The Desert of the Tartars (1976)
"Il deserto dei tartari" (original title)

PG  |   |  Drama, History, War  |  29 October 1976 (Italy)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,227 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 13 critic

Lieutenant Giovanni Drogo is assigned to the old Bastiani border fortress where he expects an imminent attack by nomadic fearsome Tartars.



(novel), (story) (as Andre G. Brunelin) , 3 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lieutenant Giovanni Drogo
Colonel Giovanbattista Filimore
Giuliano Gemma ...
Major Matis
Helmut Griem ...
Lieutenant Simeon
Francisco Rabal ...
Marshal Tronk
Colonel Nathanson
Laurent Terzieff ...
Lieutenent Pietro Von Hamerling
Major Dr. Rovine
Captain Ortiz
Shaban Golchin Honaz ...
Private Lazare
Giuseppe Pambieri ...
Lieutenant Rathenau
Bryan Rostron ...
Von Armin
Kamran Nozad ...
Von Sern
Manfred Freyberger ...
Caporal Montagne


As his first assignment, lieutenant Drogo is sent to an isolated fortress on the borders of a desert and of a range of high mountains. The mission of the garrison is to prevent a possible incursion by the fearsome Tartars, coming from beyond the desert. Some fellow officers are eagerly awaiting an attack; some no longer want to believe in it; others take advantage of the vague threat to further their career. All of them are sacrificing everything -- health, youth, friends, family -- for a distant military ideal: leading the defence against the onslaught of the enemy. But in the vast emptiness surrounding the fortress, nobody has ever sighted the Tartars... Written by Eduardo Casais <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | War


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Release Date:

29 October 1976 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Desert of the Tartars  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


In West Germany and other countries the film was released under titles which mean translated back "The Desert of the Tatars". Obviously the editors in these countries missed that the original title does not refer to the actual Tatarian people but to the ancient Greek-Roman mythological "Tartars" (from the ancient Greek word "tartaros"). So "Tartars" in this context is not an outdated spelling of "Tatars", but an intended metaphor referring to the historical idea, that there are a people "coming from hell". See more »


Drogo: I was sent here by mistake.
Le médecin-major Rovin: Here or elsewhere, we're all somewhere by mistake.
See more »

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User Reviews

Space and time.
18 September 2001 | by See all my reviews

.In France,when the movie was released,a lot of critics snubbed it,putting disparagement on it,because it could not hold a candle to Buzzati's masterpiece.But as Jean Cocteau said,critics judge art works,and they don't know they are judged by them!

Valerio Zurlini and his producer-star Jacques Perrin were faithful to the novel.They succeeded in bringing to the screen one of the most abstract ,metaphoric,and also depressing literature masterworks of the last century.Perrin is well cast as Drogo ,the young officer waiting,waiting,for something that never comes:the tartars attack symbolizes everything you long for,and when it seems it's happening,it's too late.Once proud and brave and full of great expectations,the hero becomes humble and bent,under the burden of the years passing by,inexorably,leaving him a human wreck.

In this desolate landscape,in this infinite space,man is not numbered like every grain of sand.The grandiose shots of the desert,the mountains and this strange abandoned city,which seems to contain some mysteries of ancient times,all this contrasts terribly with man's fate:see his ridiculous ceremonies,his military iron discipline,his derisory and laughable "career",he who's only a breath in Time,only a little dandruff in an universe that eludes him.

Zurlini's movie is not totally satisfying when recreating the erosion of time.In the book,it was unbearable.But he made a movie any director should be proud of,a movie that must be seen because the task was hard,and the results are sometimes sumptuous.

Perrin portrays Drogo with a great conviction.As a producer,he had serious difficulties,he had to fight to convince ,and the end of the movie -which was intended to be ,like in the book,in an inn- could not be filmed because the actor/producer was running out of money.Give

this movie a chance ,the people who made it did their share!

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