The checkered career of notorious Hollywood screenwriter Peter Appleton has lately been the subject of a resurgence of interest. However, the facts now show the highly sentimentalized version of Appleton’s life depicted in Frank Darabont’s “The Majestic” was a complete fiction.
We now know that the real life Peter Appleton (played by Jim Carrey in the movie) was no communist, but was in fact an enthusiastic Fascist sympathizer and vicious anti-Semite. The emergence of his long-suppressed screenplay version of Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Niebulungen,” which depicted the heroic Siegfried battling demon rabbis, has been shocking enough. Recently conformed reports of his background as a serial rapist whose victims included Marjorie “Ma Kettle” Main, Ward Bond and Francis, the Talking Mule (an act of non-consensual homo-b********y worsened by the fact that the famous beast was underage) has horrified even the most hardened movie buff.
Nevertheless a line must be drawn between the vicious human being that Mr. Appleton was and the wondrous, shimmering work he delivered to the heads of HHS Studios with “Sand Pirates of the Sahara.” This amazing tale of swords, sex and sand — lots and lots of sand — is among the finest desert-set epics in history, prefiguring “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Sheltering Sky” and” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
While the name of the director is so-obscured by time that neither the IMDB nor Halliwell’s Film Encyclopedia, nor even the film’s credits, contains the name of the director, it hardly matters, for it is writer Appleton’s vision that carries the film.
The plot of “Sand Pirates” is simplicity itself. Roland (Brett Armstrong) is a Morocco-bound insurance salesman waylaid by the handsome but evil Prince Khalid (the now completely forgotten Rex “Sparky” Westdale), who is about to wed the virtuous, wall-eyed Isabel (Yvonne de Carlo) against her will. Isabel prefers Roland and, before you can say “blind hatred”, a battle of wits so amazing and daring it cannot be described by any sane writer takes place. Complete with stunning cameos by a young DeForest Kelly and an even younger Charles Nelson Reilly, you may never see “Sand Pirates of the Sahara,” but you’re guaranteed to never forget it anytime soon or in the near future.