In 1929, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini (Rod Steiger) is still faced with the 20-year long war waged by patriots in Libya to combat Italian colonization and the establishment of The Fourth Shore - the rebirth of a Roman Empire in Africa. Mussolini appoints General Rodolfo Graziani (Oliver Reed) as his sixth governor to Libya, confident that the eminently accredited soldier can crush the rebellion and restore the dissipated glories of Imperial Rome.
Omar Mukhtar (Anthony Quinn) leads the resistance to the fascists. A teacher by profession, guerrilla by obligation, Mukhtar has committed himself to a war that cannot be won in his own lifetime. Graziani controls Libya with the might of the Italian Army. Tanks and aircraft are used in the desert for the first time. The Italians also committed atrocities: killing of prisoners of war, destruction of crops, and hamletting populations behind barbed wire.
Despite their bravery, the Libyan Arabs and Berbers suffered heavy losses, their primitive weaponry doesnt match for mechanized warfare; despite all this, they continued to fight, and managed to keep the Italians from achieving complete victory for 20 years. Graziani was only able to achieve victory through deceit, deception, violation of the laws of war and human rights, and by the use of tanks and aircraft.
Although Mukhtar and his fellow warriors used primitive weaponry, Graziani admitted and witnessed his adversarys skill in waging guerrilla warfare. In one scene, Mukhtar refuses to kill a defenseless young officer, instead giving him the Italian flag to return with. Mukhtar says that Islam forbids him to kill captured soldiers and demands that he only fight for his homeland, and that Muslims are taught to hate war itself.Italian authorities banned the film in 1982, claiming that it was /damaging to the Italian Army\\s honor/?!?!?!