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The Desert Rats (1953)

Approved | | Action, Adventure, Drama | 20 May 1953 (USA)
Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Sgt. 'Blue' Smith
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Lt. Harry Carstairs (as Charles Tingwell)
Charles Davis ...
Pete
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Mick
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Storyline

Rommel has the British in retreat on his way to the Suez Canal. All that stands in his way is Tobruk, held by a vastly out numbered force of Australian troops. Richard Burton leads these troops on daring raids against Rommel, keeping him off balance as they earn the nickname 'The Desert Rats'. Written by Derek Picken <dpicken@email.msn.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Desert Demons Who Stopped Rommel, The Desert Fox! See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

20 May 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Les rats du désert  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,320,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The character Bartlett (MacRoberts' former schoolmaster) is portrayed as an alcoholic whose drinking caused him many troubles. Sadly, this was actually the case for the actor playing him, Robert Newton. He became increasingly unemployable due to his drinking, was declared a bankrupt in absentia, and would die just 3 years after this film. The cause of death was announced as a heart attack but was widely believed to be multiple alcohol-related causes. See more »

Goofs

When the British planes are firing at the trucks carrying the prisoners, the Germans fire back but appear to be using American Thompson M1A1s as opposed to MP40s. See more »

Quotes

Tom Bartlett: You don't know much about real fear, Tammy. Maybe it comes with age or the bottle. You don't know what it is to be a coward... really a coward. To know it, yet to hope one day something will happen to prove that you're not, yet half the time not really believing that either.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: 1941 LIBYAN DESERT NORTH AFRICA See more »

Connections

Edited into All This and World War II (1976) See more »

Soundtracks

Waltzing Matilda
(1895) (uncredited)
Original music by Christina Macpherson (1895)
(Based on the Scottish tune "Craigielee", music by James Barr, with words by Robert Tannahill)
Revised music by Marie Cowan (1903)
Lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (1895)
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A fine film that highlights an almost forgotten campaign in WWII.
30 August 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The Desert Rats is an unpretentious war film that tells a good story with economy. The heroics come without drum-rolls.

The most fascinating part of this film is to watch both the marvelous Robert Newton and the under-rated James Mason give Richard Burton acting lessons.

Burton tends to chew the scenery when he snarls, "Good-morning," as though he were the youngest in a large family, doing anything for attention.

Newton counters Burton's unnecessary histrionics with a beautifully modulated realization of-himself in disguise as Prof. Bartlett, Burton's old instructor. I think this is the most honest look at the REAL Newton on film. The rueful man who clearly understands his inability to stay sober, but still has enough control to see his own and everyone else's situation clearly. He is the kind, timorous, brilliant failure who, in one burst of glory, up-stages his more successful juniors. Newton delivers a truly magical performance.

James Mason also delivers a balanced and multi-layered Rommel. Of course he practiced playing this brilliant German General in the better-known film, The Desert Fox.

Burton comes across as pure ham in The Desert Rats, but there IS one scene he has where he is honest and effective. He explains to Bartlett that the picture of the young woman in his wallet is his wife. The picture actually IS Burton's wife, pre-Elizabeth Taylor.

Otherwise, although Burton is billed as the star, the film belongs to Newton and Mason. See it for the pleasure of their company.


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