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The Beast of War

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The Beast of War (1988)

The Beast of War, or widely known to American viewers under the US release title of The Beast, is a 1988 war film that followed a Russian tank crew during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that finds itself separated from their fellow tankers and relentlessly pursued by Mujahideen fighters. The film was shot in Israel, using the Middle Eastern landscape, and more importantly, Israeli armorers. The very real Ti-67 tanks (Israeli-modified T-55 tanks featuring a larger 105mm gun vs. the original 100mm gun) as well as the authentic Soviet weaponry were all provided by Israel, with cooperation from the IDF. While the T-55 tank was well obsolete in the Soviet army by the time frame of this film, it was nice to see authentic Soviet armor in a Western film.

The following weapons were used in the film The Beast of War:


Makarov PM

The Makarov PM makes a few appearances in the film. Commander Daskal (George Dzundza) carries one as his sidearm, and Moustafa (Chaim Girafi) carries one as well, using it to end the suffering of one of his comrades who is mortally wounded by a booby-trap left by the tank crew.

Makarov PM - 9x18mm Makarov
Moustafa (Chaim Girafi) chambers his Makarov PM before killing one of his comrades who is mortally wounded by a Soviet booby-trap.
Cmdr. Daskal (George Dzundza) pulls his Makarov PM on Koverchenko when he defies Daskal.

Tokarev TT-33

Following the raid on the village, several Afghans who weren't around during the raid return to find the devastation, including a group of scavengers led by Taj's cousin Moustafa (Chaim Girafi), who discards several weapons in a gesture of peace as he approaches Taj (Steven Bauer), though Taj still finds a Tokarev TT-33 hidden on him, grabs it and points it at him.

Tokarev TT-33 - 7.62x25mm Tokarev
Taj (Steven Bauer) points a Tokarev TT-33 at Moustafa after finding it hidden on him.
Moustafa (Chaim Girafi) tries to convince Taj to join him against the Soviets while staring down the barrel of his own TT-33.

Enfield No.2 Mk.I

A boy who fights alongside the Mujahideen carries an Enfield No.2 Mk.I revolver as his weapon.

Enfield No.2 Mk.I - .38 S&W
A boy fighting alongside the Mujahideen fires an Enfield No.2 Mk.I at the Soviets.

Rifles & Muskets


The AK-47 is one of the more common weapons in the film, used by both the Soviets and the Afghan Mujahideen fighters. In the film, the Soviets use mostly AKS-47 folding-stock rifles, while the Afghans have both folding and fixed stock models. In the real war, the Soviet Forces almost exclusively used the 5.45mm AK-74/AKS-74 rifles, the 7.62x39mm AK variants relegated to the Communist Afghan Regime soldiers. So the use of the 7.62x39mm AKs for the Soviets is historically anachronistic.

AKS-47 - 7.62x39mm
Soviet tankers Golikov (Stephen Baldwin) and Kaminski (Don Harvey) dismount while holding their folding-stock AKS-47s. What initially confused viewers into thinking that these were AKMSs with the extended (Israeli style) blank adapters on the muzzle of the rifle. From a distance they look like the slant compensators of the AKM rifle series. But these are original milled receiver AKS-47s, the only type of AK seen in the film.
Golikov (Stephen Baldwin) and Kaminski (Don Harvey) each hold a folding-stock AKS-47 as Samad (Erick Avari) interrogates an Afghan villager.
Poly Technologies AK-47 - 7.62x39mm. Though US productions would use the Poly Tech Legend rifles, most Israeli productions would probably use real milled receiver AK-47s from IDF inventory.
Two Mujahideen fighters fire their fixed-stock AK-47s at the tank.
Moustafa carries an AK-47.

Trivia: The Israeli Blank Adapters

Note the extended muzzle nut on these AK-47s. They are the BFAs (Blank Firing Adapters) used mostly by Israeli film armorers. American film armorers use blank firing adapters that are either hidden in the barrel or look just like the existing compensators or flash-hiders on the issued firearms. Usually these obvious BFAs indicate that a film was shot in Israel.

An Afghan villager fires his AK-47 at the fleeing tank. Note the obvious Israeli BFA at the end.
Another villager waiting with an AKS-47. Again, the Israeli BFA is visible.

Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III*

A Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III* bolt-action rifle is among the collection of weapons used by the Afghan Mujahideen in the film. A Lee-Enfield is seen in the hands of Taj (Steven Bauer), the leader of the small Afghan Mujahideen group and it was his main weapon in the film. Taj is also seen holding his Lee-Enfield rifle when he swears "badal" (revenge) to Allah when he was standing at the crushed remains of his brother. The weapon's main role in the film is being cannibalized for parts by Koverchenko (Jason Patric) to repair the damaged RPG-7 launcher. Another Lee-Enfield can be seen being cleaned by one of the villagers just prior to the raid by the Soviets at the beginning of the film.

