8.4/10
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60 user 26 critic

Lion of the Desert (1980)

In 1929, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appoints General Rodolfo Graziani as colonial governor to Italian Libya with orders to stamp-out all resistance from Libyan nationalists led by rebel guerrilla leader Omar Mukhtar.

Director:

Moustapha Akkad

Writers:

David Butler (additional material), H.A.L. Craig | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Quinn ... Omar Mukhtar
Oliver Reed ... Gen. Rodolfo Graziani
Irene Papas ... Mabrouka
Raf Vallone ... Colonel Diodiece
Rod Steiger ... Benito Mussolini
John Gielgud ... Sharif El Gariani
Andrew Keir ... Salem
Gastone Moschin ... Major Tomelli
Stefano Patrizi ... Lt. Sandrini
Adolfo Lastretti ... Colonel Sarsani
Sky du Mont ... Prince Amadeo (as Sky Dumont)
Takis Emmanuel ... Bu-Matari
Rodolfo Bigotti Rodolfo Bigotti ... Ismail
Robert Brown ... Al Fadeel
Eleonora Stathopoulou Eleonora Stathopoulou ... Ali's Mother
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Storyline

In Fascist Italy pre-World War II, the cruel General Rodolfo Graziani is directly assigned by Benito Mussolini to fight in the colonial war in Libya to vanquish the Arab nation. However, his troops are frequently defeated by the national leader Omar Mukhtar and his army of Bedouins. But the Butcher of Ethiopia and Libya uses a dirty war against the natives, slaughtering women, children, and aged people, to subdue Mukhtar. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A giant of a man against a general seeking glory...a spectacular adventure of arch enemies in battle.


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Libya | USA

Language:

Arabic | Italian | English

Release Date:

16 May 1981 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Omar Mukhtar: Lion of the Desert See more »

Filming Locations:

Italy See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD) | (theatrical)

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Black and White | Black and White (archive footage)| Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie cost approximately thirty-five million dollars, but only managed to gross about one million dollars worldwide, making it one of the largest financial disasters in movie history. It was notorious within the movie industry for the sheer magnitude of the amount of money it lost. It sits alongside several other big money losers of the early 1980s, such as Heaven's Gate (1980), Inchon (1981), Pennies from Heaven (1981), and Raise the Titanic (1980). See more »

Goofs

Mussolini is talking to Graziani in the opening when he looks the map of Libya, and says that all the green land is for Italy, but this is a topographical map that shows land greener as it becomes lower by sea level. 90% of the area of Libya is desert. See more »

Quotes

Omar Mukhtar: You can only do to me what God decides for me.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The U.S.A. Home Video VHS release in the '80s runs 160 minutes. Footage has been added in the Director's Cut released on Anchor Bay Video. This version, released in 1998, runs 206 minutes. See more »

Connections

Referenced in El crack (1981) See more »

Soundtracks

O sole mio
(uncredited)
Music by Eduardo Di Capua
Lyrics by Giovanni Capurro
See more »

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User Reviews

A misunderstood film
21 April 2004 | by BlueghostSee all my reviews

A pretty good desert epic with lots of action, this film is often thought to be a propaganda piece for Libya and Islam, with anti-Italian overtones.

Not quite.

The film is no more anti-Italian than it is pro-Islam. That is to say it is neither. It's a grand scale film that shows a Facist state's attempt to colonize and reign over north Africa in the early half of the 20th century, and how the native populace waged a guerilla war against this effort. It does not cast aspersions on Italians, nor pushes Islam as a religion. Italy happens to be swept up in a facist mindset whose forces are at odds with a people who are predominantly Muslim.

Anthony Quinn himself states in the "Making of..." documentary that the lead character, Omar al-Mukhtar, was not fighting for Islam, nor proselytizing in any way. He was one of many guerilla leaders who was trying to push the facists out of Libya. And even then he's only trying to regain that which was taken by facists, and not so much force Italians themselves to leave. Facists who, at the time, happened to be from Italy. From what I've seen the film does its best to accurately depict what went on during Italy's expansionist period under Mussolini, and shows this episode of political and military contention between the two sides in Libya.

There's lots of good acting here, and grand battle scenes. The cinematography is the usual style for this sort of film. Unfortunately the cast was chosen more for their names to sell the film than anything else. Even so they, Quin, Reed, Steiger and the rest do a pretty good job of showing us how the men of the time acted and behaved, and Quinn does en exceptional job of showing a humble but resolved Mukhtar. The battle scenes, for the most part, are pretty good. There's one or two hammy performances by a couple of the supporting cast members, but they're overshadowed by the rest of the film.

The DVD transfer is OK. Anchor Bay's gone to some extra lengths to put some extra goodies on the disk, but the film's image could've used a dual layer process.

If you're a fan of military epics this film should entertain. A good watch.


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