Desert Fox, The / The Desert Rats DVD


James Mason plays Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in both The Desert Fox (1951) and The Desert Rats (1953), a WWII double-bill on DVD. The Desert Fox, released six years after the end of the War, is a solemnly respectful tribute to Erwin Rommel, Germany's most celebrated military genius. James Mason's portrayal of this gallant warrior became a highlight of his career iconography. The film itself is oddly disjointed, though: a pre-credit commando raid to liquidate Rommel is followed by a flashback to the field-marshal's lightning successes commanding the Afrika Korps--a... compressed account via documentary footage and copious narration (spoken by Michael Rennie, who also dubs Desmond Young, the Rommel biographer and one-time British POW appearing briefly as himself). The dramatic core is Rommel's growing disenchantment with Hitler (Luther Adler), his involvement in the plot to assassinate the Fuhrer, and his subsequent martyrdom. The Desert Rats stars Richard Burton in only his second Hollywood role (between Oscar-nominated turns in My Cousin Rachel and The Robe), as a Scottish commando put in charge of a battalion of the 9th Australian Division defending Tobruk. The Aussies don't like him, and with a year of grim North African duty already under his belt, he's not too crazy about his new responsibilities either. The outfit is charged with staving off the battering assaults of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel for two months, to give the British Army time to regroup in Cairo and prepare for a counterattack. In the end, the "desert rats" play hell with the Desert Fox for 242 days, during which time they and their commander develop some mutual respect. This is a solid, workmanlike World War II picture that, having been made in 1953 rather than 1943, can acknowledge a degree of eccentric humanity and soldierly professionalism in the enemy. Featured guest star James Mason reprises his Rommel from The Desert Fox, playing all his scenes in German except for a scene of ironical repartee with Burton. Another distinguished Brit, Robert Newton, gets costar billing as a boozy, self-confessed coward who used to be Burton's schoolmaster. However, a goodly number of Australians--including Chips Rafferty and Charles "Bud" Tingwell rate at least as much screen time. Robert Wise directed, with a trimness that reminds us he started out as an editor, and the pungent black-and-white cinematography is by Lucien Ballard. --Richard T. Jameson [show more]

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02 June 2003
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 
174 minutes 
Box set, Black & White, Dubbed, PAL 
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Please note this is a region 2 DVD and will require a region 2 (Europe) or region Free DVD Player in order to play.   A double pack featuring 'The Desert Fox' which tells the tale of Field Marshal Rommel the leader of Germany's Afrika Korps which dominated North Africa during the early years of World War II later to be overrun by the might of the Allied forces. Later Rommel becomes disillusioned with Hitler and his ingrained sense of duty leads him into a conspiracy against the Fuehrer and 'The Desert Rats' which tells the story of a British Officer takes command of the 9th Australian Division of Tobruk in North Africa in 1941. His contempt for the non-British troops is plain. But when he is captured by Rommel's Africa Corps the men set out to rescue him and thus earn his respect.

A double bill of war films. 'The Desert Fox' is a biopic of Field Marshal Rommel, from his military defeat in Africa to his implication in the plot to assassinate Hitler. James Mason plays Rommel and the film was one of the first to use original war footage before the opening credits. Mason reprises his role as Field Marshal Rommel on the acclaimed 'The Desert Rats' about a British captain who takes charge of an Australian squad to train them for desert fighting. But his stiff upper lip does not quickly win over his Australian charges.

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