The Desert Rats (1953)

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    Why not take a minute to register for your own free account now? Registration is completely free and will enable the use of all site features including the ability to join in or create your own discussions.

    There are 8 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by The Ringo Kid.

    • The Desert Rats (1953)



      Information From IMDb

      Plot Summary
      Rommel has the British in retreat on his way to the Suez Canal.
      All that stands in his way is Tobruk, held by a vastly out numbered force
      of Australian troops.
      Richard Burton leads these troops on daring raids against Rommel,
      keeping him off balance as they earn the nickname 'The Desert Rats'.
      Written by Derek Picken

      Full Cast
      Richard Burton ... Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts
      James Mason ... Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel
      Robert Newton ... Tom Bartlett
      Robert Douglas ... General
      Torin Thatcher ... Col. Barney White
      Chips Rafferty ... Sgt. 'Blue' Smith
      Charles 'Bud' Tingwell ... Lt. Harry Carstairs (as Charles Tingwell)
      Charles Davis ... Pete
      Ben Wright ... Mick
      Patrick Aherne ... English Officer (uncredited)
      John Alderson ... Corporal (uncredited)
      Charles B. Fitzsimons ... Fire Officer (uncredited)
      Arno Frey ... Kramm (uncredited)
      Ray Harden ... Hugh (uncredited)
      Charles Keane ... Sgt Donaldson (uncredited)
      James O'Hara ... Communications Man (uncredited)
      John O'Malley ... Riley (uncredited)
      Pat O'Morre ... Jim (uncredited)
      Michael Pate ... Cpl. Currie (uncredited)
      Richard Peel ... Rusty (uncredited)
      Guy Prescott ... Maj. O'Rourke (uncredited)
      Michael Rennie ... Narrator (voice) (uncredited)
      Albert Taylor ... Jensen (uncredited)
      John Wengraf ... German Doctor (uncredited)
      Alfred Zeisler ... von Helmholtz (uncredited)

      Writing Credits
      Richard Murphy (written by)

      Original Music
      Leigh Harline

      Lucien Ballard

      Legendary Australian actor Chips Rafferty appears in this movie as Sergeant 'Blue' Smith. About a decade earlier, Rafferty appeared playing Milo Trent in another movie featuring "The Desert Rats" entitled The Rats of Tobruk (1944).

      This film's title actually refers to the British 7th Armoured Division who were "The Desert Rats" in North Africa and not the Australian 9th Division who were part of the siege at Tobruk and were known as "The Rats of Tobruk", not the Desert Rats.

      James Mason played the same role of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel two years earlier in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951), also by 20th Century-Fox studio also being set in World War II North Africa.

      In light of postwar revelations that Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had been complicit in the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler, there emerged a reassessment of him as a dashing and gallant officer, and this is how James Mason played him in "The Desert Fox"--in contrast to the portrayal of Rommel by Erich von Stroheim in Paramount's Five Graves to Cairo (1943), which was Billy Wilder's first film as a director. After "The Desert Fox" came out, criticism came from veterans who had strong opinions about Rommel based on their experience of his actions during the war. In making "The Desert Rats" two years later, in reaction to this criticism, Fox brought back Mason in a cameo, and he plays Rommel more villainously than he has in "The Desert Fox", though not as much as von Stroheim.

      The picture of Tammy MacRoberts' wife is actually a photo of actress Sybil Williams, Richard Burton's then wife.

      Anachronisms: In the beginning of the movie Rommel is being addressed as 'Field Marshal' 'though at that time he was still a General. He was promoted to Field Marshal after the capture of Tobruk, which occurred in 1942 not 1941, when the tide of war had swung back again in favor of the Germans.

      Continuity: When the British aircraft are attacking German trucks carrying the prisoners, the planes shown in the distant shot are not the same planes as in the closeup. The planes in the closeup shot have black and white stripes painted on their wings, at the root and parallel to the fuselage. Such stripes were not used for identification until D-Day (they were called "invasion stripes" at the time) and then only in Europe.

      Factual errors: When the British planes are firing at the trucks carrying the prisoners, the Germans fire back but appear to be using American Thompson M1A1s as opposed to MP40s.

      Factual errors: During the last commando raid by Australian soldiers on a German base, the defenders are using Vickers machine guns when in reality they should be using MG34s.

      Continuity: When MacRoberts' wound is being treated, it appears high up on the left arm, near the shoulder. Two scenes later, the bandage is lower down on the bicep and the wound that would have been exposed is nowhere to be seen.

      Miscellaneous: During the last few scenes in the dugout, the characters all appear in various states of dirty, dusty, and disheveled, but the radio telephone, papers, and lanterns are all perfectly clean and orderly.

      Revealing mistakes: During the German tank/infantry attack mid-way into the film, a German throws himself on the barb-wire. When you see him getting up, he throws his rifle with a bayonet backwards, and you see the weapon is just rubber as it wobbles uncontrollably.

