Nine Men

Last month, I was happy to host a guest post from contributor Gordon Gates, who also enjoyed the experience and expressed a desire to add some more on occasion. Seeing as he tends to focus on the kind of lesser known movies that I frequently enjoy but am not always familiar with, I’m delighted to offer him the space. This time he said I could choose between a number of (unnamed) options, and from those I went for the British war movie. So, read on…

Nine Men (1943)

During the Second World War pretty well all the countries involved put their film companies to work pumping out propaganda films. These would range from home front items to flag-wavers showing the various military arms at combat. This film is, in my opinion, one of the best productions to come out Britain during World War Two. Low budget for sure, but it is a winner. It is a neatly done film which uses service personnel in the roles.

This one starts with a Sergeant at a training barracks, Jack Lambert, telling the new recruits about a battle in North Africa he had been in. It is late 1941, Lambert along with eight others, are crossing the desert in a truck. The vehicle becomes bogged down in the deep sand. The men jump out to push. The truck is set upon by two German fighters who strafe the truck and men. Two of the men are wounded and the truck set alight.

The men manage to pull their weapons, a little ammo and a few canteens of water out of the blazing truck. The officer of the group is among the wounded. The section sergeant, Lambert, takes charge and they set off toward their lines carrying the two wounded.

A vicious sand storm brews up and the group loses their bearings. They, however, stumble onto a small abandoned building and take shelter inside. The storm blows its self out by the next morning. The officer has died of his wounds during the night and the men bury him outside the building.

As the British prepare to move on, a group of Italians soldiers approach them out of the desert. The British open fire killing several and putting the others to flight. Lambert is not sure just how many Italians there are, and decides to hole up for a bit. The other wounded man has taken a bad turn and needs further rest. The men watch the dunes for any enemy movement. The Italians at the moment are quite happy just sniping at the British.

The Italians try a quick assault just before dark, but are shot to pieces by the British who are firing from cover. They then try to have a go during the night with a light armored car. The one Brit, Grant Sutherland, though is a wiz with the Boys anti-tank rifle they have. He puts a few .55 caliber rounds into the armored car, disabling same. Lambert sends off one of the men towards the British lines to fetch help. The Brits can see the Italians gathering in ever growing numbers.

Lambert figures the Italians will soon try and swamp them. The Brits are out of water and down to about 15 rounds each. The other wounded man has also succumbed to his wounds. Lambert has two of the men take all the grenades and hide in the dunes outside the building. If the Italians attack, they are to toss all the grenades and scream like they are a dozen men. Hopefully they can bluff the Italians into thinking they are a large group.

The trick works and the Italians pull back. The Brits though are down to 4 or 5 rounds apiece. More Italians arrive and it looks like the end for Lambert and his group
Do the Brits stave off another attack? Or are they overwhelmed, killed or captured to become prisoners. Could perhaps the British arrive with reinforcements and save the day?


The rest of the cast includes. Fred Piper, John Varley, Jack Horsman, Bill Blewitt, Eric Miklewood, Richard Wilkinson and a 20 year old Gordon Jackson.

The director of this excellent film was Harry Watt. A former documentary film maker, (Target for Tonight) Watt keeps the pace even and shows a solid hand with the action sequences.

The lead, Jack Lambert, had a long film career being of screen from 1931 to 1975.
The film borrows some elements from the American film Sahara, which had used story ideas from the Soviet war film The Thirteen.
Most of the action was filmed at Margam Sands in Wales.
Gordon Gates

33 thoughts on “Nine Men

  1. Very good piece from Gordon!

    I feel sure I have mentioned before that I was born and brought up in Ealing, West London and lived not very far from Ealing Film Studios during their heyday (I was of course too young to appreciate that fact at the time!). This has nothing whatever really to do with the fact that I rate many comedies, dramas, thrillers made by Ealing as among the finest Britain produced.
    In 1943 Ealing put out three really good war films, “NEXT OF KIN” about careless talk on the home front, “SAN DEMETRIO, LONDON” saluting the merchant marine and “NINE MEN” which Gord has described so well above. These films were underplayed and almost documentary in approach with character actors in the lead roles, stars dispensed with.