Lee-Enfield No. 1 Mk III* - .303 British
An Afghan villager cleans his Short Magazine Lee-Enfield prior to the raid by the Soviets.
Taj (center) with his SMLE at the ready as Moustafa's group arrives.
Taj (Steven Bauer) takes aim at the tank with his SMLE.
Taj unloads his SMLE before giving it to Koverchenko to repair the RPG launcher.

IMI Romat

Another weapon used by the Mujahideen is an IMI Romat, an Israeli model of the FN FAL. A Mujahideen fighter is seen carrying it ends up drinking from a watering hole that had been filled with poison by the tank crew hiding in wait nearby.

IMI Romat - 7.62x51mm NATO
An IMI Romat being carried by a Mujahideen fighter moments before drinking from a poisoned watering hole.

Jezail Musket

The Afghans are seen using traditional Afghan Jezail muskets, dating back to the 18th century. These are traditional ornate and customized muskets with tribal decorations (and pretty much useless for accurate long range fire at modern distances or most instances of Close Quarters Battle). During the raid on the village, one of the inhabitants catches Koverchenko off-guard with an Islamic percussion Jezail musket and pulls the trigger point-blank, though the gun is unloaded, producing only a harmless click as the Afghan smirks and says something to him in Pashto before one of Koverchenko's comrades knocks him down and beats him with the stock of his AKS-47. Koverchenko is also seen holding a musket at the end of the film when he's airlifted out by a Soviet helicopter, having given to him by Taj.

Jezail musket
An Afghan villager aims his Islamic percussion Jezail musket point-blank at Koverchenko.
Moustafa's group watches the tank pass from a ledge, at least one of them has an Islamic percussion Jezail musket slung on his back.
Uncle Akbar (Kabir Bedi) points a traditional tribal musket while Taj (Steven Bauer) points a Lee-Enfield.
Uncle Akbar (Kabir Bedi), an elderly member of Taj's group, lies prone with a traditional tribal musket.

SVD Dragunov

A Soviet soldier accompanying the helicopter crew carries an SVD Dragunov as his weapon of choice, but is only seen after the helicopter crew is dead, having ingested the poisoned water left behind by their fellow Russians. Note: There is an obvious continuity error, the SVD rifleman's helmet is off in some shots and on in other shots. Note: This could be an SVD variant built locally (like the modern day 'Tabuk') but the details are hard to verify.

SVD Dragunov - 7.62x54mmR
The tank crew returns to the watering hole to find the helicopter crew dead, including a soldier with an SVD Dragunov.
A Soviet soldier lies dead with an SVD Dragunov at his side. Continuity break: From this angle, his helmet is off his head and laying on the ground several feet away.
Another view of the dead soldier with the SVD Dragunov. Continuity break: His M56 Soviet helmet is back on his head.

Machine Guns


Another weapon used by the Mujahideen is an RPD light machine gun.

RPD light machine gun - 7.62x39mm
One of the Mujahideen fighters is firing an RPD light machine gun. A nice detail is the non-disintegrating belt flowing out of the side of the receiver.


One of the weapons on the Soviet tank is the SGMT machine gun, the tank-mounted model of the SGM Goryunov machine gun featuring an additional solenoid trigger. The weapon is mounted in a "coaxial" configuration parallel to the main gun, and is most notably seen being fired in the scene where the tank is trying to make it through a mountain pass to safety while being pursued by Koverchenko and the Mujahideen, as well as in the scene where all the tank's weapons are fired at once when the crew believes themselves to be surrounded by the Mujahideen at night.

Goryunov SGMT machine gun - 7.62x54mmR
The tank's SGMT machine gun being fired during the climax of the film.

At one point, the tank crew finds themselves trapped in a dead-end valley. As they're trying to decide their next move, a helicopter searching for water comes upon them, mounting an SGM or SGMT as the door machine gun.

A Soviet helicopter crew member mans an SGM machine gun.
Golikov and Kaminski sit in the cabin of the helicopter with the SGM in the foreground.
The door gunner looks on from behind the SGM as Daskal orders his crew back to the tank.

Fake DShK (Browning M2HB)

Browning M2HB heavy machine guns are seen impersonating DShK heavy machine guns in the film. One is mounted on the commander's hatch of the Soviet T-55 tank, and is used by the tyrannical Commander Daskal (George Dzundza) to impose his authority over his crew, as well as murder Afghan crew member Samad (Erick Avari) when he is suspected of being a traitor. Daskal attempts to use it to fend off the Mujahideen when they are advancing on the tank while it's stranded due to an overheated engine, but runs out of ammo after firing only a few rounds, none of which hit the Mujahideen. The use of a Browning M2HB is curious, since Israeli armorers have easy access to real DShK guns they have captured from the Arab armies over the years.

