If you are as sick to death with the sex lives of highly polished morons as is the present reviewer, you will like the "Lost Patrol." It is, as advertised, a desert picture, a fact which may call up a few unpleasant ghosts. But, be advised, there are no women getting in the way, there are no beturbaned sheiks mouthing fury into their ratty whiskers. The "Lost Patrol" is the plain story of how eleven soldiers out of twelve in a British horse troop met their deaths in Mesopotamia, 1916. And, thanks be to somebody or other, the movies have discovered that simplicity is a good horror, even a good dramatic, medium.
Take, for example, the treatment of death in this movie. Death opens and closes the covers of the story; it is in fact, the all pervading, the only certain, element. Yet it strikes always swiftly, always surely, always, as such things go, with an impressive lack of fuss. The troop is winding along the desert; the lieutenant in command is shot down from ambush, and with him to the grave, go the men's orders and geographical location. Under Victor McLaglen, top sergeant, the remaining eleven find their way to an oasis. Next morning, the youthful sentry is found knifed, the horses are gone. Two are sent out to bring aid; they are returned dead, strapped to their mounts. A private climbs a palm tree to reconnoitre, and falls with a bullet through his head. And so it goes, until only McLaglen remains.
The "Lost Patrol," one may gather, is no movie for a high strung female. Death, so discussed, without the comic relief of idiotic foamings and writhings, is at best a trifle unpleasant. And one is bound to remark that whatever the director has neglected, in his enlightenment, on the one end, he has made up on the other. As if carelessly, the reader is introduced to, and comes to like each of the characters. It is a hard thing to keep eleven men separate in a story like this, where all are equipped alike, and where the stars are bound to shine. It is a difficulty which the director, for all his attention, has not quite overcome. But he has done well enough. If he had not, the picture would not be recommended. It is recommended.
As might be expected, palms go to Messrs. McLaglen, Denny, and Karloff for natural performances. Good shots for each: last man McLaglen, almost in hysteria, surveying the mounds of his comrades, digging his own grave, and settling into it with a machine gun and a rifle; old trooper Denny detailing the willing charms of various duskies; Karloff, crazed into fanaticism, striding in his rags, lighting the dunes with his sanctified grin, and deliberately poking into the sand, at every step, his eight-foot, roughwood cross.