Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Die eiserne Jungfrau

One of the movies that TCM ran earlier in July as part of their tribute to Tab Hunter was The Steel Lady

Tab Hunter plays Bill Larson, a young radio operator on an airplane crew exploring for oil in the Sahara, in an era when western companies had all the concessions to drill the oil and, if the places weren't still colonies, pay royalties for the drilling rights. The pilot is Mike (Rod Cameron), with two geologists along to do the actual exploration: Jim (Richard Erdman) hard-drinking Sid (John Dehner). Unfortunately, a sandstorm comes up, forcing them to crash-land, and leaving the plane irreparably damaged. Bill isn't certain whether the radio can be fixed well enough to give headquarters a fix on their position. Worse, when they're taking turns looking for the search plane, it's Bill who falls asleep during his watch when the plane is overhead. Oops.

So it's certain death for them. Or maybe not. The crew is lucky enough to find something buried in the sands of the Sahara, which turns out to be an abandoned Nazi tank from World War II, which is surprisingly rather far south from where the Germans were fighting. (And considering the date, I'd think rather far west too.) The German crew called it "Die eiserne Jungfrau", which one of the Americans translates as the "Steel Lady" although "Iron Maiden" or even "Iron Virgin" would be more accurate. Although it's been under the sand for a decade, the Sahara is dry enough that with the help of some of the parts they can salvage from the airplane, they might just be able to get the tank to work to get it far enough to an oasis from where they should be able to get help. So our crew is in business again!

Unfortunately, when looking through the tank, Sid discovers a compartment that contains a box full of gems, which he doesn't tell anybody else about. He's not the only one to know about it, though; the Bedouins at the oasis sure remember the Nazi tank that came through a decade earlier and they know what the Nazis did to them. Sure enough, they find the gems, and that means deep trouble for the crew.

The Steel Lady is one of those movies that, as I was watching it, I thought would be perfect for the Saturday matinee thing that TCM has been doing for the past several months. Sure enough, when I read the IMDb reviews, there were several reviewers who remember seeing the movie as a kid and loved it then. It's entertaining enough, although it's chock full of plot holes and poor production values. How did the tank wind up in the middle of the desert? How did the gems get cut and polished? Wouldn't the denizens of the oasis have radio by the 1950s to communicate with the outside world? It goes on like this. So just sit back, turn your mind off, and enjoy a fairly lightweight movie.

The Steel Lady has received a MOD release to DVD from the folks who own the rights to the United Artists stuff, which means that it's a bit pricey. As with the subjects of my previous two reviews, it's another of those movies that probably would be better off in a box set.

No comments: