The Black Tent (1956)
Sinden Shows True Steel
Sitting here staring at a computer screen I am trying to work out what I have to say about "The Black Tent" and I am lost for words. The reason is not because I have just watched something utterly terrible or something undeniably special but because "The Black Tent" is so ordinary. The story, the characters, the acting and also the directing is all so very ordinary and leaving absolutely no lasting impression what so ever. The thing is that whilst very ordinary I don't think "The Black Tent" could actually be any better because in truth the story itself is mundane and no matter how good an actor or director was attached it would always be ordinary.
Many years after believing his brother David (Anthony Steel - Storm Over the Nile) died whilst fighting in Libya, Col. Sir Charles Holland (Donald Sinden - Above Us the Waves) receives news that David may not have died like he thought. Having travelled to Libya with only a piece of paper as a clue he tracks down a Bedouin tribe which live in black tents where he believes his brother ended up. As he tries to find out the truth not only does he receive a frosty reception but also meets a blonde haired boy who looks suspiciously like his brother.
"The Black Tent" is basically a movie of two storylines and it starts with Col. Sir Charles Holland discovering that the brother he believed was killed during action in Libya may have survived. And so we watch as Charles heads to Libya and the desert in search of the truth, just an old bond which belonged to his brother being his only lead to where his brother may have ended up when records show he was killed.
Now this could have been good because in Charles' eyes dying in battle was the brave way for him to die and so if he had lived it could mean he was either chicken or a deserter. Unfortunately this dilemma is underplayed as we watch Charles get taken to a Bedouin tribe which live in black tents, yes that's why it is called "The Black Tent", and discovers a young blonde hair boy living there whilst also realising that his brother David had been there but his prying isn't welcome. All of which is very mundane with absolutely no depth and the only interesting thing is Donald Pleasance playing Ali his camel riding guide.
In many ways Charles' adventures into the Libyan Desert is the lead in to the main storyline as he comes into possession of David's diary and discovers what happened. As to what happened well we have melodrama as this Bedouin tribe took him in when he was badly wounded, how he fell in love with the Sheik's daughter Mabrouka, had to deal with German's and also his desire to do the right thing and fight for Britain. It is surprisingly dull because whilst we have this series of dramas and a few more none of them except one quick action scene is that interesting.
It is a case that "The Black Tent" feels lifeless and made because someone had bought a story to turn into a movie and actors needed work to do. You get this feeling not just from the acting with both Donald Sinden and Anthony Steel doing what's necessary in a very stiff upper lip sort of way but also through Brian Desmond Hurst's direction. It basically feels like everyone is just going through the motion with only Donald Pleasance having fun as the slightly cheeky Ali. And in the end the star of the movie ends up not being an actor but some stunning ruins which play an important part in David's side of the story.
What this all boils down to is that "The Black Tent" is not a bad movie, there is nothing essentially wrong with it but it is not good either and basically feels run of the mill. As I said "The Black Tent" feels like a movie made not because anyone saw potential in it but because someone had a story and actors needed work.
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