      Anachronisms: In the scene where "Tammy" and the others are being taken to a German pow camp in a truck convoy and strafed by allied aircraft, besides the inaccurate invasion stripes of the American P-51, other shots show stock footage of a Grumman Avenger diving in as well. The Avenger was primarily used in the Pacific theater and did not enter service until June of '42.

      Continuity: In the sequence when a German truck is strafed by an Allied fighter, while the plane chases the truck from the rear, the windshield is frontally perforated in a right-to-left strafe. The bullets' holes are also very small. Almost any Allied fighter by middle 1941 would have had a couple of 20 mm cannons, which would have obviously smashed to smithereens not only the windshield, but rather the whole cabin.

      Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): The uncredited general in command of Tobruk's garrison played by Robert Douglas is seemingly the 9th Australian Division commander Leslie James Morshead.

      Filming Locations
      Palm Springs, California, USA
      San Diego, California, USA


      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 2 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: (New Review) Classic War Movies- The Desert Rats (1953)

      The Desert Rats is a 1953 American black-and-white war film from 20th Century Fox,
      produced by Robert L. Jacks, directed by Robert Wise, that stars
      Richard Burton, James Mason, and Robert Newton.
      The film's storyline concerns the Siege of Tobruk in North Africa during World War II.

      James Mason reprised his role as Rommell.
      The previous The Desert Fox had been heavily criticized
      for portraying Rommell has an heroic figure,
      Mason's charcter in this movie was much more villainous!
      Although it was suggested it was the weaker of the two movies,
      I found it a most enjoyable, well acted and well paced film.

      User Review

      A Very Realistic War Movie
      19 February 2005 | by carvhalo (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

      In 1941, during the World War II, Field Marshal Erwin von Rommel (James Mason) tries to conquer the city of Tobruk in Libya and the British battalion defends this location to avoid Rommel to reach the Suez Canal. The young, but experienced British Capt. 'Tammy' MacRoberts (Richard Burton) leads a limited number of inexperienced Australian troops in the defense of Tobruk, and uses raids during the night against Rommel forces to keep the balance between the strong German army and the reduced British-Australian forces, and MacRoberts' troops are called "The Desert Rats". "The Desert Rats" is a very realistic war movie, presenting strategies, battles, action scenes and a great duel between James Mason and Richard Burton. I am not sure whether Robert Wise used footage of some real battle scenes along the film, since the realism in the black and white photography is amazing and sometimes it looks like a documentary. There are also excellent lines between Richard Burton and James Mason, and Richard Burton and Robert Newton, in the role of the former teacher of MacRoberts. "The Desert Rats" is a highly recommended movie. My vote is eight
      Best Wishes
      London- England

      The post was edited 3 times, last by ethanedwards ().

    • Re: (New Review) Classic War Movies- The Desert Rats (1953)

      I had one doozy of a reply but the stupid thing times out on me >:-(( Anyway, it had to go with Rommel and what those who criticize (wrongfully) on somehti8nig they obviously know little or nothing about-in that they say that Mason basically portrayed Rommel in a wrong way and that Rommel was not an heroic figure-is pure BS. I listed at least 3 things that are proven fact. Ill not list them at this time as I dont feel like repeatinig my first attempt to post ;-))
      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..
    • Re: (New Review) Classic War Movies- The Desert Rats (1953)

      I think James Mason tried his best to reprise his successful role of Rommel in this sequel but was hampered by poor script and cast.

      Every time I see Robert Newton I expect "Long John Silver" badly miscast in the film.

      Richard Burton very green film actor early on in his career when he thought all he had to do was speak in a loud voice like being in a theatre.

      Not a awful film but not a patch on The Desert Fox.
    • Re: (New Review) Classic War Movies- The Desert Rats (1953)

      good movie it has chips in it what more do you want an aussie bloke playing an aussie the other actors were ok action was great.
      " its not all black and white, but different shades of grey"
    • Re: Last Non Western You Watched

      The Desert Rats w/ Richard Burton, James Mason, Robert Newton and Torin Thatcher. I never get tired of seeing the "Rats" kick DAK behinds.

      W/ Robert Newton:

      Little Tammy McRoberts:

      Great observation bunker view:

      The Heneralfeldmarshall himself--image from: The Desert Fox and NOT--The Desert Rats:

      The Real Rommel:

      Great end of movie image of some of McRobert's "Rats"

      Classic British Officer look:

      Rats .30 cal MG-team:

      The last German attack before the relief column from Egypt arrived:

      W/ Sergeant "Blue"

      Es Ist Verboten Mit Gefangenen In Einzelhaft Zu Sprechen..
    • Re: Classic War Movies- The Desert Rats (1953)

      Copied from Last Non Western Watched

      The Ringo Kid wrote:

      The Desert Fox is as good and is pretty accurate on the story. The only thing in it im not sure on and dont doubt it--was that GFM von Rundstedt also knew about the plot to kill hitler.
      Best Wishes
      London- England