The French Foreign Farce
"Ten Tall Men" is a forgettable movie, a sand and sandals movie from the 50s which best scene is the amusing opening with a couple of soldiers dressed as women. But it does have one thing going for it, and that is a handsome thirty-something Burt Lancaster smiling his way through proceedings and taking off his shirt a few times to show off his physique. Okay there is more to Burt Lancaster's performance than going shirtless but "Ten Tall Men" is a movie which works because of his looks and charisma rather than anything else.
Somewhere in the Sahara many years ago Sergeant Mike Kincaid (Burt Lancaster - Vengeance Valley) learns that the Riffs lead by Kayeed Hussein (Gerald Mohr - Funny Girl) are planning to attack the City of Tarfa. Put in prison for flirting with Marie DeLatour (Mari Blanchard), Lieutenant Kruger's (Stephen Bekassy) woman, Kincaid cuts a deal with Kruger that if he and the other prisoners are released they will keep Hussein occupied whilst reinforcements reach Tarfa. But when they come across Hussein's camp Kincaid realises that he is about to marry Mahla (Jody Lawrance), the daughter of a different tribes leader and in doing so uniting their armies. So what better way to distract Hussein but to kidnap Mahla and give him the run around for 5 days.
Whilst "Ten Tall Men" has a storyline in truth it isn't much of one, we get some humour at the start with French Foreign Legion soldiers dressed as women, we have Kincaid flirting with DeLatour and then we have Kincaid kidnapping Mahla and with his men try to keep Hussein distracted for 5 days. So that is what the basic storyline is but in truth we have the old cliche that whilst Mahla starts of as a reluctant hostage who tries to escape she ends up falling for Kincaid. As I said this is very much a movie which trades on Burt Lancaster's good looks and charisma and in fairness it works in a very typical fashion.
What is kind of amusing is that as a sand and sandals movie "Ten Tall Men" has some of the most mind numbingly boring action scenes, there is shooting, a couple of brawls but none of it stands out. That is with the exception of when it is trying to be funny and with a comedy opening where people end up trapped inside baskets it is humorous in the simplest of ways. But it is so uneven because whilst there are some really entertaining humorous scenes all the normal stuff which goes on between ends up dull.
Now one thing is for sure and "Ten Tall Men" is not a movie about characters despite us having a few quirky ones in the men that Kincaid leads. Instead this is a movie all about Lancaster's charisma and he delivers it in the bucket load, doing nothing necessarily memorable but when he turns on the charm and has that mischievous twinkle in his eyes it works. And the handsome Lancaster has a couple of beautiful women to flirt with firstly Mari Blanchard as Marie DeLatour and then Jody Lawrance as Mahla but that is it.
What this all boils down to is that "Ten Tall Men" is a very ordinary movie which trades on Burt Lancaster's looks and charisma whilst throwing a few humorous scenes into the mix to spice up something which is otherwise forgettable.