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Desert Legion

Desert Legion(1953)

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In the desert of Algiers, French Foreign Legion officer Major Vasil sends his friend, stalwart captain Paul Lartal, into the mountains to track down notorious murderer Omar Ben Khalif. Paul's troops, however, are quickly led into a trap and all are killed by Khalif's men except Paul, who is knocked out. When he awakens, he is in the sumptuous desert tent of a beautiful Arabian woman who has nursed him back to health. She refuses to answer any of his questions, revealing only that her people need his help. Untrusting, Paul treats her brusquely, and after he passes out again, he is discovered back in the open desert by other Legionnaires. When he describes the mysterious beauty to his superiors at the Legion, no one believes she was real. Only Vasil, who knows that Paul is a superior and somber soldier, believes him, but then suspects him of losing his senses when he insists on returning to the mountains to avenge the deaths of his troops. Soon after, Paul receives a letter with a medal, which he believed to be lost in the desert, enclosed. The letter urges him to meet a messenger in a nearby city, and Paul risks arrest by sneaking there with his friend, Pvt. Plevko, against the general's orders. Once in the city, the two men are chased by Legionnaires and rescued by a beggar, who later identifies himself as Lt. Messaoud, the messenger. Messaoud leads them through a secret pathway high into the mountains, eventually reaching the idyllic "City of Peace," Madara. A suspicious Paul soon meets the city's leader, Kahlil, and his right-hand-man, Crito. At dinner, the beautiful woman reappears and introduces herself as Morjana, Kahlil's daughter, and Paul cannot keep his eyes off her. After dinner, Crito visits Paul's luxurious room and warns him that he is not wanted in Madara. The next day, however, Kahlil informs Paul that Crito is splitting the citizens into warring factions, and is planning to marry Morjana and become the city's ruler upon Kahlil's death. The older ruler also reveals that he was once a Legionnaire but left the army to build the peaceful utopia. First Kahlil and then Morjana urge Paul to protect them against Crito, and although Paul admits to Morjana that he is falling in love with her, he insists that women have no place in his life and he must leave. When she begs him to stay, he kisses her while Crito watches from across the courtyard. That night, one of Crito's henchmen tries to murder Paul in his sleep, and Paul kills the attacker. He then finds the medallion of his slain friend, Corp. H. Schmitt, on the dead man's body, and realizes that it was Crito's men who ambushed Paul's troops. Paul names Crito as Omar Ben Khalif, and Crito admits that he has been secretly amassing his troops to take over Madara. He challenges Paul to a javelin duel, and the next day, the two men fight for several exhausting hours. When Crito finally collapses, Paul does not kill him but instead insists on taking him back to the Legion. As soon as they set out, however, Crito's men attack them, free their leader and imprison Paul and Plevko. Soon after, Crito also imprisons Legionnaire Lt. Lopez and tortures him for information. Crito order his troops to take over Khalil's palace, and reveals to Paul that he has set a trap for Vasil's men, who are on their way to attack. That day, Paul is about to be stoned to death, when Morjana saves him by announcing that she wants marry Crito immediately. The ceremony begins, but is interrupted by news that Vasil's men are approaching. Crito leaves with most of his troops, allowing Khalil to break out of the palace, using his old Legionnaire rifle. He and Morjana free Paul and the prisoners, and Paul assembles a small army to follow Crito into the hills. There, Crito is in the process of devastating Vasil's men, until Paul and the Madara citizens ambush Crito from behind. Kahlil shoots Crito off his horse but is himself shot in return. Paul fights Crito until the usurper plummets off a cliff to his death, after which the Madarians quickly defeat Crito's men. Just before dying, Kahlil proclaims Paul his son, and later Vasil tells Paul that all the desertion charges against him will be dropped. Instead of returning to Algiers to collect his medals, however, Paul rushes back to Madara, into the waiting arms of Morjana.