Cinema: The New Pictures, Apr. 6, 1953

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Sombrero (M-G-M), an excessively picturesque romantic drama with a Mexican setting, seems to have just about everything in it except Quetzalcoatl and Pancho Villa. Among its ingredients: three love stories involving three sets of dashing caballeros (Ricardo Montalban, Vittorio Gassman, Rick Jason) and beautiful señoritas (Pier Angeli, Yvonne de Carlo, Cyd Charisse), a bullfight, a cockfight, a feud between two villages, bastardy, incurable illness, a fiesta, a beauty contest, a contested will, gypsy witchcraft.

Adapted by Director Norman Foster and Josefina Niggli from her 1945 novel, A Mexican Village, the picture was entirely photographed in authentic settings. Although it tries to affect a rakishly romantic tilt, Sombrero is mostly old-hat.

Destination Gobi (20th Century-Fox) is a run-of-the-range western with a Far East setting. The picture is based on a real incident: during World War II, the U.S. Navy maintained teams of weather observers in the Gobi Desert to assemble meteorological data for the Pacific theater of war. As a gesture of good will, one of these weather units had 90 saddles flown in from the U.S. and parachuted on to the desert for Mongolian plainsmen.

Around this molehill of fact, the picture builds a mountain of melodramatic fiction about a weather team headed by hard-boiled Chief Petty Officer Richard Widmark. When Japanese planes bomb out the weather station, Widmark and his men set out for the sea on an 800-mile trek across the desert. On the way, they encounter vicious Japanese, treacherous Chinese camel traders, and lariatswinging nomad tribesmen on Mongol ponies.

The picture has some real-looking backgrounds, but the goings-on frequently appear spurious. Sample dialogue, as a couple of meteorologists encounter a glamorous Mongol maiden en route: Q. "You made a hit with the girl. How did you do it?" A. "My training as a meteorologist. I can take one look at a girl and tell whether."

Desert Legion (Universal-International), a tepid melodrama set against the blazing sands of the Algerian desert, has no meteorologists, but it presents Alan Ladd as a French Foreign Legionnaire who stumbles on to a mysterious city named Madara, beyond a hidden pass in the Iraouen Mountains. Legionnaire Ladd never had it so good as he does in Madara. He takes the Algerian equivalent of a bubble bath, and is entertained by sword dancers while the emir's gorgeous, red-haired daughter (Arlene Dahl) feeds him sweetmeats by torchlight. Unfortunately, this pleasant state of affairs is menaced by a villain named Omar Ben Khalif (Richard Conte). But once Ladd disposes of Conte, he and Arlene are free to resume their idyllic existence. With its outlandishly fanciful doings, Desert Legion is as patently unreal as a Technicolor mirage.

The Hitchhiker (The Filmakers; RKO Radio) is a crisp little thriller inspired by the real-life story of Billy Cook, who in 1951 killed six people on a transcontinental murder spree. The picture opens with a couple of Mexico-bound vacationing fishermen (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) picking up a hitchhiker (William Talman), who turns out to be an escaped convict and murderer. It ends with the Mexican police closing in on the killer and his intended victims just in the nick of time.

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