South of Algiers

South of Algiers (U.S. The Golden Mask) is a 1953 British adventure film, directed by Jack Lee and starring Van Heflin, Wanda Hendrix and Eric Portman. It is based on an original screenplay by Robert Westerby, and was partly filmed on location in Algeria.

South of Algiers
U.S. poster
Directed byJack Lee
Produced byAubrey Baring
Maxwell Setton
Written byRobert Westerby
StarringVan Heflin
Wanda Hendrix
Eric Portman
CinematographyOswald Morris
Distributed byAssociated British-Pathé
Release date
17 March 1953 (UK)
1 March 1954 (U.S.)
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office£150,380 (UK)[1]


Doctor Burnet (Portman), a scholar of ancient history at the British Museum, is obsessed with finding the legendary and priceless Golden Mask of Moloch, believed to be buried in the lost tomb of a Roman general somewhere in the Algerian desert. He plans his latest expedition of discovery, but lacks funds to pay for an archaeologist to accompany him. He learns from the museum curator that Nicholas Chapman (Heflin), an American author of popular archaeology books, is eager to go along and work without pay, on the understanding that he will be able to publish his experiences in magazine articles and book form. Burnet is dubious of Chapman's expertise and good-faith, but finally agrees to let him join the party.

Unknown to them, Burnet and Chapman are accompanied on their flight to Algiers by unscrupulous fortune hunter Petris (Charles Goldner) and his sidekick Kress (Jacques B. Brunius), who are just as keen to get their hands on the mask, but in their case purely for financial reasons. On arrival in Algiers, Burnet meets up with his daughter Anne (Hendrix) and her boyfriend Jacques (Jacques François), whose father is the curator of the local museum of antiquities. Chapman is attracted to Anne, but she finds his forwardness offputting. That evening, Chapman goes alone to a nightclub, where Kress homes in on him, plies him with drink and introduces him to a sultry belly dancer. After a very enjoyable evening, Chapman returns to his hotel room to find his belongings have been ransacked and his maps stolen.

The Burnet party sets out across the Sahara by camel and are beset by dangers including windstorms and attacks by hostile desert nomads. They finally reach the secret tombs, and narrowly escape with their lives when a roof collapses as they excavate. Petris and Kress show up and force Chapman to reveal the location of the tomb. They hatch a plan to kill Burnet and his party to claim the mask for themselves. However Chapman proves to be more than their match and saves the day.

With Petris and Kress taken care of, the mask is found safely. Anne realises that she has fallen in love with Chapman, while Jacques magnanimously concedes that they make a good pair. Burnet admits that he was wrong to doubt Chapman's credentials, and sets about transferring the mask safely to London.



Director Jack Lee said the film "was a piece of old hokum, made almost entirely on location. It was quite fun, but it was all cliche stuff, with goodies and baddies and all those spahis riding around chasing bandits."[2]


  1. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000 p499
  2. Brian MacFarlane, An Autobiography of British Cinema, Methueun 1997 p 357
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