Movie Review: Lion of the Desert (1981)

An unforgettable, sooo relevant, heroic movie…
that few people have even HEARD of ___ 10/10

Review by Brian R. Wright

lion_desertOmar Mukhtar: We do not kill prisoners.
Arab Warrior: They do it to us.
Omar Mukhtar: They are not our ‘teachers.’

Omar Mukhtar (to General Rodolfo Graziani): You have not one minute of right. Soon you will take everything from me and you want me to justify your thefts. No nation has the right to occupy another.

Omar Mukhtar: We will never surrender. We win or we die. You’ll have the next generation to fight and after that, the next. As for me, I will live longer than my hangman.

Directed by Moustapha Akkad
Written by David Butler, Paul Thompson

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

For this one-of-a-kind cinematic experience and for the review, I have Dean Hazel to thank. He’s been after me for a while to sling some ink at Lion of the Desert, and I’m terribly sad I hadn’t watched this 1981 movie many years ago. Why is this movie an ‘Essential?’ So many reasons. But in a nutshell, it treats Arabs as human beings while showing how the Italian fascist colonial power of the early 20th century committed a full-frontal holocaust—complete with concentration camps, torture, rape, terror bombing, and WMDs—on the indigenous people of Libya.[1]

Moreover, the movie treats Arabs as heroic, rational, civilized beings that we can look up to and find inspiration from. Particularly, the person of Omar Mukhtar (Anthony Quinn), who was born in a small town near Tobruk, Libya, in 1862, and was working as a spiritual teacher of the Quran when the Italians came to conquer Libya in 1911. At the age of 49, Mukhtar became the resistance leader of a desert force that inflicted loss after loss upon the Italian forces who came to subdue him; he knew the terrain and used it to his advantage over the often young and ill-prepared Italians.

Unfortunately, Benito Mussolini (Rod Steiger), is not one of those public figures who can stand to lose face. Rather than recognize reality and humanity, and withdraw, to leave the people of Libya alone, let them keep their lands, their towns, and their way of life, the Italian fascist dictator goes into a fit of rage: “How dare this little band of savages hold up my plans for a restored Roman Empire built on my newly announced ideals of the fascist state!” After berating his generals, the little man[2] sends for the Gen. Rodolfo Graziani (Oliver Reed) to do whatever it takes to get Libya—and particularly this teacher-warrior Mukhtar—under control.

Note if you’re a lover of all things Italy, you may want to take a powder instead of enduring scene after relentless scene of what Italian imperial outrage in the early 20th century looks like for the man on the street, especially if your street is in Northern Africa. [3]

The remainder of the movie captures the dramatic, often majestic, conflict between Graziani and Mukhtar, and their respective forces. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the story, the unvarnished truth of it. I had always thought of the Italians as a minor player in the WW2 Axis-power structure, but I was wrong; they inflicted incredible damage before they were ultimately turned back in Greece, France, East Africa and North Africa. Italy was guilty of war crimes of the level if not the scale of the Third Reich.

Against the backdrop of these modern crimes of state we witness perhaps the most telling tale of individual and communal resistance to tyranny of our age. Mukhtar and his people hold out for 20 full years against the modern machinery of war. We identify with them as we identify with the those ‘other’ who are still being slaughtered by our own Red-White-and-Blue terror engine… for much the same reason: to enrich a few sick whack-fucks (SWFs) at the pinnacle of the Money Power. I also think of Mukhtar as one of our own American colonial rebel leaders.

The movie shows one or two instances of defiance among the Italian troops, one in particular, asked to participate in the execution of one of the notable females consigned to the death camps, says, “I did not join the army to hang women.” (And today we are fortunate to have our Oath Keepers.) The point is, as human beings, we end such horrific aggressions by ‘just saying no’ to blind nationalist faith. That day of deliverance is coming. I hope… Because it can happen here. And the alien cartelocracy that has taken over the American government will show the same mercies to our countrymen as the alien fascist Italians showed to the Libyans.

The political and philosophical significance of Lion of the Desert is so significant, it’s easy to forget its extraordinary cinematic qualities. It’s in the category of Braveheart and Spartacus, all the films extolling the struggle for freedom and humanity; it also has the epic quality of Gandhi. Do not miss it, spread the word, show it to all the children.

[1] By the way, as an important book I reviewed recently, Strategic Terror, points out, all the Western European colonial powers of the early 20th century—England, France, Spain, Italy—committed similar unspeakable, systematic atrocities on their conquered populations. [Strange, isn’t it, how the bankster-controlled Western media kept all the mass murder so hush-hush.] It must also be suggested that the later Zionist Israeli conquest and occupation of Palestine shares several attributes of that specific Italian genocidal process from 1928 to 1932… chiefly that the Arabs are a subhuman ‘other’ (though the Israeli Zionists commit their horrors on non-Arabs, even native Jews, as well). (And if you’re thinking the US of A avoids mass crimes of occupation in the early 20th century, check out the Philippines’ taking.)

[2] Steiger’s time on screen is brief, but he out-Mussolinis Mussolini. One exceptional little touch is we view Il Duce in his giant office the size of a football field with a color mural of the world painted behind him probably 50 feet high and 100-feet wide. Italy is at the center, naturally. Seated at his gargantuan desk and kingly chair, Il Duce’s feet do not reach the floor. lol.

[3] Take the note and substitute ‘America’ for ‘Italy’ and ‘the whole world, especially the Middle East’ for ‘Northern Africa’ and ’21st century’ for ’20th century’ and there’s an uncanny resemblance of effects to our own post-911 Woobie US Empire of the Never-Setting Sun.













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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Lion of the Desert (1981)

  1. “Omar Mukhtar (to General Rodolfo Graziani): You have not one minute of right. Soon you will take everything from me and you want me to justify your thefts. No nation has the right to occupy another.”

    Tell this last line to the Zionists!

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