Monday, 22 August 2011

Wanted dead or alive # 8 : Station Six-Sahara

Never released on VHS or DVD and even the grainiest Betamax-recorded snippet of it has yet to find its way to Youtube, the recent appraisal of Station Six-Sahara in Sight & Sound has got me like a black cat on the trail of a fat rat trying to set eyes on its elusive hide. Directed by former-Ealing and future-Hammer hireling Seth Holt, produced by two of Roman Polanki's cabal from his British flicks, scripted by the bloke who directed The Stepford Wives/wrote the screenplay for Chaplin and the fella who was chief-writer on The Avengers and then later championed by Martin Scorsese in his column for Film Comment back in the eighties, it sounds pretty bloody intriguing :

The film all takes place on an oil station somewhere in the Sahara (it was actually shot close to Tripoli), where the pumps are manned by a motley crew. We're introduced to them as a newcomer arrives - a taciturn, self-disciplined German (Hansjorg Felmy). Ominously, he's driven to the station in a truck that also carries the coffin in which his predecessor will be taken away. Once there, he encounters a racous, ribald Scot (Ian Bannen), an uptight, snobbish former army major (Denholm Elliot) and a shy, uncommunicative Spaniard (Mario Adorf). All are under the thumb of their boss (Peter Van Eyck), a proud, isolated figure who prefers to keep himself apart from the others in order to maintain his authority.

So far, so sweaty, with the Scot tormenting the major at every opportunity, and a tense night-time poker game threatening to usher in the film's first real burst of violence. But just at that moment, a bizarre event disrupts this uneasy community. An open-top cadillac bolts through the station and hit a wall. Its occupants are a man and his blond female companion (in fact his ex wife), who is miraculously unscathed by the crash. As he makes a slow recovery from his injuries, she - in the form of Carroll Baker, star of Kazan's Baby Doll (1956) - stalks around the station with a catlike grace, whilst the resident toms become highly agitated by her presence. It's then simply a matter of who amongst them will make the first advances, and who she will pick for her pleasure. I won't reveal more except to say it all ends unhappily... sort of.

As Station Six-Sahara demonstrates, Holt had a remarkable gift for conjuring atmosphere, combined with an astute direction of actors (all are excellent) and a masterly use of montage. Sound alone is brilliantly used throughout, from the monotonous throb of the pumps to the whining crescendo of the cadillac's horn before the crash.

Since the movie is so hard to come by nowadays, I described it to my pa dukes and asked if he'd ever seen it to which he replied that he had, but then I could bullshit up a pornographic outtake from Rio Bravo where Stumpy talks Feathers into blumpkining him after getting her rat-arsed on rum as revenge on Chance for criticising his throwing skills during the gunfight scene and he'd probably try and convince me that he'd seen that too. Any of all y'all cinephile goons who find yourselves in this corner of the internet ever caught this on TV? Apparently there's the original which played in cinemas and on TV here and a cut-for-TV American version which had some of its raciness trimmed and cropped. I'd settle for either currently since it's the celluloid equivalent of the pre-Live At The BBQ Nas demo with Eric B, but the O.G would be preferable.

I just found a link to an upload of a 2nd-generation dubbed VHS tape of it that someone has attempted to clean up on a slightly suspicious Ukranian blog. Can we really trust any website operated by ppl of Russian origin other than Cocaine Blunts and Steady Bloggin'?


brad said...

i've got this on laserdisc

Spartan said...

Not to necro post, but did you get to see this in the end?

Copped this with a bunch of other Brit flick blu's released by Network not too long ago.

Ain't watched it yet, but I'm keen to see a Carroll Baker movie before she went giallo.

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

I never did no, just a buncha clips. Gonna have to cop that.

Wonder if this was an influence on Wake In Fright?

Spartan said...

I don't know yet, but Josh Olson bigged it up on Trailers From Hell not too long ago and that spurred me on in checking it out.

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

"Station Six-Sahara is a glorious glorious and sweaty and guilty guilty guilty pleasure. Could not recommend it highly enough."

Words which have inspired me to go cop the DVD.