A New ‘Tales of Adventure’ Collection Brings Four Tales of Bravery to Blu-ray

Come for the adventure, stay for the baboon brawl.
Sands Of The Kalahari

Australian label Imprint Films, a fantastic line under the ViaVision imprint, releases older films to Blu-ray each month. Most get their own release, but thehas done good work collecting some titles together in box sets celebrating directors, genres, and more. Their Tales of Adventure series kicked off last year with a celebration of “Arabian” adventures while collection two set its sights on jungle thrills. Tales of Adventure: Collection Three finds its thrills from Algeria to Norway and features a roster of big names including Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris, Anthony Quinn, and more.

The new release once again comes in a sturdy hard-box with each film in its own snap-case. All four discs are region free, and the sets are limited to 1500 copies only. Now keep reading for a look at all four films in the new Tales of Adventure: Collection Three!

Ten Tall Men (1951)

Sgt. Kincaid (Burt Lancaster) is a fun-loving member of the French Foreign Legion, but he’s all business when it comes to wooing the ladies and beating down the baddies. News of an impending attack on their outpost sees him tasked with holding off the invaders until reinforcements arrive, but to do that he’ll need a little help from a handful of rogues, thieves, and rapscallions.

While Tales of Adventure: Collection Three is a box of undeniable goodness, The Tall Men is unfortunately its weakest link. The film started life as a serious western before Lancaster and friends shifted gears and turned it into an overseas adventure run through with comedy. Neither choice seems to have been the right one, though.

The French Legion itself is a solid enough setting for a thrilling tale as the African landscape and warring factions offers up conflict and dramatic struggle, but director Willis Goldbeck is unable to deliver a compelling or convincing experience. This never feels like Morocco, let alone Africa, and instead bounces between Southern California and minimally dressed soundstages. That lack of tactile atmosphere immediately squashes any attempt at suspense, thrills, or drama. Worse, though, is the film’s comedic efforts that fall flat at every turn as big bads are bonked over the head and get trounced via slapstick antics.

Ultimately, it’s Lancaster who makes the film watchable. Always the acrobat, he turns Kincaid into a lively, punchy guy prone to knocking guys out and rolling about as a form of defense. He’s fun, but the script thinks he’s also funny, and that’s where the two diverge. Like the film itself, Lancaster tries to bring the laughs, but instead it all just feels silly and lacking in stakes. The core idea here — “bad” guys stepping up and doing good — is better served in something like The Dirty Dozen (1967) or The Magnificent Seven (1960).

Region free, with no extras.

The Heroes of Telemark (1965)

The small town of Telemark sits amid the gorgeous mountains of Norway alongside a beautifully serene lake, but all is not well. It’s World War II, the country is occupied by German soldiers, and the Nazis are producing heavy water for use in atomic bombs. It’s the kind of thing that could turn the war in their favor, and the only hope of stopping it rests with a small group of Norwegian resistance fighters.

This wartime epic from Paramount isn’t all that well regarded, or even well remembered, but watching it now stirs up an appreciation for old school movies of its ilk. A major appeal here is the basis on a true story, and director Anthony Mann brings the production to the very town where it all unfolded. We’re watching things play out around the very same streets, factory, and lake where — no exaggeration — Hitler’s best chance at acquiring an atomic weapon was stopped. That alone adds a level of interest to the film.

Mann’s direction ensures the whole maintains that interest, too, as he crafts a compelling blend of drama, espionage, and action. It’s far from action-packed, but the film’s methodical nature has an appeal of its own as we move step by step with the resistance and their plan. You can feel the icy cold permeating outdoor scenes, elevated further as the Nazi threat collides with the beauty of the surroundings en route to a satisfying conclusion.

Kirk Douglas, Richard Harris, and Michael Redgrave take the lead here, and all do good work. Douglas plays a physicist who’d rather keep the ladies warm than tangle with Nazis, but he’s convinced by Harris’ young freedom fighter as to just how important their effort is. The character drama may underwhelm at times, but Douglas and Harris, in particular, are rarely less than charismatic and engaging.

Region free, with the following extras.

  • *NEW* Commentary with film historians Steve Mitchell and Steven Jay Rubin
  • *NEW* The Making of The Heroes of Telemark [1:24:43]
  • *NEW* Playing a Hero: Interview with actor David Weston [17:58]
  • Location reports from Norway [43:21]
  • Location report from Weymouth [12:41]
  • Interview with Richard Harris on location [6:13]
  • Interview with Michael Redgrave on location [4:24]
  • Interview with Ulla Jacobsson on location [4:33]
  • Interview with Anthony Mann on location [4:40]
  • Interview with Kirk Douglas at Pinewood Studios [5:58]

Sands of the Kalahari (1965)

A small chartered plane takes off for a flight over the Kalahari Desert, but when a freak cloud of locusts disables the engines, the plane and its passengers crash into the hot sands below. The survivors — six men and one woman — seem to initially work together, but it’s not long before fear and ego begin to rattle their efforts. Add in dehydration, hunger, and a nearby pack of territorial baboons, and things get even worse. And then, of course, you have to deal with a shirtless Stuart Whitman.

Writer/director Cy Endfield delivers one hell of a survival tale here — my favorite film in the set, by far — that works beautifully as both a traditional story of survival and an exploration of humankind’s animalistic tendencies. One character shares his knowledge on the baboons, describing their tribal nature, the dominance of a single male, and the ownership the beast takes over the females, and it’s not long before we begin witnessing the humans devolve in similar fashion.

The messaging never tries being as on point as say, something like Lord of the Flies, but similar themes are at play here. Whitman’s Brian O’Brien is an experienced hunter, and he comes armed with a rifle, a barrel chest, and certain opinions on masculinity. He’s fantastic in the role, exuding a sweaty confidence that leads viewers and the lady (Susannah York) into his orbit — well, at least until he starts actively getting rid of the other men who he sees as both resource drains and threats to his dominance.

Endfield shot the film on location, and it’s an effective choice dropping audiences into the harsh desert landscape alongside the characters. Their struggle plays out with suspense and mild action beats, and watching Whitman’s descent towards his animalistic ways is at times thrilling. The baboons don’t come into play as much as an eco-horror fan like myself would have liked, but they get the last laugh with a pretty spectacular finale that plays out with only the sounds of nature barking out from your television. It’s a great film deserving of more eyeballs.

Region free, with the following extras.

  • *NEW* Commentary with film historian Scott Harrison
  • *NEW* Sounds of the Kalahari: Interview with sound camera operator Arkadi de Rakoff and clapper loader Douglas Milsome [32:42]

Lost Command (1966)

A Lt. Col. in the French military fights and loses an epic battle in Vietnam, but he finds new opportunities after being released from a POW camp. It’s called failing upward, and for Pierre Raspeguy (Anthony Quinn), it’s the path he takes into Algeria as part of France’s fight against the resistance. He gathers a ragtag group of soldiers including men he fought alongside previously, but he soon discovers that one of those men is now the leader of the very resistance he’s going to combat.

Director Mark Robson, or at least his 1st and 2nd A.D.s, manage some solid battle scenes here capturing the explosive chaos of the battlefield. They’re one of two real highlights, and while they’re relegated mostly to the front and the back of the film they still raise the energy. Set-pieces are allowed room to breath with a variety of wide shots showing scale and tighter sequences showcasing individual character beats.

The film is a bit less successful off the battlefield, though, as the varying character dramas aren’t equally compelling. Quinn’s terrific as the disgraced military man seeking a second shot at military success, but as good as those elements are his more intimate scenes are a mixed bag. Alain Delon has the more interesting role as a captain growing tired of war, but what to make of the horribly miscast George Segal — as an Algerian officer in brown face. Wild stuff.

The same year saw the release of The Battle of Algiers, and that’s the one you want for a more serious and thought-provoking look at the French attempt at quelling the rebellion. If you’re okay with a simpler approach, though, one more interested in audience approval and an entertaining satisfaction, than this should scratch the wartime cinema itch.

Region free, with no extras.

Buy Tales of Adventure: Collection Three from Imprint Films!

Rob Hunter: Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.