Beau Geste (1939)

Beau Geste (1939), produced and directed by William A. Wellman.

We open with the Mystery of Fort Zinderneuf. A relief column of the French Foreign Legion arrives to find no enemies in sight and the walls manned by dead men. Apparently no survivors. But: shots are fired from within! The bugler goes in as a scout. When he does not return the commander goes in, finds no sign of the scout. Then two bodies laid out vanish when his back is turned. Finally as they are leaving the fort catches fire.

Is this place haunted?

Flashback 15 years to a manor house in England when the three Geste brothers were children. We have a lengthy childhood setup (they meet their future Legion commander) and more as they are young adults. When a fabulous sapphire goes missing, the brothers vanish one by one, meeting up in the Foreign Legion in North Africa.

Then to Fort Zinderneuf, a siege against overwhelming odds as all the soldiers are picked off one by one. After each assault the brothers look for each other and exchange smiles, as long as they last...


Score by Alfred Newman. Theodor Sparkuhl and Archie Stout share the cinematography credit. Edith Head costumes.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Image quality is adequate, grainy with some print damage, mostly vertical striping. Frank Thompson and the director's son William Wellman Jr provide a relaxed, conversational commentary track.