Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
16 hrs ago
11 hrs ago
8 hrs ago
14 hrs ago
6 hrs ago
2 hrs ago
31 min ago
Escape From Zahrain(1962)
A hunted revolutionary leads a rag tag group of individuals through the desert in an attempt to elude security forces and escape the fictitious Arab country of Zahrain.
For more about Escape From Zahrain and the Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray release, see Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 2, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Yul Brynner, Sal Mineo, Jay Novello, Madlyn Rhue, Jack Warden, James Mason
Director: Ronald Neame
» See full cast & crew
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray Review
For once, Apple Maps' inability to find Zahrain is not its fault.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 2, 2013
There has been such a nonstop array of bad news coming out of the Middle East, especially lately, that it may be hard to remember a time when many western cultures rightly or wrongly (and as politically incorrect as it may sound to modern day ears) posited images of so-called "noble Arabs", native middle easterners whose desires to free their countries from colonial (some might argue imperialistic) occupying forces and to reclaim their countries' natural resources for themselves were considered something akin to the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi in India, in spirit if not in tone. Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to look at an early sixties film like Escape from Zahrain without viewing it through the prism of the roiling sociopolitical maelstroms that have engulfed much of that part of the world, particularly in the light of the uprisings known popularly as the Arab Spring. For that reason, some may find this film incredibly quaint, if not downright unbelievable, as it posits Yul Brynner as the leader of an insurgency in the fictional country of Zahrain who is seeking to free his country from the avaricious corruptions of its ruling elite and the intrusions of outside powers (notably the British) who lust after the country's immense oil reserves. Instead of depicting Brynner's character as a wild eyed would be terrorist, however, this "kinder, gentler" film from a decidedly different era casts the character as the stalwart hero of the piece who stages a desperate escape across a seemingly impenetrable desert to get to a neighboring country so that he can marshal his forces and hopefully free his land of all the oppression, both within and without, it's been experiencing. Therefore, the best way to enjoy Escape from Zahrain is to put one's "current affairs" mindset on pause for an hour and a half or so and to simply indulge in what is essentially (no pun intended) escapist fare, throwing a bunch of disparate characters together and watching them sweat—both figuratively and literally—as they attempt to find a way to freedom.
Ronald Neame was a hugely influential and successful British writer, producer and director whose collaborative efforts included works with a number of other English legends, notably Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean. Neame's directorial oeuvre was remarkably varied, including everything from what many consider the high point of this aspect of his varied career, Tunes of Glory, to the film that won Maggie Smith her first Oscar, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, to the legendary disaster film The Poseidon Adventure to my own personal favorite in Neame's filmography, the beautiful musical version of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge. Neame was never really a flashy director, but he always staged his films effortlessly and similarly drew out the best in his performers, leading several of them to either Academy Award nominations or outright statuettes.
Escape from Zahrain is probably on the lower rungs of Neame's directorial achievements, but that doesn't mean the film isn't well crafted or enjoyable on its own terms. We're introduced to a corrupt Sheik in the film's prelude, one who's out to reap as many personal rewards as possible from his country's vast oil reserves. Standing in his way is rabble rouser Sharif (Yul Brynner). Sharif is in custody but there are plans afoot to spring him out, and the Sheik decides it will be best to transport this high value target unannounced with a bunch of other low level thieves, until he can be spirited out into the desert and summarily shot. Though it's not made clear how the Sheik's plot is transmitted to Sharif's cohorts, there's a crew of young men waiting for the truck transporting their leader and after a brief melée, Sharif is indeed freed, along with a bunch of other lower value targets. Chief among these are an American named Huston (Jack Warden), who has been imprisoned for embezzling money from the British owned oil company, and Tahar (Anthony Caruso), a brutish thug who is an acolyte of Sharif, but who quickly earns the nickname of Frankenstein, bestowed upon him by Huston.
Also along for the ride is Ahmed (Sal Mineo), one of the young men who helped to free Sharif, a European educated Arab who acts as a symbol of a Middle East in transition, still bound to the past but aching for a more liberated future. Soon this motley crew takes two more "passengers" hostage when they abduct a Red Cross (yes, Cross, not Crescent, in one of this film's oddest decisions) ambulance. These unwilling participants include Laila (Madlyn Rhue), another European educated Arab who wants nothing to do with these brigands, and her driver. This gaggle of disparate people thrown together by chance are soon a gaggle of desperate people, as they are confounded in their initial attempt to simply drive across the desert by both ground forces and ultimately an airplane sent to scout for them, leaving them no choice but to try to make their way over a seemingly impenetrable mountain pass.
Escape from Zahrain then simply documents the slowly unfolding interpersonal dynamics between this aggregation of people. Laila is initially standoffish but is slowly convinced that Sharif might indeed be good for her country, though she also engages in some good give and take with both Sharif and especially Ahmed. Huston is simply a guy on the make (and, evidently, on the take) looking for the easiest way out of a country that wants to shoot him for embezzlement. There are a couple of deaths along the way and one relatively amusing cameo by an unbilled James Mason as a boozy oil line worker that the group runs into when they run out of gas and attempt to replenish their supplies at a felicitously placed worker campsite.
There have been a number of similar films released over the years that posit a bunch of people traversing a tricky environment with nothing but their wits to get them through the elements. Parts of Escape from Zahrain reminded me of a rather different but tangentially related film, Greed in the Sun, which sees a similarly diverse group of people attempting to get through a barren desert wilderness. However, the main reason Escape from Zahrain probably never resonated with audiences, despite its general craftsmanship and decent if not overwhelming excitement, is that another film with a long trek across the desert and a gaggle of independence-minded Arabs opened in that same year of 1962 and became an instant sensation. What possible chance could Escape from Zahrain have had when put up against the juggernaut that was Lawrence of Arabia?
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, Video Quality
Escape from Zahrain is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. While there's not a lot of outright damage to report here, at least aside from expected age related wear and tear, as has been the case with a number of other Olive releases of color films from this era, the elements have faded quite a bit, and a noticeable brown tint gives much of this high definition presentation a less than beautiful muddy appearance. Things are decently sharp and well defined, to the point that several matte paintings and rear projection sequences look almost ludicrously fake. Some of the location photography is still quite striking, however, and the depth of field in some of the desert footage is breathtaking. In true Olive fashion, neither restoration nor digital tweaking have been undertaken here.
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Escape from Zahrain lossless DTS-HD Master Mono track is nicely full bodied, delivering dialogue and Lyn Murray's colorful score well, if narrowly. (This is perhaps the only time I've seen a score credited as "background music".) While there's just a bit of thinness in the upper frequencies, for the most part this is quite a good sounding track, without any really notable damage or distortion to report.
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray.
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Escape from Zahrain is one of those middling efforts which probably wasn't any great shakes during its initial theatrical exhibition but which perhaps looks better to weary eyes today simply due to the huge amount of poorly scripted and shot fare with which we're regularly inundated. Neame was a consummate craftsman, and even when he was working with less than stellar material he could put together an exciting, well shot story with compelling characters, and that's exactly what he delivers in this film. Escape from Zahrain isn't really overtly political, despite some of the subtext involved, but for those with an eye on the simmering Middle East situation, it makes for a fascinating primer on both how much things have changed as well as how much they've stayed the same. This Blu-ray has typically problematic video in terms of fading if not horrible damage, but its soundtrack still comes through rather forcefully. Recommended.
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, News and Updates
No related news posts for Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray yet.
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Escape From Zahrain Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.