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

PG  |   |  Drama, History, War  |  29 October 1976 (Italy)
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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 ... See full summary »



(novel), (story) (as Andre G. Brunelin) , 3 more credits »
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Title: The Desert of the Tartars (1976)

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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
Kamran Nozad ...
Captain 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


PG | See all certifications »



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Release Date:

29 October 1976 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Le desert des Tartars  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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

Great movie, falls short of the book.
4 June 2006 | by (Scottsdale, Arizona) – See all my reviews

Excellent, haunting movie, with great actors, but it falls short of the book. This I suspect often happens when reading a book before seeing the film. The book, the Desert of the Tartars by Dino Buzzati is an allegory for a man life and destiny. A man's hope to greatness, to glory, to accomplish great deeds. But as time passes, greatness is never attained, glory never achieved. Most of us us settle down in our routine. Drogo full of youth and enthusiasm set up for Fort Bastiano, the fortress protecting the border of his country. With the passing of time the precise, monotonous routine in the fortress becomes his life. He returns to the city and to his fiancé, but the city life does not please him. This part of the book is never shown in the movie. He returns to the fortress with hope of greatness if the Tartars ever attack and the star of glory to defend his country will shine upon him. Time inexorably goes by. Rumors of sights of Tartars prowling in the desert below are just rumors. Drogo is, we are getting older. His health starts to fail. But there is still hope in his hearth that the enemy may come. Then suddenly the enemy comes. The Tartars are invading, the desert under Fort Bastiano is full of them, the war has started, and while Drogo is carried away a young inexperienced officer coming from the city will have the honor and the glory of defending his country. Drogo's carriage is taking him to the city below where the greatest of all Enemies is awaiting for him.

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