    Those films were intended to raise morale and educate the public. During the 1950s war films proliferated, but from a retrospective viewpoint of course. From that time (1952) Ealing made “THE CRUEL SEA” from Nicholas Monserrat’s novel about the Royal Navy and starring Jack Hawkins. I call this possibly the finest film made about WW2 and highly recommend it.

    Look forward to seeing some more of these pieces, Colin…….

    Liked by 2 people

    • This, as I mentioned to Gord when forwarded this piece, is a movie I was aware of but haven’t seen, even though I know it’s commercially available. Reading through it, I was struck by what sounds like (and is acknowledged at the end) a strong similarity to Korda’s Sahara. The latter is derived from crime author and screenwriter Philip MacDonald’s Patrol, which of course was filmed as The Lost Patrol by John Ford.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jerry

      I had actually thought about going with “THE CRUEL SEA” but I figured “NINE MEN” would be a lesser known film. As you say about the other Ealing films, the films are underplayed and almost documentary in approach which works very well.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. The big difference is in the treatment. Similar storyline but they feel like two completely separate films. Hope you aren’t put off the British version because you know “SAHARA” and don’t want to repeat, Colin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, not at all. It’s one of those movies that I filed away in my head as a title to pick up at some point, and then I simply forgot about it for no specific reason. To tell the truth, I tend to enjoy seeing different treatments and approaches to similar scenarios.


          • Colin
            LOL The Lost Patrol as you mention can claim some parenthood to the film. If a fellow was to think long and hard, one could find a good half dozen or so westerns I bet with the same basic plot. That always makes it fun when one can spot a crossover plot element.


            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, this is true. There are certain types of plots that have what we might term a classic form – what matters, and what differentiates them all, is how they are handled and which themes are emphasized or played down in the various treatments.


  3. I think you would enjoy it. One I failed to mention from Ealing towards the war effort was “THE OVERLANDERS”, celebrating the Australian outback life. Super film, another Ealing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What films are up for the weekend for you?
    Another re-watch of Ford’s SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON starts things off for me. Then it will be VIOLENCE from 1947, a noir with Michael O’Shea and Nancy Coleman to be followed by the top-flight Japanese Yakuza, film, PALE FLOWER from 1964.


    Liked by 1 person

      • Colin
        The SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON print was breath-taking. It looked like it had gone through a full restore prosses. I do like my Japanese films. Ever heard of the LONE WOLF AND CUB series of 6 swordplay films? Fun low-rent films I take in at least once a year.


        Liked by 1 person

        • Gord, I’m afraid I must hold up my hand humbly and confess that my knowledge of Asian cinema in general, and Japanese cinema in particular, is woefully inadequate.


          • Colin
            I make no claim to being any sort of expert on Japanese films. But of the 50-60 titles that I have seen I must say at least two thirds were keepers. That to me is a solid number for any genre. Once one realizes that the swordplay films are really just “eastern” versions of “westerns”, they stand out all the more. The crime and yakuza films are just violent fun and very stylish. Lets just say that they work for me, particularly the ones with Toshiro Mifune. There are also several Thai and South Korean crime films I find highly entertaining.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. My films this weekend – first up “THE HAUNTED MINE”(1946), a Johnny Mack Brown starrer that has received a great upgrade via Warner Archive’s latest Monogram westerns collection. Previous prints were awful.
    Then “MAN ON A STRING” (1960) from Noir Archive Vol 3 BluRay set, a Cold War thriller about spying and counterspying and quite a complex yarn directed by Andre De Toth. I really enjoyed it and found it quite gripping. Incidentally I have all three volumes of these sets from Columbia Pictures, virtually all from the 1950s and strongly recommended. Region-free too btw.
    Then a real noir classic, “DOUBLE INDEMNITY”. How many times have I seen this great movie? Hmm, quite a few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerry
      Not seen any of J. Mack Brown films though of course I know of them. MAN ON A STRING I caught maybe 10-12 years ago and found it quite passable. I am a fan of Red Scare films myself. Fred and Babs to close out the weekend! I should of thought of that.



