Legend of the Lost (1957)

Legend of the Lost (1957), directed by Henry Hathaway.

I had never heard of this before finding it at the public library. Starting from isolated Timbuktu, an adventurer is hired to go deep into the Sahara to find the lost treasure city of Ophir. A prostitute looking for a second chance tags along for some reason. They find treasure in the desert, but also betrayal, madness and murder, faith lost and faith regained.

What could go wrong with this film? We have an experienced director, a script by Ben Hecht and photography by the great Jack Cardiff. And surprise: the leads are John Wayne and Sophia Loren. Who could pass it up?

It's pretty damned dull, having a curious slackness, a lack of energy. They're trying, just not hard enough. Wayne as a romantic lead: it can work in comedy and it's true that you never know what women will go for, but it really doesn't work here.

Filmed in Libya with fine desert locations, and the extensive Roman ruins are impressive. Also some cheap-looking soundstages. Produced by Wayne's company.