1941. Field Marshal Rommel’s forces are sweeping across Africa. The only thing blocking him from the Suez Canal is Tobruk. The British and Australian forces are hopelessly outmanned and outgunned, but their orders are to hold out, and hold out they will. Richard Burton is placed in charge of a battalion of green Australians. Though his toughness doesn’t endear him to his him, Burton nevertheless whips them into combat and commando troops.
The characters are familiar. Burton’s comm…nder could be Gregory Peck in Twelve O’Clock High, and Robert Newton’s wise, drunk coward is an almost obligatory character in combat movies. Nonetheless, the writing is crisp, and the stark black-and-white cinematography nicely conveys the grimy desperation of war. The stock footage is obvious, but used sparingly, and the action scenes are exciting.
As with the other Fox War Classics, the sound is available in both mono and stereo. The surround effects are pretty minimal, and arguably more of a distraction than anything else. The sounds of battle aren’t noticeably improved, and what we get instead is the strange surround-voice effect common to remastered mono. You’ll be more aware of buzz and distortion from the rear speakers than anything else.
This is a fairly grainy print, especially in the opening moments. Speckles dot the print for the length of the film as well. This isn’t enough to spoil the film, and in some ways adds to the grittiness of the look, but still, this edition lacks the pristine look of many of the other films in this series. The format is the original 1.33:1 full screen.
The menu is silent and standard, and the extras are limited. There are trailers for The Desert Rats and ten other war films, and that’s it. One nice aspect about the subtitles, however: you have the option of having the subtitles appear exclusively during the German language sequences.
A good, solid combat movie. The action is wall-to-wall, backed up by good performances and writing. A fine way of spending 88 minutes, even if the print could be a bit cleaner.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailers