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 »



| |


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 So "Tartars" in this context is not an outdated spelling of "Tatars", but an intended metaphor referring to the historical idea, that there are a people "coming from hell".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

Neglected masterpiece
8 December 2006 | by (usa) – See all my reviews

This extraordinary film sprang from a fertile time in world cinema. In the USA the medium was experiencing heady creativity but in Italy such exceptional ability was expected. To see it now is to witness movie making at its most devoted and personal. Zurlini casts it brilliantly. The acting by an acclaimed cast is both restrained and gut wrenching. Adapted from a classic novel, which I have not read, it leaves its literary provenance behind while still managing to address what are normally literary obsessions: existentialism, nihilism and romantic futility. Visually the film is stunning and makes a mockery of the ghastly special effects which in a film like Gladiator make the world seem like a landscape of precious celluloid grey. It is filmed in the middle east in a now earthquake-torn ancient town. If one didn't know such a place existed one would think that special effects had accomplished impossible beauty. But no, its all real. And all spectacularly realised.

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