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White Sun of the Desert is a cult Soviet western-like action movie (since everything occured in the East, it is, in fact, the eastern), filmed in 1969. Director Vladimir Motyl had rewritten the screenplay of Rustam Ibragimbekov and made a lot of references to westerns (from both the United States and Italy). The film was prohibited from Russian cinemas at first, but Leonid Brezhnev, having once seen the movie at his villa, decided to allow White Sun to be released. The movie had broken the box office: Over 50 million tickets were sold.
The setting is the east shore of the Caspian Sea (today's Turkmenistan) where the Red Army soldier Fyodor Sukhov has been fighting the Civil War in Russian Asia for a number of years. After being hospitalized and then demobbed, he sets off home to join his wife, but is caught up in a desert fight between a Red Army cavalry unit and Basmachi guerrillas. The cavalry unit commander, Rahimov, "persuades" Sukhov to help, temporarily, with the protection of abandoned women of the Basmachi guerrilla leader Black Abdullah's harem. Leaving a young Red Army soldier, Petrukha, to assist Sukhov with the task, Rahimov and his cavalry unit set out to pursue the fleeing Abdullah.
Sukhov and women from Abdullah's harem return to a nearby shore town. Soon, looking for a seaway across the border, Abdullah and his gang come to the same town...
This film provides examples of:
- Badass: Many -- comrade Sukhov, former customs officer Vereshchagin and Sayid. Big Bad Black Abdullah also can be considered as one.
- Retired Badass: Vereshchagin. Awesome way of retirement: vodka, black caviar and peacocks.
- Berserk Button: Vereshchagin, had been informed of Petrukha's murder by Abdullah, decided to take Sukhov's side and overtook Abdulla's launch barehanded
- Buried Alive: Sayid was buried alive in sizzling hot sand by Djavded (off screen) and excavated by Sukhov.
- Chew Toy: Sub-lieutenant Semyon, Abdullah's Dragon. Since he had begun from proposing to comrade Sukhov the Sadistic Choice, no one has any pity for him.
- Cigar Fuse-Lighting: Comrade Sukhov does the inverted version: he lights his cigarette off a dynamite fuse.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Gyulchatai, the youngest of Abdullah's wives.
- Complete Monster: Black Abdullah. Double murder of Gyulchatai and Petrukha makes him a monster beyond any compassion.
- Cool Guns: Abdullah's Mauser C96
- Couldn't Find a Lighter: Sukhov lights his cigarette from a dynamite fuse.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: Sayid, Sukhov and Vereshchagin all have a set of such moments. For example, Sukhov is calmly lighting the cigarette from TNT fuse. Vereshchagin is kicking Semyon from the closed window. Sayid is shooting two Abdullah's men leaning from the saddle under horse's belly.
- The Gunslinger: Comrade Sukhov
- In the Back: Djavded's Offstage Villainy includes killing Sayid's father that way. Sayid is dressed in an old robe with two bullet holes in the back for most of the movie.
- I Owe You My Life: Sayid was saved by Sukhov and since that feels himself in debt to save Sukhov.
- Kick the Dog: Black Abdullah. He killed an innocent museum curator even without wasting time to interrogate him. And this was just the beginning.
- Lawful Neutral: Vereshchagin, until his Berserk Button was pressed by Abdullah.
- Leave Him to Me: "If you'll meet Djavded, don't hurt him. He's mine."
- Memetic Mutation: Almost every phrase in the film.
- "The East is a delicate matter." (Восток -- дело тонкое); refers to any complicated or difficult matter, not necessarily "eastern" in nature.
- "Customs gives the green light." ("Таможня дает добро!"); refers to any type of approval, especially reluctant approval.
- "His grenades are of a wrong system." ("Да гранаты у него не той системы"); refers to any kind of excuse, particularly a pathetic one. The line wasn't scripted, but was improvised by the actor.
- "Gyulchatai, show your sweet face!" ("Гюльчатай, открой личико"); a popular Russian saying for boys to say to girls.
- "I feel bad for my State!" ("За державу обидно"); refers to the weak state of Russia, which used to be a superpower, used again in political context since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- "No, guys. I won't give you a machine gun." ("Вот что, ребята. Пулемета я вам не дам"); refers to any kind of refusal.
- "They were shooting..." ("Стреляли..."); in the context, it was Sayid's justification for suddenly appearing and trying to save the day; now it usually means noticing some fracas and showing up for action.
- Naive Newcomer: Petrukha, young soldier commanded to assist Sukhov.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Sayid, who is the Asian equivalent of Honest Indian.
- Offscreen Teleportation: The usual way of Sayid's relocations.
- Sadistic Choice: Sub-lieutenant Semyon, having Sukhov captured, asks him, whether he wants "to be killed at once or suffer for a while first". Sukhov says that "suffering is better, of course".
- Social Darwinist: Black Abdullah
- Troubled Production: the production was riddled with misfortunes. Stuntman died, actors getting drunk and participating in fights with locals were normal, after two years of filming crew exceeded the budget and all of studio bosses didn't liked ready material. After the shooting was over it went through heavy Executive Meddling from the officials, and yet still bosses didn't liked the outcome. If it wasn't for Brezhnev himself who had a habit of watching all new western and soviet movies on his dacha, this movie would never had a proper release. Brezhnev LOVED the movie, and all arguments from officials ended.
- What Measure Is a Mook?: Villanous variation of the trope. Abdullah shows little care for his Mooks. When he captures Sayid after his Crowning Moment of Awesome, he shows no grudge for killing his men, but only astonishment why Sayid killed them â€” "I've sent them only to tell you not to seek for Javdeth in a dry creek: he's not there!"
- Unwanted Harem: Literally.
- You Killed My Father: Sayid shall never know peace till he finds and kills Djavded.