  6. This ones for you Blake……………

    Apologies to Gordon for gatecrashing his party.

    Blake,after all this time I have finally read your April 4 response to comments that I made earlier. To be honest I thought that thread had run its course and only stumbled across your reply by accident.

    Anyway here goes,you noted that you hoped I would read your reply,and now I have. I cannot be the only film fan who is unhappy with the way a certain film ends or would prefer other actors than the ones actually cast. I still don’t like the ending of THESE THOUSAND HILLS you mention the word “Puritan” in your response and actually my rant or whatever you wish to call it was a sort of unofficial follow up to a discussion I had with Margot regarding Puritan elements in Westerns.
    Regarding MAN OF THE WEST I still would have had Robert Taylor in the lead, after all he was a most convincing ex renegade in the underrated and superior
    LAW AND JAKE WADE. Furthermore Burl Ives so chilling in DAY OF THE OUTLAW would have been wonderful in MAN OF THE WEST more so than Cobb,I feel. I’ve actually watched MAN OF THE WEST more times than you many think both on large single screen cinemas (remember them) on DVD and now Blu Ray. I still find Cobb’s vaudeville villain turn hard to take the more I watch the film.

    As you well know I cannot totally dislike any Mann Western,I recently watched CIMARRON for the first time since it’s initial cinema release. Some sources say Charles Walters directed over half the movie,one hopes Mann directed most of the superior first half. One scene where The Cherokee Kid and friends are camped outside town the resulting failed heist and shoot out in a school house are classic Man his fingerprints all all over those scenes. It’s also interesting that the film covers anti racism as did Mann’s earlier DEVIL’S DOORWAY.
    Another key scene is where the Native American moppet is barred from the all white schoolhouse…”they don’t want me” she sobs as the Stars & Stripes
    flow visibly in the background. I don’t know if Mann directed this scene but it’s a most powerful one anyway. Mann is not above obvious symbolism either he likes to dress his scarlet ladies in scarlet;Julie London in MAN OF THE WEST and Anne Baxter in CIMARRON.
    Interestingly CIMARRON is peppered with actors who had previously worked with Mann.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John
      To go back a few weeks when a film I was going to watch for the first time, A BULLET FOR JOEY was mentioned. You made a comment about it being rather flat despite the cast. Good call. Raft is Raft, and is more or less the same in all his films. E.G. Robinson though really failed to bring anything to the production. Flat as you say, is spot on as a description of his work here. I was very disappointed with the film.


      Liked by 2 people

  7. Blake,by an odd turn of fate I had intended to include POSSE FROM HELL in my original rant but decided for some reason against it. Firstly POSSE FROM HELL is one of the few film directed by Herbert Coleman who is better known for a long association with Hitchcock which should be a guide that POSSE FROM HELL is no ordinary Audie Murphy Universal Western. I must say that Audie’s Universal Westerns are a very strong bunch of films even the least of them has something worthwhile to offer.
    Blake,our initial discussion on POSSE FROM HELL goes back several years over at Toby’s I think,it’s interesting that you still remember it. It’s a lame excuse but at that time the only copy of the film that I had was a poor quality DVD and 4×3 to boot. Having more recently viewed the film on Blu Ray and in 1.85 widescreen, well that’s a whole different matter altogether. The widescreen presentation give the film more depth and certainly enhances the lovely locations especially Lone Pine-more mist shrouded than we are used to in Westerns. My opinion of the film has changed considerably although there are very
    disturbing elements to this Western. The various shotgun blastings are very graphic for the time. The most controversial element is the gang rape of Zohra Lampert thankfully not shown on screen but described in graphic detail. “Those men,their smell,the sweat,the blood,the whiskey,…so ugly”

    Also disturbing is Murphy’s initial response to Lampert he rather coldly says “you’ll learn to live with it” Later Murphy offers a more compassionate response “as far as I’m concerned you’ve not even been touched” Lampert’s own version of her future is also bleak: as a social pariah (correct) as a prostitute (incorrect.) Towards the end of the film Murphy asks Lampert how the townsfolk have been treating her to which she explains the women have been far worse.

