24 user 16 critic

The Desert of the Tartars (1976)

Il deserto dei tartari (original title)
Lieutenant Giovanni Drogo is assigned to the old Bastiani border fortress where he expects an imminent attack by nomadic fearsome Tartars.


Valerio Zurlini


Dino Buzzati (novel), André G. Brunelin (story) (as Andre G. Brunelin) | 3 more credits »
6 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Jacques Perrin ... Lieutenant Giovanni Drogo
Vittorio Gassman ... Colonel Giovanbattista Filimore
Giuliano Gemma ... Major Matis
Helmut Griem ... Lieutenant Simeon
Philippe Noiret ... General
Francisco Rabal ... Marshal Tronk
Fernando Rey ... Colonel Nathanson
Laurent Terzieff ... Lieutenent Pietro Von Hamerling
Jean-Louis Trintignant ... Major Dr. Rovine
Max von Sydow ... Captain Ortiz
Shaban Golchin Honaz Shaban Golchin Honaz ... Private Lazare
Giuseppe Pambieri Giuseppe Pambieri ... Lieutenant Rathenau
Bryan Rostron Bryan Rostron ... Von Armin
Kamran Nozad Kamran Nozad ... Von Sern
Manfred Freyberger 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 <casaise@acm.org>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | War


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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 So "Tartars" in this context is not an outdated spelling of "Tatars", but an intended metaphor referring to the historical idea, that there are a people "coming from hell".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


Referenced in Morricone conducts Morricone (2006) See more »

User Reviews

Oppression From Within Can Be The Deadliest
17 February 2013 | by museumofdaveSee all my reviews

Hollywood tends to make films about what happens "outside" a person, about action, about guns and explosions, and about rapid-fire cutting and dialog; many European filmmakers do just the opposite and develop "interior" stories, about what goes on inside a person's mind, about how their actions are driven by their environment; the environment in this little-known but complex desert epic is an ancient fort built on the edge of two countries where nothing much seems to happen, but where the inhabitants wait...and wait...and where a new officer arrives hoping to make his mark. Many folks will find the lack of direct action frustrating, as this is a character study more than anything else--but what characters! And what an outstanding group of actors--and subtle music by Ennio Morricone--and some fascinating cinematography.

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Italy | France | West Germany



Release Date:

29 October 1976 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

The Desert of the Tartars See more »

Filming Locations:

Arg-e Bam, Iran See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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