DShK heavy machine gun - 12.7x108mm
Browning M2HB - .50 BMG
Commander Daskal (George Dzundza) checks his map next to a mocked up Browning M2HB, masquerading as a Soviet DShK heavy machine gun. Note the flat feed tray cover and the absence of the charging handle under the spade grips at the rear of the weapon.
Commander Daskal (George Dzundza) mans a mocked up Browning M2HB, masquerading as a Soviet DShK heavy machine gun.
A nice overhead shot of the .50 cal on the tank as the crew scrambles to escape the attack.
Daskal about to run out of ammo on the stranded tank.



The RPG-7, equipped with a PGO-7 scope, plays a pivotal role in the film, first being used by Soviet soldiers during the raid on the village (used by Koverchenko to blow up a mosque at the beginning of the film) then is captured by the Mujahideen who intend to use it to take revenge ("badal") on a Soviet tank that is lost in the Afghan desert after the murderous raid. The Afghans initially have poor luck when using the weapon, even damaging it to the point it won't fire, though a defector from the tank crew, Konstantin Koverchenko (Jason Patric), is able to repair it by using parts from a Lee-Enfield rifle sight spring, and is given the responsibility of firing the weapon at the tank, though ends up only blowing off the end of the tank's main gun barrel.

RPG-7 with PGO-7 scope and PG-7VM rocket - 40mm
During the raid on the village, Konstantin Koverchenko (Jason Patric) loads a rocket propelled grenade into the RPG-7 launcher.
Koverchenko takes aim at the minaret (tower) of a mosque with an RPG-7 during the village raid. Vaguely seen is the guide wire connected to the rocket on the launcher.
Koverchenko walks away with the fired RPG-7 launcher.
Sherina (Shoshi Marciano) presents her villagers with a gift - an RPG-7 launcher carelessly left behind by the Soviets.
Moustafa (Chaim Girafi) shows that he doesn't know how to properly use the RPG-7.
Oops! A nice shot, showing that the RPG launcher is actually explosively propelling the fake rocket just like a real RPG (unlike films like Red Dawn). A fine example of what a real RPG looks like when it's fired.
Koverchenko re-affixes the trigger assembly after fixing it in the cave.
A nice close-up of the grip of the RPG-7 launcher. Compare this to another side show (see below) and it appears to be a different RPG-7 between scenes.
Koverchenko looks through the PGO-7 scope of the newly-repaired RPG-7 launcher just before agreeing to aid the Mujahideen in destroying the tank.
A nice side shot of the RPG-7. Here (based on the grip) it appears to be a different RPG-7 launcher than seen before.
A detail shot of the RPG-7 warhead. It is an obvious rubber warhead (see the seam) and is the same type used in films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Koverchenko aims the RPG-7.

B-10 Recoilless Rifle

During the raid on the village, one of the inhabitants mans a B-10 recoilless rifle mounted on a hill overlooking the village and attempts to engage the attacking Soviet tanks, nearly scoring a hit on one before the emplacement is destroyed when the tank returns fire, the gunner diving clear just in time to save himself.

B-10 recoilless rifle - 82mm
An Afghan villager takes aim at attacking Soviet tanks with a B-10 recoilless rifle.
The villager looks through the B-10's sight at his target.
The villager prepares to reload the B-10, but sees the tank about to return fire.


Prop Flamethrower

A prop gas-thrower most closely resembling an American M2 Flamethrower is used by Kaminski (Don Harvey) during the raid on the village, killing one of the inhabitants who was hiding in a building.

M2-2 Flamethrower
Kaminski (Don Harvey) torches a building with a flamethrower during the village raid, killing a luckless civilian hiding inside.

Flamethrower (Vehicle Mounted)

In the scene where the tank crew thinks they're surrounded by the Mujahideen in the middle of the night, they open fire with all the weapons on the tank, including an integral flamethrower, though come morning they discover that they had actually wasted all the ammo on a herd of deer.

The tank firing its flamethrower when the crew thinks they're surrounded by the Mujahideen.

F-1 Hand Grenade

The F-1 hand grenade is the Soviet World War II fragmentation grenade that was still in use until the late 1980s. However the newer RGD-5 hand grenade would have been the most commonly issued grenade to Soviet Forces. This ordnance may have been captured from the Communist Puppet Regime of Afghanistan (who was supplied by the Soviets and may have received older ordnance). In the film, during a night attack, the Mujahideen shower the tank with F-1 grenades from a cliff above, wounding one of the crew before they're able to retreat to the safety of the tank and escape. A group of Afghan women also use F-1 grenades (attached to Plastic Explosives) to trigger a rock slide that disables the tank.

