This classic 1950s thriller tells the story of Harry Smith (Humphrey Bogart), a fearless gunrunner who trades weapons under Emir Hassan (Onslow Stevens) in Damascus while the French and Syrians wage war in 1925 — all the while French Col. Feroud (Lee J. Cobb) is hot on his trail. His pursuit grows all the more intense when Harry, in spite of himself, falls in love with Feroud’s mistress, Violette (Marta Toren).
If Curtis Bernhardt is a relative unknown, it’s because he didn’t direct his first Hollywood feature until 1940 at the age of 41. Bernhardt worked for years in Germany until his Jewish heritage made living there impossible by 1933, making a harrowing underground escape to France after being arrested by the Gestapo. With Europe plunging into WW2, he left for America in 1939. Despite his limited grasp of the English language, he was offered seven-year contracts at both Warner Brothers and MGM, largely on the strength of Carrefour (1936), that proved so enduring that it was ultimately remade as Dead Man’s Shoes (1938) in the UK, and as Crossroads (1942) by MGM. Most émigrés would have jumped at MGM’s offer, but Berhardt went with Warner’s, favoring the studio’s reputation for hard-boiled realism. His career in Hollywood began with a false start; after working on his first assignment he fell ill and was reassigned an Olivia de Havilland vehicle, My Love Came… read more
If Casablanca has a skeevy brother with no charm and loser friends, then Sirocco is that brother. For as weak as Sirocco is, the cafe bombing and any scene with Marta Toren picked up some of the slack but the Zero Mostel and Nick Dennis warehouse scene was creepy (as was Mostel's character generally) as hell. If nothing else, Sirocco was further proof that the 50s just weren't Bogart's decade...
A striking poster for a cold-war thriller and the tragically short career of its leading lady.