. This time he's far less complex and sympathetic and he doesn't have Bergman as the object of his affection. It's 1925 in Syria, where Stevens heads a rebel… (more)