F-1 High-Explosive Fragmentation hand grenade
A WW2-era Soviet F-1 grenade falls to the ground as Afghans attack the tank at night.
Sherina shows off her weapons, three F-1 grenades and a block of Plastic Explosive.

RGD-5 Hand Grenade

In the film, RGD-5 hand grenades are typically used by the Soviets to booby-trap objects for the pursuing Afghans. Koverchenko is also booby-trapped with a grenade when he defies Daskal. Finally, a deranged Daskal intends to use an RGD-5 grenade to commit suicide rather than face capture by the Afghans, but is stopped by the remaining crew as the act would take their lives as well.

RGD-5 High-Explosive Fragmentation hand grenade
Kaminski preparing to booby-trap Koverchenko with an RGD-5 grenade.
Koverchenko is booby-trapped with an RGD-5 grenade after defying Cmdr. Daskal.
Koverchenko accidentally releases the spoon, realizes it and allows the grenade to fall below, eliminating some wild dogs that were attacking him while surprisingly leaving him unharmed by the blast.

SPSh Flare Pistol

When the helicopter comes upon the tank crew, Daskal uses a Russian SPSh Flare Pistol to signal the chopper.

SPSh flare pistol - 26.5mm
Daskal fires an SPSh flare pistol to signal an approaching helicopter.

Trivia Special

Russian T-55 Tank

The very real Ti-67 tanks (Israeli-modified T-55 tanks featuring a larger 105mm gun vs. the original 100mm gun) as well as the authentic Soviet weaponry were all provided by Israel, with cooperation from the IDF. The T-55 tanks were well obsolete by the time frame of this film, however it was nice to see authentic Soviet armor in a Western film. When the film was made in 1987 (released in 1988), the Russo-Afghan war was still ongoing, and thus a topic of debate. A nice example of a real authentic Soviet armored vehicle in a Western film. Actually an Israeli Ti-67 tank, standing in for a T-55 (the same tank except for a larger main gun), there are numerous beautiful shots of the tank in action and get a real understanding of the mechanisms and functions of the vehicle. An armored vehicle lover's dream. At one point, Koverchenko and Taj take advantage of the limited elevation range of the tank's main gun, a notorious weakness of Soviet tanks operating in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A Ti-67 tank on the move.
A Ti-67 tank scanning for targets during the village raid.
The Ti-67 tank immobilized after losing a track to an avalanche of boulders.

Soviet Helicopter (aka Aerospatiale SA.321K Super Frelon)

The Russian helicopter that discovers the tank crew when they're trapped in the dead-end valley and is later seen at the poisoned watering hole is in fact a French-built Aerospatiale SA.321K Super Frelon, most likely used due to its resemblance to the Russian-made Mil Mi-8 Hip or Mil Mi-6 Hook helicopters. Another helicopter also appears to airlift Koverchenko at the end of the film.

A nicely painted French-built Aerospatiale SA.321K Super Frelon flies in the Israeli landscape.
A nice angle of the paint job on a French-built Aerospatiale SA.321K Super Frelon.
The French-built Aerospatiale SA.321K Super Frelon, impersonating a Soviet helicopter, flies away from the stranded tank, just missing a hilltop full of hiding Mujahideen fighters.

Historical perspective

When The Beast of War was being filmed in 1987 (released in 1988), the Russo-Afghan war was still ongoing, and thus a topic of debate, but the quaint perception of the mountain tribes of Afghanistan as 'victims of Soviet oppression' is now out of date. Views of Afghanistan, its peoples and the outer tribal areas have changed in recent years with the current US involvement in the country and the radicalization of the mountain regions towards Islamic militants. An attempt to depict the Russian invasion (1980-1988) as a mirror of the American action in Vietnam (1965-1973) seems awkward and glosses over the very real differences.

The Afghans have a long history of gunsmithing villages, especially since the British invasion of 1838. This was a time when smoothbore flintlocks were actually more common than rifled muskets and the percussion cap firearm was a relatively new invention. The Short Magazine Lee-Enfields in the country are obvious left overs from both World Wars, but the film takes place in 1981, in the third year of the Soviet invasion. Moustafa's group of scavengers are the best armed fighters in the area, because they steal all the weapons from fallen Soviet soldiers. In 1981, most of the Afghan tribesmen would have a mix of antique weapons and some captured Soviet weaponry. Things have changed a lot since then. The 1980s saw a huge influx of aid and help by Western powers (like the U.S.) and other countries that (at the time) were at odds with the USSR, like the People's Republic of China. After 2001, countries like Iran and Syria funneled tons of weapons to any anti-US proxy force (like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban). The Afghan tribesmen of today's conflicts are no longer the quaintly villagers armed with vintage rifles of past years. They are much more heavily armed with modern weapons, mostly supplied by Iran via the Taliban through Pakistan. Too many viewers have this antiquated view of Afghanistan.

The opening screen of the film.

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