Prisoner of the Casbah
After fleeing his native France following his last great robbery, notorious thief Pepe Le Moko (Charles Boyer) escaped to Algiers where he took up residence in a secure home in the Casbah. With officials from France desperate for his arrest they are foiled by the loyalty of the locals who respect Pepe and make sure their investigations come to nothing, even local Inspector Slimane (Joseph Calleia) is more of an ally than a lawman as he often assists Pepe. But whilst Pepe wants for nothing including a woman as he has the attractive Ines (Sigrid Gurie) living in a prison of his own making starts to get to him especially when he meets Gaby (Hedy Lamarr) an attractive Parisian who reminds him of what he left behind whilst bringing out Ines jealous side.
A few years ago I was having a chat with someone who bemoaned the recent trend for Hollywood remaking European movies just a few years after they came out yet it is something which has gone on for a long time and certainly not just a recent thing. Take the entertaining "Algiers" from 1938 as it was a remake of the 1937 French movie "Pépé le Moko". Whilst I have never watched "Pépé le Moko" I will say that "Algiers" is a well made movie from the pre-war era with a nice flow, nice performances and whilst no outstanding camera work has plenty of enjoyable scenes.
Now "Algiers" doesn't really need a great deal of explaining as we have 5 characters; the charming thief; the beautiful woman; the jealous girlfriend, the foolish French official and the sarcastic local inspector who knows the way of the Casbah and is much of a friend to Pepe than a lawman. These are all familiar characters and the situation is familiar to; you know that Pepe's fondness for Gaby is going to cause him to consider leaving his safe environment and taking his eye off of the ball whilst causing his girlfriend Ines to become increasingly jealous and possibly betraying the man she loves.
But whilst familiar it is still entertaining with a lot of enjoyable performances starting with Charles Boyer who is well cast as the popular charmer but he also gets across the side of frustration that he is stuck in the Casbah even if he has the support of all the locals whenever the law try to arrest him. Then there is Joseph Calleia giving what I can only describe as a Peter Lorre type performance as the amusing Inspector Slimane and his scurrying around is what helps the movie flow. Of course "Algiers" also features Hedy Lamarr who frankly delivers a solid performance but makes an impact purely on the fact she was drop dead gorgeous and well cast as a woman who could cause a man to go crazy once she is in their head.
What this all boils down to is that "Algiers" is an entertaining little drama which is easy and enjoyable to follow thanks to the smooth direction of John Cromwell and the confident performances of all the cast. For those who have watched the French original might be disappointed by some changes, in particular the ending, but for those who haven't seen it will find the ending perfect.