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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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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

a metaphor for the fear of the unknown
26 March 2001 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

This film features one of the most extraordinary locations I've ever seen on film,apparently shot in Southeast Iran, these giant, snow-capped mountains loom in the distance while closer, a desert fortress rises above what appears to be the remains of abandoned, ancient ruins. In this setting, an outpost on the edge of the desert of the Tartars, overseeing rock, sand, and a perpetual mist, the extraordinary external visual world stands for the internalized world that evolves over time, soldiers at the outpost suffer from mysterious ailments that scientists can not name or cure, a metaphor for fear of the unknown, which eats at the inner core of these soldiers who live in a world abandoned by time. The men train for the inevitable attack that lurks just beyond their eyesight or understanding, there is a sort of desert fever that kicks in, so it is not really known if there is an army out there or if it's all in their mind. The stunning,visual world has been created, once again, from the brilliant mind of Valerio Zurlini.

The film reminded me of two others, Tarkovsky's `Solaris,' where men are sent to outer space only to discover that the planet surface mysteriously interacts with each man's internal memories, also a recent Hungarian film by Peter Gothar called `The Outpost,' an absurdist, Kafkaesque journey that as one engineer gets promoted and travels farther and farther away into the outer reaches of the country, bribing nearly everyone she meets just to get there, leaving the comforts of anything remotely resembling normal, and instead discovers a peculiar outpost at the end of the world where the mind plays terrible tricks.

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