    Blake, in our previous discussion I got totally the wrong take on the ending, you were right Murphy and Lampert DO end up as a couple at the end of the picture. As you mentioned before the end scene in the churchyard is beautifully done. A nice touch is that the dead lawman’s pining dog actually follows them out of the churchyard.
    For some reason on my initial viewing I felt that Zohra Lampert was left alone at the mercy of the contentious townsfolk. In closing POSSE FROM HELL is a fine Western with adult themed elements and some totally fascinating characters.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This section contains major spoilers to SAN ANTONE and PASSAGE WEST. I mention this because these two films are on Colin’s to be viewed stack.

    While trying to stay on track regarding endings of films which one either likes or does not I thought I’d hone in on a couple of Arleen Whelan films Margo
    mentioned recently. PASSAGE WEST as I think Margo agrees, is the least successful of the two. I don’t like the ending of this film at all-the main reason at the end of the film several desperadoes die in an explosion in a cave. They all more or less deserved to die apart from runaway slave Dooley Wilson. Why couldn’t Dooley have been able to walk out into the sunlight to live with the Good Christian Folk.

    For what it’s worth that ending just did not work fro me. PASSAGE WEST is less flabby and overlong than other Lewis R Foster Westerns, in particular EL PASO and THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK. I don’t think Foster was much of a Western director and those two films would have been better if directed by,say, Ray Enright-they would have had far more zip. As much as I dislike Foster’s Westerns his Noirs are rather good:CAPTAIN CHINA, MANHANDLED,CRASHOUT. To give Foster his due he did know how to stage an epic punch up there is a doozy of one between John Payne and Dennis O Keefe in PASSAGE WEST. Furthermore there’s an even better one between Payne and Lon Chaney in CAPTAIN CHINA. Such a shame iconic Noir actors Payne and O’Keefe never appeared in one together.

    SAN ANTONE is a different matter altogether. In this revenge Western Rod Cameron is after nasty Forrest Tucker. One of the visceral thrills of revenge movies is seeing the villain get his final just deserts,not so in SAN ANTONE. At the end of the picture Cameron decides that Tucker and Whelan are so rotten they could end up as a couple and eventually destroy each other. The pair DO ride off together at the end of the picture,I never saw it coming and must say it’s the most twisted ending to a Western that I recall and yes, I must say I rather like it. I’m quiet the Arleen fan, I loved her role in SAN ANTONE totally OTT but in a fun way,sort of like Scarlett ‘O Hara on speed. To me the start of the picture looks like a parody of GWTW.
    I hope Colin reviews SAN ANTONE when he finally gets ’round to watching it, I’d love to hear his take on the movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John, briefly, because I am catching up on some things with work today, I’m glad you gave POSSE FROM HELL another chance and have it better in your mind now. I too have seen it again since we discussed it and still held up for me for all the same reasons.

    Again, I don’t mind harsh elements in some of the Westerns we discussed. But I’ll say if that were ALL that were there (as is true in many nihilistic 70s Westerns and 60s/70s Italian Westerns that I myself dislike), I wouldn’t feel the same way. But in all of the ones we discussed, that’s not what they most deeply are.

    I didn’t really have as much argument with you about wIshing a movie were cast differently but I tend to take who is there if they work for me in the roles. So, sure Taylor in THE LAW AND JAKE WADE and Ives in DAY OF THE OUTLAW are both very strong, but they are not in MAN OF THE WEST and I believe Cooper and Cobb both are right for the film. JAKE WADE does follow a similar narrative line to MAN OF THE WEST and I like it very much too, but not as well as MAN OF THE WEST–it’s not so deeply dramatic powerful for me, though is very satisfying, like most Sturges Westerns.

