Beast of War, The
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:
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.
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.
Enfield No.2 Mk.I
A boy who fights alongside the Mujahideen carries an Enfield No.2 Mk.I revolver as his weapon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another weapon used by the Mujahideen is an RPD light machine gun.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
SPSh Flare Pistol
When the helicopter comes upon the tank crew, Daskal uses a Russian SPSh Flare Pistol to signal the chopper.
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.
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.
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.