Desert Rats, The (1953)

The Desert Rats (1953), directed by Robert Wise.

Exciting WW2 desert battles story of the eight month Siege of Tobruk, meant to be both heroic and realistic. Richard Burton is the lead, with James Mason reprising his role as Rommel from The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951).

Burton plays the toughest character called "Tammy" that I can recall. He is the strict English commander of free and easy Australian troops. The score has a lot of "Waltzing Matilda" for them.

Robert Newton (the old school master) is always eccentric, always memorable. He can ham it up in a way that seems natural and appropriate to the situation. The Captain can't help calling him "Sir", remembering his school days.

Mason's earlier film played up the Rommel myth which valorized him as a worthy, admirable opponent. It started during the war. He is not exactly a villain this time but definitely lacks our sympathies.

Veterans faulted the film for many historical inaccuracies. See the wikipedia entry.

Sam Fuller was supposed to direct but moved on after production delays.

Photographed by Lucien Ballard. Music by Leigh Harline. Michael Rennie is the uncredited narrator.