September 16th, 2012: Lion of the Desert (1981)

Cast and Crew:    Maurice Jarre (Score); Rod Steiger, Raf Vallone, Irene Papas, John Gielgud, Andrew Keir

What It’s About:  The story of Omar Mukhtar (Anthony Quinn), a Libyan teacher who took arms against the Italians when they invaded in 1911 and remained a thorn in their sides for twenty years. Mussolini (Rod Steiger) appoints Gen. Rodolfo Graziani (Oliver Reed) to crush the revolution and bring down Mukhtar.

Why Watch it Today?: Not to give out a spoiler, but Omar Mukhtar was executed on this date in 1931Lion of the Desert is an odd film:  an epic celebrating Libyan guerrillas, directed by Moustapha Akkad, best known for producing the Halloween series and shot in Libya with Qaddafi’s military providing extras.  An infamous flop, the film, while not as good as the David Lean films it clearly wishes to emulate, is an interesting one, with Quinn and Reed putting in great performances as the leads and an epic scope (thousands of extras, costumes, props, etc.) that is simply not done anymore.  While not a great film, it’s an oddity worth seeing for fans of epic war films.

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