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The Deserter
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Devil's Backbone More at IMDbPro »The Deserter (original title)

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16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Great Dirty Dozen style western

Author: Allan Stenhouse from Glasgow
5 January 2004

Really loved this film when I saw it on BBC1 way back in 1981, when I was the grand old age of 11. One of those films I always wanted to see on TV again, but it has NEVER been repeated on UK TV. However, I managed to pick it up on second hand video from e-bay, and wondered how it would stand up today, over 20 years after I saw it. The verdict? Still great. True, it is dated in parts (Music, editing) but these are really minor complaints on the whole. The lead character is great; really ruthless and a true anti-hero. Some great supporting cast also; with some really unexpected moments. And it takes it's time getting to where it's going, which I feel a lot of todays films lack. In 'The Deserter', the characters are given time to breath, and it is not until well after the first hour that they inevitably start to die. This all leads up to an explosive last twenty mins, with some memorable scenes. If you love 'guys on a mission' movies, or westerns, see this little gem. Allan.

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13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Competent copy of a familiar formula

Author: Wizard-8 from Victoria, BC
23 July 2000

What we have here is a rip-off of "The Dirty Dozen", though with more than 12 men, and set in the wild west. There was promise here that wasn't quite realized; we hardly get to know any of the characters, some of which could have been quite interesting given their backgrounds (an Afro-American, a Native American, a British army officer, etc.) The climatic action sequence is also a bit too short, and almost plays like they were running out of time and decided to bring in the action right there, and do it as quickly as possible.

Still, it's never boring, and it has a once in a lifetime cast that almost begs you to see it. You might want to wait until it's on TV, though - the boneheads at Paramount Video released this on EP speed, which doesn't make the picture quality any good.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Hard to get excited over Bekim Fehmiu

Author: Nozz from Israel
14 May 2002

Bekim Fehmiu had got a lot of exposure in _The Adventurers_, so here's Hollywood wondering if it should keep him around as a leading man. He gets a good director and a dream cast of character actors to support him. And there's a line in the script to identify him as a Serb in case you need an explanation of his accent, but the line isn't necessary; his English is fine.

Still, the burden is too much for Bekim. The film is a particularly dark Western. Writer/directory Kennedy, whose other films display a lot of warmth and humor, has given the star little to work with but grief and righteous resentment. You wish the hero well, but he doesn't engage you, and Bekim can't draw the missing sparkle forth from his own personality... not for an American audience, anyway.

We're left with a B movie, a movie that can command your attention but not your love.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A good but violent revenge western

Author: NewEnglandPat from Virginia
25 May 2003

This cavalry-Indian western has a great veteran cast, an international flavor, beautiful scenery and plenty of action. An army captain discovers his wife tortured and murdered by Apaches and deserts but is later persuaded to train soldiers to undertake a seek-and-destroy mission against the Indians. Old antagonisms and resentments resurface as the special unit sets out on its mission, and there is as much fighting among the the soldiers as there is against the Apaches in this graphic, violent film. Bekim Fehmiu isn't bad in this adventure but his character is one-dimensional in his vengeance quest against the Indians. The film has beautiful western vistas, even if it was filmed in Europe and great character actors put the movie over the top in this wild but interesting film.

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

What a cast!!!!!!

Author: ranwev from sweetwater, tenn.
23 March 2002

Chuck Conners,Albert Salmi,Woody Strode,Pat Wayne,Slim Pickens,Ricardo Montalban.Sound like a good show?How about throwing in a little Richard Crenna and John Huston.Mix it all together with international star Bekim Fehmiu and you have the "Deserter".You have seen it before and if you take time, you will see it again.A worthwhile oater that is very watchable(The gatling gun scene that has the cast looking right at you),and enjoyable.I have to agree w/previous comment of the film being too short and not getting to know the charactors very well(they were good and could have been great!).This however was a Dino de Laurentis production,and he doesn,t do westerns very well.Check it out anyway.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The Cost of Glory!!!

