Sunday, January 3, 2016

Another Look: SERGEANTS 3 (1962, Sinatra Rat Pack movie)

I saw this movie when it first came out in ’62. I was about 14 and remember liking it quite a bit. At the time, I had no awareness of the classic adventure film GUNGA DIN (upon which this is a blatant remake but curiously in no way acknowledged as part of the credits – yet always mentioned in any subsequent discussion of the film).

This is the second of four “Rat Pack” movies that Sinatra and his gang would make --- preceded by OCEAN’S 11, followed by ROBIN AND THE 7 HOODS and then 4 FOR TEXAS. In summation: Two pretty good flicks; two quasi-clunkers.
SERGEANTS was really the last of the “full” Rat Pack ventures, as Peter Lawford was jettisoned from the group shortly thereafter when his family “in” with JFK wasn’t enough to keep Sinatra on the “in” (due to his mob ties) after he worked so hard to help get JFK elected. Lawford was gone from ROBIN and by the time TEXAS rolled around it was down to Frank and Dean Martin.
For a long time, SERGEANTS 3 was considered the “lost” Sinatra film since, after its initial release, it seldom, if ever, played on TV nor was available as part of the video or early DVD boom. That is no longer so, however. I recently re-watched as part of TCM’s “Sinatra 100” celebration, and it’s also now available on DVD.

Aside from a comparison to the vastly superior GUNGA DIN, SERGEANTS 3 is lackluster at best. It has its moments, but they are far between and not real strong when they come. This is surprising, given all the talent involved. And not just on the screen --- John Sturges (BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK, THE MAGNIFICENT 7, etc.) was the director and W.R. Burnett (LITTLE CAESAR, THIS GUN FOR HIRE, etc.) did the screenplay.
This is a classic case of a “vehicle”, folks … Take a “hot” star (or a whole handful, in this case) put ‘em in a colorful romp or adventure never meant to be taken too seriously, serve up some light entertainment, make a little dough, and everybody comes out okay.
Trading India for the Wild West and the British Army vs. fanatical “thugs” for the U.S. Cavalry vs. fanatical Native American “Ghost Dancers” was a clever concept … but the handling after that turned pretty flat.

It’s not a terrible way to spend a little less than two hours.
The production values are good, the scenery is beautiful, and it’s kinda fun to see the Rat Pack pals cavorting at their peak. Dean and Sammy have the best moments and steal everything worth taking.
For the completest, it’s worth checking out … Just don’t expect too much.


Unknown said...

This was a movie that could've been very good and wasn't. I saw it in '62, also, but I was a bit older than you were then. It was a disappointment.

David Cranmer said...

I was younger than both of you in 1962. Negative eight years! And based on your thoughts I will never watch this film. Thanks for the heads-up.