6.8/10
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33 user 11 critic

The Desert Rats (1953)

Richard Burton plays a Scottish Army officer put in charge of a disparate band of ANZAC troops on the perimeter of Tobruk with the German Army doing their best to dislodge them.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writer:

Richard Murphy
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Richard Burton ... Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts
James Mason ... Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
Robert Newton ... Tom Bartlett
Robert Douglas ... General
Torin Thatcher ... Col. Barney White
Chips Rafferty ... Sgt. 'Blue' Smith
Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ... Lt. Harry Carstairs (as Charles Tingwell)
Charles Davis Charles Davis ... Pete
Ben Wright ... Mick
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Storyline

Rommel has the British in retreat on his way to the Suez Canal. All that stands in his way is Tobruk, held by a vastly out numbered force of Australian troops. Richard Burton leads these troops on daring raids against Rommel, keeping him off balance as they earn the nickname 'The Desert Rats'. Written by Derek Picken <dpicken@email.msn.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They crawled their way across the blazing sands of Africa... to turn disaster into victory! See more »

Genres:

Action | Adventure | Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German

Release Date:

20 May 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Les rats du désert See more »

Filming Locations:

Yuma, Arizona, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,320,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In light of postwar revelations that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had been complicit in the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, there emerged a reassessment of him as a dashing and gallant officer, and this is how James Mason played him in "The Desert Fox"--in contrast to the portrayal of Rommel by Erich von Stroheim in Paramount's Five Graves to Cairo (1943), which was Billy Wilder's first film as a director. After "The Desert Fox" came out, criticism came from veterans who had strong opinions about Rommel based on their experience of his actions during the war. In making "The Desert Rats" two years later, in reaction to this criticism, Fox brought back Mason in a cameo, and he plays Rommel more villainously than he has in "The Desert Fox", though not as much as von Stroheim. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where "Tammy" and the others are being taken to a German pow camp in a truck convoy and strafed by allied aircraft, besides the inaccurate invasion stripes of the American P-51, other shots show stock footage of a Grumman Avenger diving in as well. The Avenger was primarily used in the Pacific theater and did not enter service until June of '42. See more »

Quotes

Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts: He's tight as a tick. Look at him!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: 1941 LIBYAN DESERT NORTH AFRICA See more »


Soundtracks

Waltzing Matilda
(1895) (uncredited)
Original music by Christina Macpherson (1895)
(Based on the Scottish tune "Craigielee", music by James Barr, with words by Robert Tannahill)
Revised music by Marie Cowan (1903)
Lyrics by A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson (1895)
Played during the opening credits and often in the score
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Unusually well done war flick - well worth a look
24 October 2005 | by chall-5See all my reviews

This is a really enjoyable movie. Burton and Newton do a fine job, as do a cast of familiar British character actors. James Mason in his first outing as Rommel is especially fun. He reprised the role in a later Rommel bio-pic (titled "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel").

Despite it's age, most of the attempts at special effects (artillery in the distance, explosions done via matte) come off well. As for the scenes where they really shoot off some pyrotechnics, they spared no expense! The overall portrait of the desert and army life looks very real and has the ring of truth. The plot is exciting and never drags.

The only problems are the over-patriotic script (I guess we should cut them some slack here, this movie was made much closer to the war than we are today!) and as noted elsewhere, the inappropriate German weapons. It's amazing that they used Thompson machine guns instead of MP40's, when for the next 30 years everybody from "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." to James Bond would use the MP40 all over the place. In summary I think this movie was a bit better than I expected and holds up well to repeated viewings.


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