    It is pretty evident that the first half of CIMARRON is Mann’s work, and especially the schoolhouse shootout which is beautifully directed. And it’s good up to that point anyway, and then falls below Mann’s other Westerns.
    I don’t believe Walters directed half of it, but what he did is in the second half. If he’d done that much wouldn’t the credits have to have changed (Walters was an excellent director with other kinds of films).

    For me, MAN OF THE WEST is the climax of Mann’s cycle of Westerns.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks for the reply Blake.
    My opinions on films change all the time,now in the age of DVD and Blu Ray we are able to return to favourite and not so favourite films time after time.
    Right now, and indeed I would suspect forever, I would cite my favourite Mann Western as THE MAN FROM LARAMIE that picture, just for me, has everything.
    At any rate it’s the one I constantly turn to time after time. I understand that there is a 4K restoration of WINCHESTER ’73 in the works, possibly to be released by Criterion. That’s long been my top Mann Western but over the years I’ve grown to love THE MAN FROM LARAMIE even more. I guess I’m pretty facile really, but that’s the way it goes. Perhaps when the rumoured restoration of THE NAKED SPUR arrives my attitude may change-as far as I know it’s just a rumour nothing concrete.

    For me, MAN OF THE WEST is a supremely crafted interesting misfire, Blake,there’s no accounting for taste. Even the doyenne of bloggers,the highly respected and extremely influential Laura was not blown away by 3 10 TO YUMA (the original, not the ghastly remake) and, correct me if I’m wrong Blake it was yourself that supplied Laura with the review copy. I think Laura liked the film but had wanted to love it. Perhaps her opinion has changed over the years. What I’m trying to say is that we ALL have different takes on films what works for one person does not for someone else. For me 3 10 TO YUMA is Delmer Daves masterpiece. The one Western that I’ve always loved and have binge watched recently and is now one of my top five Westerns ever made is THE GUNFIGHTER.
    Henry King’s film is a masterpiece and as good as THE BRAVADOS is,it does not even come close. Peck’s Jimmy Ringo is the great tragic Western character,a man who just wants to be left alone, settle down but in town after town is confronted by repellent little creeps like Richard Jaeckel and Skip Homier. I must add that Jaeckel and Homier are always superb and contributed so much to movies in general. Everything in THE GUNFIGHTER works, the whole look of the film, the sets, the exteriors, everything. Peck was never better and the supporting cast is simply wonderful, not a false note in the entire film.
    Well I’m off now to watch on TV an episode of THE TIME TUNNEL an all time best episode, I’m told guest starring Robert Duvall…like I said Blake, there’s no accounting for taste.


  11. Yeah, no accounting for tastes.

    I’m not trying to persuade you on MAN OF THE WEST and have said enough for now on the way I see it. I will clarify that saying it is the climax of Mann’s cycle of Westerns doesn’t mean it’s my favorite. THE NAKED SPUR has always been my favorite, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE a close second. I put four of the James Stewart movies ahead of MAN OF THE WEST but do consider it on that same peak level. And even his other 50s Westerns beyond that, if little less for one reason or another, are well-achieved works to me. They are all essential Westerns except CIMARRON.

    We do agree about 3:10 TO YUMA as Daves’ masterpiece, but I’m sure you know that from things I’ve said. But that’s not to count out THE HANGING TREE, or COWBOY, and THE LAST WAGON, JUBAL, BROKEN ARROW for that matter. Colin could make a good case for THE HANGING TREE as best of Daves and I hope we all agree he wrote beautifully about it, but I know that Colin also loves Daves more generally.

    I got back to THE GUNFIGHTER after Skip Homeier’s death a few years ago, as a tribute (it was a definitive role for him). I’ve always liked it too, and I know I always will, but in terms of the way I see Henry King, THE BRAVADOS does go deeper for me, more richly treating the spiritual themes are so important for him. I’ll say they are both major Westerns. I know the common view favors the earlier film, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.