Welcome back to the world of long, lost VHS tapes. For this second installment, let’s take a look at Magnum Entertainment’s The DESERT TIGERS (1977), a rather mundane WWII film with a few sleazy surprises.
Beginning rather abruptly, Maj. Lexman (Richard Harrison) and British Lt. Keller (Isarco Ravaioli) command a joint squadron to destroy an oil refinery in the North African desert. They accomplish their mission perfectly, but unfortunately, they are captured and sent to a German POW camp overseen by Kommandant Von Stulzen (Gordon Mitchell) and Dr. Lessing (Lea Lander). However, it isn’t very long before Lexman and Keller begin organizing the other prisoners for a daring escape, which once again lands them the desert and the Germans hot on their trail.
Partially modeled after The GREAT ESCAPE (1965), this cut-rate effort from Z-grade filmmaker Luigi Batzella (using his Ivan Kathansky pseudonym) is a fairly uninteresting WWII potboiler but, like his infamous SS HELL CAMP (aka The BEAST IN HEAT, 1977), The DESERT TIGERS also features a number sleazy moments interspersed with “borrowed” action scenes*. Despite the innocuous cover of Magnum’s tape, the film features all the requisite nudity, torture and flogging during the central “chamber of sensual horrors” sequence, which wouldn’t be out of place in any number of Italian naziploitation efforts of the time. In a typical scene, Von Stulzen and his drunken troops grope topless Bedouin women while a cross-dressing belly dancer moves to the strains of some generic Arabic melodies. Over-acting wildly, Mitchell as Von Stulzen exclaims, “Even with an army of perverts, we shall win the war” in one of the film’s most memorable lines. For the most part though, The DESERT TIGERS stays firmly within the usual WWII norms and ends just as abruptly as it began.
Released in 1986, Magnum’s tape actually sports a decent, although somewhat dark transfer and looks to be uncut, which even includes a rather startling castration. This was also released with the same bland cover on Classic Family Entertainment, which would certainly raise a few eyebrows if some oblivious parents rented this for their kids. The video generated title card is most likely replacing the film’s original export title of ACHTUNG! THE DESERT TIGERS, which seems rather unnecessary.
Obviously, this tape is long out-of-print, but the film was released on Italian DVD under its original title of KAPUT LAGER: GLI ULTIMI GIORNI DELLE SS on Perseo in a nice (and brighter) 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer and, despite what Amazon Italy claims, it’s only in Italian. You can order it here.
* The entire battle sequence at the desert oasis is taken from Alfredo Rizzo’s HEROES WITHOUT GLORY (aka I Giardini del Diavolo, 1970), which was also pilfered by Eurociné for many of their in-house productions including Pierre Chevalier’s EAST OF BERLIN (aka Convoi de Femmes, 1978) and A.M. Frank’s OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (aka L’Abime des Morts-Vivants, 1981). Some of the action scenes from The DESERT TIGERS subsequently turned up in Batzella’s BLACK GOLD (aka Strategia per une Missione di morte, 1979). Whew!