Your Average Italian Potboiler
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 11/04/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Enzo G. Castellari claims membership in that small cadre of Italian filmmakers who launched their careers by routinely ripping off successful American movies. Like Sergio Martino and Fabrizio De Angelis, Castellari visited more than once the action genre, churning out some of the greatest low budget cheese of the 1970s and 1980s. Big budgets, good scripts, great special effects, and effective actors always eluded these elder statesmen of the Grade Z film. Producing pure cheese never seemed to bother these guys, let alone slow them down for long. As long as a film made money, somehow and somewhere, Castellari and company always reappeared on the scene with yet another hackneyed script. Eventually, when these movies failed to earn money the Italian hacks faded away, remembered fondly by a few stalwarts watching old VHS tapes or third generation dupes but forgotten by everyone else. With the emergence of the DVD format, hungry viewers willing to watch almost anything on their new players have inspired several companies to reissue some of these low budget classics. One of them, considered by several connoisseurs of the genre to be Castellari's best effort, is "Tuareg, The Desert Warrior." Perhaps the biggest surprise concerning this film is that it stars an up and coming Mark Harmon. The actor plays Gacel Sayah, a member of a band of Arabic nomads called the Tuareg (which, we are told, translates as "The Abandoned of God"). The movie opens with an old Arab telling a story about a caravan traveling through the worst stretch of desert in the region, and we soon learn that only Sayah has made the journey through this region unscathed. We also learn that Sayah possesses the best attributes of his tribe: knowledge about how to survive in the harsh environs of the desert with little food and water, how to treat women, how to fight with sword and rifle, and the importance of hospitality. Treating guests nicely translates into a serious obligation with the Tuareg and it isn't long before we see how this belief works in reality. One day, two half dead stragglers stumble into the Tuareg camp. Sayah soon takes them under his wing without realizing that one of the men is the former president of a North African nation who is running from his political enemies. The former leader of the land wishes to cross the border in order to set up a government in exile, which represents a formidable problem for the current regime. When a group of sadistic soldiers show up to capture the men, Sayah at first refuses to hand them over. A killing and some threats occur and the soldiers take charge of the president, leading to a personal vendetta by Sayah against the men who had the temerity to disobey desert law. What follows is a series of adventures involving the drinking of camel blood, a military officer sympathetic to the Tuareg people, more than a few gory killings, an assault on a desert fort, and a twist ending that actually surprises even if it doesn't make much sense."Tuareg, The Desert Warrior" is first and foremost a cheesy Italian action film. I can't really say with absolute certainty which films this movie cribs from, but several scenes resembled a mix between the Rambo franchise and Moustapha Akkad's "Lion of the Desert." Regrettably, there wasn't nearly enough action in the film to satisfy me. Sure, there were a few scenes with a lot of gunfire and squibs popping in slow motion, but I thought they ended far too quickly for this type of movie. Since these shoot 'em up sequences are rare and spaced widely apart, most of the movie hinges on the rather talky scenes involving the military's attempts to stymie Sayah's efforts to recover the imprisoned ex-president. Some of these scenes are interesting, such as Sayah drinking camel's blood to stay alive in the desert, but most of the time Tito Carpi's lame script turns the non-action scenes into a turgid mess. It doesn't help that Harmon's acting consists of brief sentences conveyed in a style so monotone that they make Ben Stein sound like Robin Williams. While Harmon's performance amuses at first because of this awkward delivery, it rapidly grates on the viewer after the first twenty minutes or so. I bet this actor doesn't put "Tuareg, The Desert Warrior" on his filmography nowadays. As for the rest of the cast, don't give them a second thought. They are all cardboard cutouts that serve either as cannon fodder or as props to develop Harmon's character.Westlake Entertainment actually put a few extras on this disc: a cast biography, a cast filmography, and a few stills. As for the picture quality, the film contains spots, grain, and streaks throughout. Moreover, Westlake opted for a full screen transfer when a widescreen presentation would have looked much better considering the wide expanses of desert scenery shown throughout the film. One positive element regarding "Tuareg" is the soundtrack by Riz Ortolani, the musician who did such a wonderful job scoring Ruggiero Deodato's "Cannibal Holocaust." His work isn't as good here, but it still does an apt job of fitting in with the desert backdrop. Ultimately, I think only diehard fans of low budget films or Mark Harmon completists (is there such a thing?) would appreciate anything concerning "Tuareg, The Desert Warrior." All others should stay far, far away."
Mark Harmon as a Tuareg warrior?
Jeffrey Leach | 08/12/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Okay, so this movie has Mark Harmon in it, it's really not that bad. Well, acting bad makeup and storyline aside, the scenery and costumes are really pretty great considering that the movie was made in '83 in Israel. It has a few rough spots where you might want to scratch your head and check to see if your couchmate is still alive, but it moves along quickly enough. If you like decapitations, bloody gunshot wounds, bloated camels and exploding Arabs you'll rewind this tape with satisfaction. If you're looking for a good documentary on the life of modern Tuareg... well, Mark Harmon is in this flick. The Tuareg definately deserve better treatment than this, but it's all that's out there."
If you like spaghetti spiced with gore, crude language, and
A Snider | Texas USA | 11/13/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The movie is as gory as many horror films with people losing limbs in battle, throats getting cut, knifing the camel, drinking camel's blood and such. The humor is nearly as cheezy as can be. Most of the lines are shallow. Characters are poorly developed. The dialogue is as profane as pithy. In my humble opinion, Tuareg--The Desert Warrior has three redeeming qualities: 1) Mark Harmon makes a decent Eastwood-Rambo type hero, giving some justice to his lines that range from philosophically laden to adolescent; 2) This movie is a radical illustration of the Middle Eastern desert hospitality that is told in Genesis and Judges; 3) This movie illustrates the strain and unavoidable misunderstandings of two cultures in violent conflict. For fans of spaghetti westerns, Rambo, and Mark Harmon, desiring to slightly better understand a couple of things about the middle eastern conflict, and see bloody lips of men eating camel flesh, this movie might be worth watching."