Produced by Hal Wallis and directed by William Dieterle, Wallis had intended Rope of Sand as a reunion for Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. When that plan did pan out, he settled for Burt Lancaster in the lead, and a cast filled out by several of Casablanca’s supporting players: Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Peter Lorre.
Lancaster plays Mike Davis, a former hunter and tour guide who returns to Africa after two years in exile. He had been tortured by Paul Vogel (Henreid), a commandant charged with protecting an area rich in diamonds. Davis had refused to reveal the location of some diamonds after a client of his had mistakenly wandered onto the property of the Colonial Diamond Company, and discovered a treasure. Despite his denials, everyone believes Mike knows where the diamonds are. After learning that Mike has returned, Vogel volunteers to introduce Mike to some new torture techniques, but Colonial executive Arthur Martingale (Claude Rains), who has an intense dislike for Vogel, prefers to make things a bit more interesting. He hires a sexy, French con woman, Suzanne Renaud (Corinne Calvet) to toy with both men. Also part of this decidedly dangerous equation are the camp’s Doctor Hunter (Sam Jaffe) and the crooked opportunist Toady (Peter Lorre).
While Rope of Sand doesn’t offer anything new to the noir genre, it does present an interesting bit of a chess game. Who is loyal to whom, and what does it all mean as far as the endgame? Suzanne bounces between both men, eventually deciding on Mike, but Vogel still has some dirt on her, and the rivalry between him and Mike still simmers.
If you’re a fan of noir, Rope of Sand is worth checking out. Full of maps, card games, booze, and including a mysterious woman, the story is able to create some believable tension. It’s clear that Mike wants to be anywhere but where he is. Director William Dieterle (who also directed Dark City) uses the exotic locale effectively, producing a believably isolated environment for this drama to take place in. There are a couple of good twists and turns to keep things interesting through to the end, and the acting is strong from everyone involved.
Presented in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p release from Olive Films does have some noise issues in select shots. However, the image is generally terrific. Blacks are inky, and backgrounds are very clear, which serves to enhance the film’s overall look.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono track isn’t anything special, but it does provide clear, understandable dialogue. It is also properly balanced.
There are no extras included.