World War II Marathon: The Rats Of Tobruk (1944)


Film #3 in the World War II Marathon!

Written By: Charles & Elsa Chauvel
Directed By: Charles Chauvel

Where does one start with a movie such as The Rats Of Tobruk? It is an amalgamation of all the worst traits found in war films, yet it’s most damning quality is its lack of any real substance, something that is found in even the worst of war films, I guess that’s as good of a place as any to start. In my notes for The Rats Of Tobruk I quickly realized that every snippet I jotted down was negative, that I didn’t find one positive thing to say about the movie. I will say it was short, moved by fast and it, uh, that’s about it. But, it didn’t do anything to elevate it above being a tearfully bad film, so keep that in mind.

I’m not going to go over every detail of The Rats Of Tobruk because to do would be to provide a litany of missteps in the film. I will provide some examples of where the film gravely erred, but I’m not a sadist and feel no need to tear the film to shreds. It is sad that this film wasn’t any good, because the desert campaigns of World War II have always interested me, but dramatic storytelling in those areas tends to focus on German, Italian, American and British interests. I’d like to see a good film from the Australian perspective at some point, but I will have to keep looking for a good film told from their perspective.

Right off the bat The Rats Of Tobruk relies far too heavily on voice over narration. Throughout the movie this narration is used and it takes the place of the characters allowing us to know what is happening, it’s never a good idea to remove the emotion and depth from your characters in favor of a narrator. As is to be expected in many immediate post-WWII films, there are moments when The Rats Of Tobruk is jingoistic and xenophobic with healthy doses of false patriotism.

The two biggest problems in The Rats Of Tobruk were found in its brazen nature with the story and in one lone sequence. The story never seems to matter, every character and every moment is passed over quickly, nothing is ever allowed to make any sort of impact. I would be remiss in not mentioning the five minutes of blackness during the initial German raid on Tobruk. There exists a whole five minute sequence where the screen is completely black and you can only hear random gunshots and occasional yells and gasps. It’s about as riveting as it sounds!

That does it for The Rats Of Tobruk, a completely forgettable film. That’s the thing about marathons, sometimes you find a gem you never would have seen, while other times you suffer through a horrendous film you never would have thought about seeing otherwise. Hopefully our, or my as the case may be, next World War II marathon film is a better one, because this is one that wasn’t worth the effort.




2 responses to “World War II Marathon: The Rats Of Tobruk (1944)

  1. I just saw The Rats of Tobruk with my mother. I found it to be far from awful, but I can’t disagree with the faults you found in it. To me, it lacked the emotional impact that is necessary in stories such as these. However, I did like many things about it, and I wasn’t bored to tears like you were. I’d give it 6/10. My mother on the other hand, was in tears by the end. She’d probably give it a 9 or a 10/10. haha

  2. The wonderful variety of responses a single movie can bring out in its many viewers, on display. 🙂

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