Author: zardoz-13 from United States
16 April 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Support Your Local Sheriff" director Burt Kennedy takes no time out for either comedy or romance in "The Deserter," a gritty, violent frontier fracas written by western novelist Claire Huffaker. Previously, Huffaker and Kennedy had teamed up on the superlative western adventure "The War Wagon" back in 1967 that co-starred John Wayne and Kurt Douglas. This time around Kennedy and Huffaker are dealing with the U.S. Cavalry and bloodthirsty renegade Apache savages on the warpath. "The Deserter" qualifies as one of those ensemble, military actioneers with a diverse bunch of hardcases selected either because they are prisoners or specialists and hurled into the breach to thwart a menacing villain and his army. This beautifully lensed, 100-minute "Magnificent Seven" meets "The Dirty Dozen" oater mixes and matches genres and ranks as a solid shoot'em up bolstered by a top-notch supporting cast of Hollywood veterans who were already western icons. You've got Chuck Connors of "The Rifleman" fame. You've got Patrick Wayne, the son of the biggest western star ever: John Wayne. You've got John Ford stock player Woody Strode of "Sergeant Rutledge" fame. You've got Brandon De Wilde of "Shane;" he was the little boy who chased after Alan Ladd in the final scene screaming "Shane!" Additionally, you're got Slim Pickens, Ricardo Montalban, Albert Salmi, Richard Crenna, John Huston, and Ian Bannen. This dusty oater is worth seeing just to see these guys assembled against the savage Spanish scenery that substitutes splendidly for the American southwest. "War and Peace" producer Dino De Laurentiis has lavishly blown a fortune on this western. Although it has formidable production values, a great supporting cast, strong direction, sharp editing, and memorable dialogue, the one weakness is the lead played by Bekim Fehmiu, whose biggest movie was "The Adventurers." Fehmiu is appropriately laconic but he lacks charisma. You can believe him as a character because Huffaker and Kennedy have incorporated his non-native status in the storyline the same way that Warner Brothers use to provide for Australian actor Errol Flynn in their westerns. Indeed, a high percentage of people who converted to American citizenship were immigrants during the 19th century. Last but not least, prolific Italian composer Piero Piccioni of "Contempt" has furnished an orchestral score that is reminiscent more of American composer Neal Hefti than Ennio Morricone with its jazz-like melodies. The offbeat thing about "The Deserter" is that our indomitable hero must led a platoon of marauders into Mexico, something that violated international agreements between Mexico and America at the time, to wipe out an army of sadistic Indians that threaten not only the peace of white settlers but also innocent Native Americans! Talk about politically correct! Nevertheless, "The Deserter" is a thoroughly enjoyable western that piles on drama at the expense of humor. If you are watching the Mill Creek version, prepare yourself for a mangled viewing opportunity as the print is pretty butchered.

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11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A Nixon Doctrine Spaghetti western with Rambo in buckskins...

Author: Ramon_Rojo from Kansas City, MO
21 June 2004

What can I say about this film?

Well, it has to be first Nixon doctrine spaghetti western with a frustrated general complaining about the rules of engagement that prevent him launching a search-and-destroy mission on an Apache stronghold in Mexico (Hmmmm...substitute Apaches for the Vietcong and Mexico for Vietnam...) It even has a buckskin Rambo, that being Captain Kaleb, who wants to take out the entire Apache nation after his wife is murdered.

Well, this gets me to the movie. It is one of those movie that used to get made in the Sixties and Early Seventies where scores of actors are assembled in various stock roles, with a screenplay that has recycled every action movie convention without much spark or imagination. And then there's Bekim Fehmiu. I've seen more vivid performances from driftwood.

In short, it's one of those movies you watch on a Saturday afternoon, when nothing else is on and pay very little attention to it.

The only exception I would have to make it for Piero Piccioni's score. It's got that cheezy late sixties jazz thing going on (apologies to Dennis Miller..)

Other than that, it is nothing terribly memorable...

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Bekim Fehmiu takes a dirty dozen to ambush an Apache camp

Author: msroz from United States
19 August 2012

Looks as if there is not a DVD version of this or one in widescreen, which is too bad, because it's a movie loaded with talent and well-directed. My copy came from youtube and is below par and fullscreen, but that couldn't hide that it's a good western, not really that much of a spaghetti western, but more a regular western made overseas.

The story telling is right to the point with no diversion into a love interest and containing plenty of conflict that is natural. It's easy to be swept up into storytelling like this conveyed by actors who know what they are doing and crisp directing. I wondered if the director Burt Kennedy might have gotten a big assist from John Huston in the cast, and he had a substantial part to do his schtick.

The movie features a bevy of major actors in more or less supporting roles (Albert Salmi, Chuck Connors, Brandon de Wilde, Woody Strode, Slim Pickens, Ricardo Montalban, Ian Bannen, and Richard Crenna.) The story gets off to a fast start with Fehmiu deserting after shooting Crenna because he is angry that Crenna fell down on protecting the settlers and Fehmiu's wife was left dying by Apaches. Fehmiu goes off on a personal revenge quest by imitating Apache ways. Two years later, Huston corrals him into leading a group to weed out a major concentration of Apaches across the Rio Grande who are threatening the whole territory. Fehmiu picks out his dirty dozen (maybe 14-15), trains them, and off they go. All of this unfolds smoothly. After facing some obstacles and accomplishing some engineering feats, the platoon comes up against a far superior force. The battle is quite spectacular, as one might expect from a Dino de Laurentiis production. My rating of 7 is a tad high. Probably 6.5 is more like it, but certainly above the current 5.5 of IMDb voters. Its biggest negative would be some predictability, but not that much really. There were several interesting moral dilemmas and situations that spiced up the proceedings. One involved a boy Apache. Another was between Salmi and Strode who had friction but found themselves in a life or death situation. A third involved the hostility between Crenna and Fehmiu.

I'm glad I caught this one and that someone put it on youtube.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Only thing missing is Ennio Morrocone ........

Author: merklekranz from United States
22 February 2014

Totally acceptable Italian western utilizing many American character actors. My only gripes are the weirdly inappropriate score, and Indians who look suspiciously like Europeans. John Huston easily steals every scene as the Calvary General who doesn't mind sending Bekim Fehmiu and his band of misfits on a suicide mission. The desert scenery is exceptional, the acting passable, and the action strong. This film has some very sharp editing, thus eliminating scenes that would do little to move the story forward. It is also one of the least predictable westerns I have seen. Put this all together and you have a rarely viewed film, that deserves far more attention. - MERK

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

One of the Best Westerns Ever

Author: arjunkaul from India
2 March 2013

I first saw this film on Television in the 80s. Seeing it even now, it still feels like an excellent film, thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable.

It has everything: a great story, solid acting, great action, good humour and just a totally badass feel.

The story revolves around an army officer who loses his wife to dacoit-apaches and then deserts the army to live in the wild. He is then recruited years later by general Miles to help them find and destroy Magnus Tanarngo an Apache warlord who is building a massive apache army to wrest control of the entire US Suoth West.

Great acting by Bekin Feihmu as Captain Kaleb. Captain Victor Kaleb is way more badass than Rambo or the Terminator.

General Miles is played by the great John Huston. Great supporting cast with Richard Crenna (who ironically played COlonel Trautman to Rambo) and Ricardo Montblan. More great performances from Chuck Connors as the dynamite wielding priest Chapman. Tattinger the scout is also great.

Good music as well. The soundtrack has a jazz feel with more primitive sounding percussion. Very unique.

Superb characterization and narrative. Never a dull moment in this film. If you like Westerns or Actin films, this is a must watch.

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