14 user 9 critic

The Devil's Backbone (1970)

The Deserter (original title)
Army deserter Capt. Viktor Kaleb is offered a pardon and reinstatement in the cavalry if he agrees to lead a special forces group in a raid against an Apache stronghold into Mexico.


Burt Kennedy, Niksa Fulgosi (uncredited)


Stuart J. Byrne (based on a story by), William H. James (based on a story by) | 3 more credits »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Bekim Fehmiu ... Capt. Victor Kaleb
Richard Crenna ... Maj. Wade Brown
Chuck Connors ... Reynolds
Ricardo Montalban ... Natchai - Indian Scout
Ian Bannen ... British Army Capt. Crawford
Brandon De Wilde ... Lt. Ferguson
Slim Pickens ... Tattinger - American Scout
Woody Strode ... Jackson
Albert Salmi ... Schmidt
Patrick Wayne ... Capt. Bill Robinson
Fausto Tozzi ... Orozco
Mimmo Palmara ... Apache Chief Mangus Durango
John Alderson John Alderson ... O'Toole
Doc Greaves Doc Greaves ... Scott
Lucio Rosato ... Jed


Bitter over his wife's death due to what he believes was army negligence, Capt. Viktor Kaleb deserts the cavalry and disappears into the southwestern wasteland. But when marauding Apaches set up a stronghold just out of the cavalry's reach in Mexico, Kaleb is given amnesty in exchange for leading a small band of especially trained soldiers to wipe out the Indian stronghold. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A savage renegade and the chosen few... they followed him into Hell just for the chance to kill him! See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


In his autobiography "Hollywood Trail Boss", Burt Kennedy states that Dino De Laurentiis offered him a Rolls-Royce if he would do an uncredited script rewrite. See more »


At 38:50, the captain says to be there at daybreak. Yet the next scene when they are preparing to depart, the height of the sun is at least 10 am. See more »


Cpt. Crawford: I thought Apaches were supposed to be so damned quiet.
Captain Viktor Kaleb: They yell like that to scare you.
Cpt. Crawford: They sure as hell did!
See more »

User Reviews

Great Dirty Dozen style western
5 January 2004 | by allan-stenhouseSee all my reviews

Really loved this film when I saw it on BBC1 way back in 1981, when I was the grand old age of 11. One of those films I always wanted to see on TV again, but it has NEVER been repeated on UK TV. However, I managed to pick it up on second hand video from e-bay, and wondered how it would stand up today, over 20 years after I saw it. The verdict? Still great. True, it is dated in parts (Music, editing) but these are really minor complaints on the whole. The lead character is great; really ruthless and a true anti-hero. Some great supporting cast also; with some really unexpected moments. And it takes it's time getting to where it's going, which I feel a lot of todays films lack. In 'The Deserter', the characters are given time to breath, and it is not until well after the first hour that they inevitably start to die. This all leads up to an explosive last twenty mins, with some memorable scenes. If you love 'guys on a mission' movies, or westerns, see this little gem. Allan.

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Release Date:

25 March 1971 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Backbone See more »

Filming Locations:

Almeria, Andalucia, Spain See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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