25 May 2008 | Bunuel1976
SERGEANTS 3 (John Sturges, 1962) **1/2
Ever since my childhood, the Rat Pack films have been staples on Italian TV – but, curiously enough, not this one!; still, as often happens, its long absence doesn’t necessarily make it a lost gem and, actually, it can now be seen as the least of them! In any case, a legitimate DVD edition of it has just been released in time for the 10th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s passing – though I had to make do myself with a barely adequate VHS-to-DVD dub for this viewing…but which, surprisingly ran for 117 minutes when the film’s official length is given as 112!
Anyway, personally produced by Sinatra, this emerges as the third version of a Rudyard Kipling story: a sort of GUNGA DIN (1939) parody in Western garb – except that the original already contained strong doses of humor! Old hand W.R. Burnett wrote the script and the necessity here to follow a proper plot renders this less freewheeling than other Rat Peck outings; however, this then results in jarring bouts of violence played alongside revue-style comic sketches! The film’s major set-piece is an extended shootout between the boys and some renegade Indians in a ghost town which culminates in an outburst of fireworks and the shooting of dynamite a' la RIO BRAVO (1959); by the way, Sinatra and Dean Martin had already proved themselves in the genre – most notably with JOHNNY CONCHO (1956) and RIO BRAVO itself respectively (Martin actually became a staple of the gun-and-saddle tradition between 1956 and 1973).
With this in mind, the repartee among the stars is par for the course: Martin has the old Cary Grant role, Peter Lawford fills in for Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Sammy Davis Jr., naturally, is Din; as for Joey Bishop’s character, he usually finds himself the brunt of the boys’ jokes. Sinatra himself seems constrained by the martinet role played in GUNGA DIN by Victor McLaglen but, typically, Dino and Davis have fun with their roles. Michael Pate and Henry Silva (as father and son) feature as the rebelling Indians; incidentally, Sinatra and Silva’s next confrontation – later that year in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE – proved far more memorable. It’s also worth pointing out that three of Bing Crosby’s sons appear here as bumbling privates.
Director Sturges was himself a Western expert and had already collaborated with Sinatra on the war adventure NEVER SO FEW (1959); he also did a number of Cavalry vs. Indians-type efforts such as ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (1953) and THE HALLELUJAH TRAIL (1965; which was also largely played for laughs).
P.S. Shortly after this film’s release, Sinatra fell out badly with Lawford (even throwing him down a flight of stairs!) after President Kennedy – who was Lawford’s brother-in-law – choose to stay over at Bing Crosby’s house rather than his (due to recent allegations of Sinatra’s connection with the Mafia being uncovered) and which explains Lawford’s disappearance from subsequent Rat Pack efforts…