Lost Patrol, The (1934)

Lost Patrol, The (1934)

“I’ll tell you what I know: nothing. I don’t know where we are, I don’t know where we’re going.”

During World War I, a sergeant (Victor McLaglen) takes leadership of his patrol — including Morelli (Wallace Brown), Pearson (Douglas Walton), Brown (Reginald Denny), McKay (Paul Hanson), Cook (Alan Hale), and religious fanatic Sanders (Boris Karloff) — when their lead officer is shot by an unseen Arab; meanwhile, more bullets continue to kill off members of their group one by one.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Alan Hale Films
  • Boris Karloff Films
  • Deserts
  • John Ford Films
  • Survival
  • Victor McLaglen Films
  • World War One

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “exciting John Ford adventure-character study about a British military regiment that gets lost in the Mesopotamian desert during WWI” and suffers “from heat and lack of water” as they’re “picked off one at a time by Arabs” is a “prototypical Ford film in that it vividly depicts men in relationship to a hostile environment and in conflict with one another as to how to combat their circumstances,” and allows us to see “how the various men react to their hopeless situation.”

He notes that “these themes are most evident in [Ford’s] westerns” and that this film is “very similar to Stagecoach in that it also intermingles dialogue scenes with sequences that rely strictly on visuals and music (Max Steiner won an Oscar) and recall the silent cinema.”

He calls out the “strong characterizations, especially by Victor McLaglen as the sergeant” (McLaglen has never been sexier):

… “and Boris Karloff as a skinny religious fanatic who goes insane in the intense heat” (though Karloff overplays his role):

Ford builds tremendous tension by not showing the shooters until the very end; bullets seem to come literally out of nowhere, ensuring we understand that this group is trapped between a rock and a hard place. A particularly heart-wrenching moment comes when a bi-plane lands nearby and the cheery British pilot is about to rescue them but barely makes it a few steps from his plane before being shot dead, despite vain attempts by the soldiers to prevent him from moving forth.

Steiner’s score is used to particularly jarring effect in this sequence. Despite its utterly bleak setting and narrative, this film remains surprisingly engaging and is well worth a look. It would make a good double bill with Zoltan Korda’s WWII-era desert survival flick, Sahara (1943).

Note: Peary points out that “in some ways [this film] predates Aguirre: The Wrath of God,” which is an intriguing if not entirely apt comparison.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Victor McLaglen as the Sergeant
  • Fine location shooting in Yuma, Arizona
  • Harold Wenstrom’s cinematography
  • Max Steiner’s score

Must See?
Yes, as a tight little survival flick.


  • Good Show
  • Important Director


One thought on “Lost Patrol, The (1934)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see, though it’s an interesting early Ford flick.

    Overall, Dudley Nichols’ script is a good, natural-sounding one – though I’ll admit to a feeling of frustration upon realizing that it looked like we were just going to watch the men being picked off one by one. And that that was the point.

    Still, the last five minutes or so are well-handled. (And, yes, Karloff is allowed to overact – but his role is also tricky and a bit clumsy.)

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