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The Desert Rats [DVD]

Richard Burton , James Mason , Robert Wise    Parental Guidance   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Richard Burton, James Mason, Robert Douglas, Torin Thatcher, Robert Newton
  • Directors: Robert Wise
  • Producers: Robert L. Jacks
  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 4 July 2005
  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009HBN6Y
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,352 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



In The Desert Ratshis second Hollywood role--between Oscar-nominated turns in My Cousin Rachel and The Robe--Richard Burton stars as a Scottish commando put in charge of a battalion of the Ninth Australian Division defending Tobruk. The Aussies don't like him, and with a year of grim North African duty already under his belt, he's not too crazy about his new responsibilities either. The outfit is charged with staving off the battering assaults of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel for two months to give the British Army time to regroup in Cairo and prepare for a counterattack. In the end, the "Desert Rats" play hell with the Desert Fox for 242 days, during which they and their commander develop some mutual respect.

This is a solid, workmanlike World War Two picture that, having been made in 1953 rather than 1943, can acknowledge a degree of eccentric humanity and soldierly professionalism in the enemy. Featured guest star James Mason reprises his Rommel from The Desert Fox (1951)--playing all his scenes in German except for a scene of ironical repartee with Burton. Another distinguished Brit, Robert Newton, gets co-star billing as a boozy, self-confessed coward who used to be Burton's schoolmaster once upon a time. However, a goodly number of Australians--including Chips Rafferty and Charles "Bud" Tingwell (still going strong nearly 50 years later in Paul Cox's wonderful Innocence)--rate as much screentime. Robert Wise directed, with a trimness that reminds us he started out as an editor, and Lucien Ballard provides the pungent black-and-white cinematography. --Richard T Jameson,

Product Description

Acclaimed World War Two film about a British captain who takes charge of an Australian squad to train them for desert fighting. But his stiff upper lip does not quickly win over his Australian charges. James Mason reprises his role as Field Marshal Rommel from the film 'The Desert Fox' (1951).

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2 tea brewing blockbusters for the price of one! 16 Nov 2003
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Well what can you say? two superb actors of their times in a pair of gritty war films(at least for their time!).James Mason as the soldiers soldier General Rommel(DERERT FOX)seems to suit the part perfectly.Whilst action is fairly thin on the ground the political backstabbing and clambouring for favour of their all powerfull Fuhrer is neatly handled.The state hero soldier who realises too late he has been fighting for a madman.Ultimately destined to fall foul of the very war machine he fought so well for Rommel struggles to justify his actions as he learns more of the truth.Only Mason could pull off the stereo typical German-English accent we all love to use when telling jokes and make it watchable. Great stuff.
Rommels thorn in the side and opposing army the 'DESERT RATS' (8th army) is represented in the second film by another legend of the big screen Richard Burton.Burton is a Captain of a band of determined Australian soldiers who by day defend against Rommels tanks and troops and by night raid into the enemies rear lines and cause havok.Great British stiff upper lip stuff all around. Mason co-stars as Rommel in this film and brings us the best moment of the film when he and Burton by a wierd coincidence meet and exchange words.Great actors in a great scene.Well worth a watch.
The quality of the film is good and clear so the transfer to DVD was done well.The theatrical trailers for both films are included and thats about it, but what do you want for less than twenty quid? buy it!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Great Movies 6 Aug 2007
I can remember "Montie" being interviewed just before one of the 8th Army's (The Desert Rats) Albert Hall reunion's in the 1950's and being asked of all the people who had died in the war, who he would like to be with him at the reunion.
His answer was "Erwin Rommel, an officer and a gentleman!"
Two great movies. Both well worth watching.
It's interesting to note that James Mason played many military roles during his long career, but during World War II he was a conscientious objector which caused many actors who had served their country (David Niven, Peter Ustinov, John Mills etc., etc.,) to refuse to act with him.
Despite all that, two great movies, buy and enjoy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Desert Rats 19 Aug 2009
This has to be one of Richard Burton's very best films. A black and white epic, made in 1953 when memories of the real events were still vivid; Burton portrays the tough 23year old Captain McRoberts, a classic product of the old British public school system; ordered to take command of an Australian battalion defending the besieged port city of Tobruk.

Far more than just another war film however, the Desert Rats is also a psychological drama, with Robert Newton giving a masterful preformance as McRobert's ex-school teacher; an intelligent sensitive man, but also a drunken, cowardly failure, swept along by circumstances beyond his control or understanding; though still deeply respected by his estwhile pupil.

The scenes of the British Garrison Commanders as surrounded, outnumbered, and short on supplies; they shrewdly out think and then out-general Field Marshall Rommel are absolutely classic. In reality British cypher experts had broken the German Enigma codes by then; enabling British Military Intelligence to read Rommel's orders even before they reached his unit commanders, but that's another story.

To conclude this review, I cannot recommend this film highly enough; it's an absolute classic! An entertaining, semi-documentary view into the now vanished world our fathers fought so hard for; in the battles of yester-year.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WW2 action! 1 Mar 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I love watching this classic-my wife's father was a desert rat,fighting Rommel's bunch.Why they do not show these classics on TV,I do not know-there is far too much "X Factor" and "Britain's got Talent" on TV these days,and it is all rubbish sometimes,and not worth watching!
You have to see these old classics-they show the true British Backbone and the history of the British Armies fine and proud history. These films show the generation of today what was done to keep our freedom-the price of freedom is never free-there were those who fought to preserve it! Those old boys deserve our respect. I respect them all! Heroes always!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good War Film 6 May 2011
"Desert Rats" is a great underrated war film, which deserves to be better known and it has a great British cast including Richard Burton, Robert Newton and James Mason. This is James Mason's second attempt as Field Marshal Rommel and his first attempt was two years earlier in the "Desert Fox" which is also an underated war film, which is worth watching. But the downful about Mason's role is that he only appears in a couple of scenes, which I would have liked to have seen more of him. But the positive thing is that Burton and Newton both do impressive performances, especially Newton who plays Burton's ex school teacher. There is also wonderful real life footage which makes the battle scenes look interesting and also the movie was filmed in Palm Springs, California. If you like war films, you should buy this underrated classic and I would give the film 8/10.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars James Mason returns as Rommel 11 May 2011
By j.r
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The Desert Rats can be watched before or after the Desert Fox and works as a companion film in much the same way as the recent films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwa Jima did. James Mason returns in this film in a few memorable scenes, but the focus is much more on Richard Burtons character and the soldiers under him. By the films end you certainly understand why they were known as 'desert rats'(diving in and out of holes and rock openings in the sand). At only 84 minutes the film is surprisingly short, I would have happily sat and watched these characters surviving in the desert for longer. The picture quality isn't the best, but for an old classic its good enough.
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