Beloe solntse pustyni (White Sun of the Desert) (1970)




Director:     Vladimir Motyl. 

Starring:     Anatoli Kuznetsov (Fyodor Sukhov),  Spartak Mishulin (Sayid),  Kakhi Kavsadze (Abdulla),  Pavel Luspekayev (Vereschagin),  Raisa Kurkina,  Tamara Fedotova,  Nikolai Godovikov (Petrukha),  Musa Dudayev,  Nikolai Badyev,  V. Kadochnikov,  I. Abdulragimov,  Tatyana Tkach (Head Wife).

in today's Turkmenistan a Red Army soldier who fought in the Russian Civil War is going home but has to fight some bandits first


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Fyodor Sukhov is a soldier of the red army.  He has been demobilized and is looking forward to going home.  He constantly thinks of returning to his wife, his beloved Katerina Matveyevna.  He talks out loud to her as if she was with him.  He tells her she goes about doing her errands gliding along like a swan on the water.  He is in the desert laying down for a rest.  He gets up and starts walking again.  He tells his wife that so far the class battles have been completely by and large.    Furthermore, the day of world-wide liberation is coming, so he is coming home to his native land. 

But along the way he finds a man buried in the sand up to his chin.  Sukhov just has to stop to dig him out.  He tells the fellow, Sayid, that he is the fourth man he has dug out.  One of the three other men proved to be a bandit and tried to strangle him.  Sayid tells Sukhov that a man named Dzhavdet killed his father and buried him (Sayid) up to his chin in the sand.  He also took Sayid's four sheep.  And now Sayid wants to kill Dzhavdet. 

Some red soldiers come along and see Sukhov in the distance.  A fellow named Rakhimov  shoots his weapon in the air to get Sukhov's attention.  They get together and talk.  Rakhimov tells him that he wants him to take charge of the bandit Abdulla's harem of eight wives.  He is to take them to Pedzhent because they will be safer there.   Sukhov keeps explaining that he is just going home, but the red soldiers leave him suddenly.  So Sukhov is now in charge of eight women, Sayid and a very young soldier named Petrukha. 

Sayid tells Sukhov not to go to Pedzhent because Abdullah is sure to show up there.  At the end of three days of walking the caravan reaches Pedzhent.  There are three men already there with weapons watching them.  Petrukha is given the task of watching the women.  Sukhnov meets Lebedev who runs the Museum of the Red East in town.  Sukhov says goodbye to the women and Petrukha.  He says he is going to take a short swim in the sea and then leave for home.  Sayid has already left. 

When Sukhov leaves, the three men grab Petrukha and beat him up. There is a White Guard Lieutenant with the two bandits, so it seems the bandits and the Whites have worked out some kind of arrangement between them. 

When Sukhov gets out of the sea he soon notices that his pistol is missing from its holster.  Then he notices the three men.  They tell him to get his hands up!  Then they want to know where the two other wives are.  There should be ten.  Sukhov knows nothing about that.  The bandit sub-leader tells the White officer Semyon to ride to Abdulla.  Semyon takes off.  As the two men start to move Sukhov toward the village buildings, Sukhov grabs a pistol out of the hands of one of the bandits and then shoots both of the bad guys. 

Sukhov goes to check on Petrukha.  He helps the young fellow get up and get himself together.  Then he goes to check on the women.  When he enters the court-yard the women happen to have taken off their head coverings.  Now Sukhov sees their faces.  The women give out with loud shrieks.  Then the youngest and most adventurous of them, Gyulchata, tells the women that it's okay.  It's just Sukhov and they regard him as the new husband.  Sukhov tries to tell them that this is a new, revolutionary world and each of them will have their own husband.  He is staying faithful to his wife. 

Petrukha decides he wants to marry Gyulchata, except he has to see her face before he can be certain he wants her.  But that will not be an easy thing to accomplish.  He begs Gyulchata to take off her head covering, but she won't cooperate.  Sukhov arrives and decides to put Gyulchata in charge of all the women.  Gyulchata shouts to the seven other women that Sukhov has made her his favorite wife. 

