A Twist of Sand (1968)

The film concerns the uniting of former acqaintances, where after being re-united, the group forms a team that sails from England to the coast of Africa to pick up a box of smuggled diamonds. The main character is the ship’s captain, played by the handsome Richard Johnson. Richard Johnson was once married to actress and playboy model, Kim Novak. But Kim Novak is not in this movie, too bad. The movie does have a female actress, Honor Blackman. Ms. Blackman has acted in about 50 movies. In A TWIST OF SAND, she is part of the team that seeks out hidden treasure. Her character is neither strong-willed, nor weak willed, and she does not play any “love interest.” She is just part of a team of five scoundrels. The story takes place in the years shortly after World War II, but there are flashbacks where the sea captain remembers commaning a submarine in the British navy, where his mission was to blow up a German U-Boat at its dock. The reason he had to blow it up when it was at shore, was because it was faster than any other submarine in the world, and could travel at 20 knots. The U-Boat was mooring at the Skeleton Coast, a real place in Africa.

FLASHBACKS. The film has generous amounts of scenery from this flashback, and we see the British submariners blowing up the German submarine (the U-Boat). One of the German survivors, named, Johan returns to the place of his U-Boat’s demise during the course of the story, and he momentary suffers an emotional reaction.

STORY’S BEGINNING. The story begins when the captain is piloting a gun smuggling boat. The British coast guard goes after him, and one of his men throws several huge boxes off from the ship, and so he avoids getting jail time. After about 20 minutes into the movie, the captain receives a “job offer” to return to the Skeleton Coast, in order to pick up a box of diamonds, which had been hidden away a few years earlier. The box of diamonds had been hidden in the front of an ancient wooden sailing ship.

OVER THE OCEAN. A large portion of the story takes place during the oceangoing journey to the Skelton Coast. Drama is added to the story, because Johann is somewhat mentally ill, and never speaks, except when inspired to sing a favorite song. Johann is played by actor Peter Vaughan. In two parts of the movie, the captain sings the song, and Johann joins along in a somewhat retarded version of singing. Also, Johan has the bad habit of whipping out a switchblade, and threatening the captain. At any rate, Johann is part of the fivesome about ship, because his technical knowledge is needed. The movie is an ensemble piece, with four men and one woman. There is essentially no violence, aside from a German submarine being blown up. There is no profanity. There are no sensuous parts. But best of all, there are no computer graphics.

WALK ACROSS THE SAND. Aside from the captain, there is a middle-aged woman (actress Honor Blackman), who is brought along, because she is the only person who knows the location of the diamonds, hidden aboard the ancient wooden sailing ship. A fourth person is another seafarer, who betrays the others. And there is also a fifth person. About ten minutes are spent, showing the ship’s arrival at the Skeleton Coast, navigating between many dangerous rocks, which jut out of the coastal waters like pins that block the passage of the silver ball on a pinball machine. The ship uses the partially sunken U-Boat as an anchor point. Then the group trudge across the desert, and the ancient wooden sailing ship is found. The desert walk takes only one day. At first, they belief that they are stumped, because the bow of the ship is totally under the sand. But the captain insists that they go into the wooden ship, and they do, and determine that the sand has not clogged up the ship’s interior. There are several tense minutes, where we hear creaking sounds, and the viewer anticipates that the sand dune will plung through the ship’s deck, and crush the foursome. At any rate, they reach the bow, and one of the men holds up the box. But the betraying man shoves large object (a canon), and it falls through the lower deck, and kills the man holding the box of diamonds. The betrayer jumps down and retrieves the box of diamonds, and then the remaining part of the group trudges back through desert windstorms to the ship. The windstorm and the fact that the group runs out of water lends a sense of danger to this part of the movie. The betrayer insists that they leave Johan behind to die. The captain, who has a moral streak, revives Johann by telling him that he (the captain) had blown up the German U-Boat. This works, and Johan rises from the desert, whips out his switchblade, and manages to trudge slowly towards the others as they march across the desert. Finally, Johan collapses. The captain takes Johann’s knife, folds it, and stuffs it into Johan’s pocket, and shoulders Johan and carries him the rest of the way. Then, the betrayer insists once more that they leave Johann behind, and then the betrayer kills Johann with the gun, leaving only three people left. The woman tosses the bag of diamonds at the betrayer, and he is knocked out, and falls into the ocean and dies. Unfortunately, the diamonds tumble out of the bag and are lost in the ocean. The remaining three people make their way back to the ship and that is the end of the movie. The final seconds show a closeup of the betrayer’s hand. Inside the hand is one diamond. (This is an effective ironic end to the movie.)

CONCLUSION. I watched this movie all the way through, and never thought of switching it. There was nothing amateur about the acting. The type of drama is similar to that of the Indiana Jones movies, but TWIST OF SAND does not have any humorous parts, and does not have any cartoonish parts. This is not a movie for taking a date, because it is not a “feel good” movie. The storyline is about scoundrels, and about scoundrels betraying each other.