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Lion of the Desert (1980)

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, ... See full summary »

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

Plot Keywords:

arab | muslim | bedouin | rebel | desert | See All (48) »

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:

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)

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

Reportedly, battle scenes featured around three thousand dressed and/or uniformed extras. See more »

Goofs

During the narrated introduction immediately following the opening credits, the Earth is depicted revolving backwards - west-to-east instead of east-to-west. See more »

Quotes

Omar Mukhtar: We will never surrender. We win or we die. And don't think it stops there. You will have the next generation to fight; and after the next, the next. As for me, I will live longer than my hangman.
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 »


Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
The late, great Anthonny Quinn
19 July 2006 | by OttoVonBSee all my reviews

Prelude to WWII. Omar Mukhtar, a brilliant Bedouin leader, wages war against oppressive Italian Fascist forces (led by the bloodthirsty General Graziani) in his native Lybia.

Director Moustapha Akkad (The Message) clearly learnt a few lessons from "Lawrence of Arabia", mainly how best to use the charismatic Anthony Quinn. As Mukhtar, Quinn gives a nuanced portrayal of compassion and wisdom. Whenever he features in a scene, it becomes impossible to tear one's eyes off the screen. Thankfully, Oliver Reed proves a magnificently cruel and seething counterpoint as General Graziani. Irene Papas provides strong supporting work and Rod Steiger turns in a delightful cameo as Benito Musslini.

Moustapha Akkad uses a solid structure and keeps it riveting throughout, extracting fine performances from all his actors and technical collaborators. Where "The Message" was impressive but cold (due to its invisible hero and reverence), "Lion in the Desert" has an emotional core and throws up scene after impressive scene. The desert battle scenes are incredibly messy and savage and have a sense of multiple individual action amid chaos, rather than elaborate choreography. This perfectly suits the theme of Bedouin guerrilla. Production values are considerable and Maurice Jarre provides one of his most underrated scores.

Some viewers will find qualms with the fact that, despite the coda that proclaims that Lybia managed to liberate itself, the country was then for long under the oppressive rule of Kadaffi. In truth, this little addition might have something to do with the fact that Kadaffi assisted in funding the film. If you can overlook this (not to difficult), you can appreciate the true focus: Mukhtar. This remains a beautiful film about a people's resistance.

"Lion in the Desert" is an important film, if only because it offers a very accessible (to Western audiences) Arab perspective. It is also impressively well made: an accomplished chapter in the era of great epics that flourished with David Lean's masterpieces and ended with Richard Attenbourgh's Gandhi.

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