Sukhov sends Petrukha to see if anyone is in the other buildings.  Petrukha goes to the Customs House and looks around.  Someone tells him to get his hands up!  He does so and the someone grabs him by his raised hands and pulls him up and through the window on the second floor.  The fellow is called Pasha by his wife Nastasya.  He is the Customs man.  He starts to take a liking to Petrukha and they get drunk together. 

Three riders come up behind Sayid.  Sayid uses his rifle and shoots two of them.  The sole survivor, Semyon, gets away.  Sayid gives chase but when he gets to the top of a sand dune he sees around twenty-five bandits facing him.  Now he has to go with them. 

Pasha throws the keys to his place to Sukhov and tells him to come up.  Together the three men have something to drink.  The two newcomers meet his wife.  Pasha has a lot of stored weapons and ammunition.  Nastasya tells her husband not to go with the two men.  He has already fought enough in his life.  Pasha doesn't pay much attention to her. 

Sukhov plants some dynamite near the engine of the only available ship in the area.  Within forty-two seconds of starting the engine, the ship will explode. 

Abdulla and his men arrive.  There is no one there to stop them from coming right into the courtyard.  While Abdulla and some of his men are busy in the town, Sayid is able to get away from the bandits down by the ship.  Abdulla finds his eight wives.  He threatens to shoot his head wife, but is suddenly stopped by Sukhnov who sits halfway in through the window holding a pistol ofnthe bandit leader.  Sukhov takes Abdulla's pistol and dagger from him.  He then tells Abdulla to tell his men to all go down by the ship.   The bandit obeys.   Sukhov then locks Abdulla and the eight women in the room together. 

But as Sukhov goes to check on the others, Abdulla makes his move.  He kills Gyulchata and dresses in her garb.  He then goes into the courtyard.  Petrukha sees her and gets close to ask her to let him see her face.  Abdulla shows him his face and then grabs the young man's rifle.  He bayonets Petrukha to death.  Sayid leaves the area.  Abdulla kills the curator of the museum. 

Sukhov discovers the two dead bodies and has to use a secret passageway to get the women out of there.  They come up near the beach.  He hides the women in an old oil container.  Sayid in the desert decides to turn around and go back. 

Abdulla and his men start searching for the women and Sukhov.  They discover that the women at least are in the empty old oil tank.  The men start getting oil from and old railway oil container and place it all around the base of the oil tank.   Just as a man with a lighted torch is about to ignite the oil, Sayid kills him with a single shot.  IHw then sets the old railway oil container ablaze.  The bandits are now determined to kill Sayid, but Suukhov opens up on them with one of Pasha's machine guns.  He kills the majority of the bandits. 

Pasha has by now gotten himself on the ship.  Since he is not being cooperative with Abdulla, the bandit tells some of his men to swim out and kill Pasha.  But that proves a near impossible assignment.  Pasha, a huge man, fights some of them off and then kills the others. 

Sayid's horse gets shot and falls on Sayid's leg as it goes down.  Sayid is pinned down by the horse.  A bandit approaches to shoot him, but Sayid nails him with a thrown dagger.  By this time Sukhov is on the ground.  He gets wounded in the shoulder.  Abdulla with a lighted torch climbs up the steps to the top of the oil tank.  He gets ready to throw the torch down on top of the women.  But Sukhov is able to shoot the bandit with Abdulla and then Abdulla himself.  Abudalla struggles to hold onto the the stairs and lets himself down slowly, but by the time he gets on the ground he is already dead. 

Meanwhile, Pasha has started up the boat and is bringing it closer to shore.  Sukhov yelled to him not to start the engine, but Pasha couldn't hear him.  The ship explodes killing Pasha. 

Sukhov shouts to the women that they can come out now. 

Red soldier Rakhimov and his buddies arrive to take charge of the women.  Now Sayid and Sukhov can leave.  Marching along Sukhov talks out loud to his wife once again.  


Good movie.  But it's a simple plot with lots of action.  It reminds me of a Clint Eastwood cowboy movie where the good guy comes into town and kills off all the bad guys one after another.  Anatoli Kuznetsov makes a pretty good Clint Eastwood, cool and clam but deadly effective.  Since it is so much like a western, there is not much history here except for the setting of the Russian Civil War of the Whites versus the Reds. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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