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  Station Six-Sahara The Desert SnogBuy this film here.
Year: 1963
Director: Seth Holt
Stars: Carroll Baker, Peter van Eyck, Ian Bannen, Denholm Elliott, Hansjörg Felmy, Mario Adorf, Biff McGuire, Harry Baird
Genre: Drama
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Martin (Hansjörg Felmy) has been posted to this small oil refinery in the Sahara Desert where he will join a group of men stationed there, and the journey takes some time across arid terrain, driven by a local in a truck that when it stops for fuel, offers Martin the chance to get out and stretch his legs. As he does so, he notices a bus across the way from which some young women have emerged, having driven in the opposite direction to the station, and he can only surmise they have come from there after offering the isolated males some "company". The driver is amused, but Martin has no time for this, he just wants to get on with the job and make a bit of money - but on reaching his destination, he finds tensions both predictable and peculiar.

Although it might not seem so today, Station Six-Sahara was considered pretty daring on its release, especially with sexual tension to the fore in the plot, and a leading lady well known for her racy roles, that in spite of her endeavours to be taken seriously as an actress. She was the frequently underestimated Carroll Baker, who after making an impression on audiences with the title part in Baby Doll in the nineteen-fifties became associated with scandalous works when she was really supplying what the roles demanded as a professional performer. Nevertheless, this representation as one of the screen sirens, blonde bombshells if you like, of her era, tended to undercut the image of what was a very talented performer.

What was interesting here was how that persona was used to create the aforementioned tension, since Baker didn't show up in the plot until the film was almost halfway over. Seeing as how she was all over the publicity and first-billed for that matter, the anticipation as to when her character Catherine Starr would actually appear was palpable, especially when we were watching a bunch of sweaty men (this was shot both on Shepperton soundstages in Britain and on location in Libya) gripe and moan about their lot in life and play games of one-upmanship thanks to the crushing boredom they suffer. All except Martin, who impassively takes whatever this situation throws at him, never giving anything away.

As for the others, Ian Bannen was on top form as Fletcher, the bumptious Scot who takes most of his entertainment from thinking about women (we see him leering over a pin-up of the legendary Pamela Green) and tormenting Denholm Elliott's Major Macey. What he was forever looking forward to was the mail, since he was a great letter writer and that was how he amused himself, that contact with the outside world he wasn't getting from life at the station. Also there was a taciturn Mario Adorf, some servants drawn from the locals, and Peter van Eyck as Kramer, the big boss man who orders complete compliance with a collection of petty rules he has dreamt up to consolidate his position as leader, including forcing his underlings to play poker with him - and lose to him in the process.

It is Martin's first game, where he manages to beat Kramer, that threatens to turn ugly when suddenly there is the noise of a horn outside and they rush out to see an American car careering towards them, crashing to a halt. They drag driver and passenger out unconscious, and when they awaken it is ascertained that the man behind the wheel was Jimmy (Biff McGuire) and the woman beside him was his wife, Catherine, who wastes no time in tormenting him afresh by casting her eyes around for someone to replace him in her bed. That all these men were in thrall to the intoxicating power of her lust was something emphasised in the screenplay by Brian Clemens (soon to shake up The Avengers on television) and actor/director, though not in this, Bryan Forbes (making leaps and bounds in the industry himself), indicating all concerned were champing at the bit to present sexuality in as frank a manner as possible if the censors of the day would only let them. Baker appeared topless and even nude, but filmed so coyly to encourage you to use your imagination, leaving a movie on the cusp of the new freedoms, but concluding with the conservatism of previous decades, albeit reluctantly and with real wistfulness. Music by Ron Grainer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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