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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

“Keep your topi on, son.”

The Lost Patrol (1934) on IMDb

Plot Overview

A bugle sounds and across the sand dunes come trekking a British company “fighting an unseen Arab enemy.” POW! a shot rings out. There's a burial in the desert, Sanders (Boris Karloff) reciting the appropriate words (“Almighty Father …”) over the grave. Their commander has bought it with­out having confided in his men their where­abouts, destination, or mission (“We're lost.”) Sanders takes out his Bible and reads Psalm 107:33-34 about “thirsty ground” and “salt desert”, a fair description of their situation.

Travelling on they espy, “Trees! A whole clump of them.” Sure enough, “It's an oasis!” They've found a Mohammedan mosque in “the devil's own backyard,” a land that once was the Garden of Eden. It's a tale in the making. The sergeant (Victor McLaglen) tells them, “We've got to stick here and take our chances of being relieved.” Some of the men are pessimists (“I'm a Jonah.”) Others are overly adventure­some (“I've got an idea.”) The Arabs don't say any­thing, but they're good shots.


In this 1934 movie the psalm above was highlighted on screen with enough time for the audience to peruse it. Not only is it applicable to the desert conditions shown, but dealing with God's chastise­ment and provision, it would have been well known to a righteous people then struggling with the Great Depression. Only the desert descriptions would have used slightly different terms in the familiar King James Version (KJV) that then prevailed. The story being set in 1917 I presume they used the English Revised Version of 1885—its American counter­part ASV was published in 1901. Making a new redaction of the familiar English Bible started a trend, and many more have since been made.

In this movie the soldiers dubbed their new digs “The Garden of Eden Temperance Hotel.” Temperance in its broadest sense means moderation in thoughts, feelings, and actions. It's a fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal. 5:22-23. A typical modern version the NIV lists in its place “self-control.” Self-control covers actions only, and the soldiers did indeed possess a modicum of military discipline. Unfortu­nately, dwelling on thoughts of past exploits lessened their alertness to the present dangers, and nursing their feelings of hatred for the Arabs led them to take unnecessary and foolish risks.

Solomon had known something about making endless translations or wearying one­self with study of the original Bible languages: (Eccl. 12:12) “of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” His counsel, if we can take it meta­phoric­ally, is (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” We have to think in terms of letting the person stand for his words, as one of the soldiers here said, “I'm crazy about Kipling,” meaning he liked his poetry. In this movie the “old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished” was that commander who wouldn't confide in his subordinates, so when he got wasted, the whole company was left stranded. Our modern trans­lations in a long developed English (old) are intractable when confronted by a simple KJV. When words or word meanings disappear, like moderation in thoughts and feelings, the church is left in the lurch. The “poor but wise child” is those early English words, like temperance, that convey what is necessary. In the movie it is in the sailor's story of the Malay girls who'd convey them­selves aboard in port (“they swam like mermaids to the rail and climbed on board.”)

That the early English words of the KJV are past their prime is acknowledged both in the picture (by metaphor), “I can't say much for the women though, but, oh, the girls!” and in Ecclesiastes (by metaphor), “he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” The king, meaning the domineering trans­lations using modern, i.e. developed, English, has come to us from a checkered past, “out of prison he cometh to reign,” or in the movie by the men harking back on their many misadventures (“a lot of things”) until Sanders in exasperation tells them to, “STOP!” You can get a good sense of a prison back­ground (mentioned by Solomon) by hearing that of these rough soldiers, one of whom even used a false name in order to enlist. The English in our modern Bibles does not have the fresh innocence of our KJV.

The old hardened adult authority juxtaposed with some poor but wise kid is a continuing theme in movies and can be applied meta­phoric­ally along­side Solomon to the persisting problem of domineering modern Bible versions in the church. I've covered it in other reviews, as well.

Production Values

The Lost Patrol” (1934) is a war classic that's been oft copied but hardly equaled. It's set in Meso­po­tamia, what we we'd today call Iraq, in the year 1917, when Britain, along with several other nations, is carving up the pieces of the fractured Otto­man Empire. Cut off in the fighting against the Turks, a British patrol lost in the vast Meso­po­tamian Desert is trying to find its way back to its brigade. At the water hole a handful of local Arab Bedouins encircle the patrol subjecting it to ongoing sniper fire. This picture is a remake of an earlier 1929 English silent film with the same title based on the novel Patrol. Magnificent direction by John Ford and excel­lent inter­pre­tations make this a very good film indeed. The script was done by Dudley Nichols in Garrett Fort's adaptation of Philip MacDonald's story “Patrol.” MacDonald had been recruited in the British cavalry during WWI (1917), and he fought in Meso­po­tamia. This picture stars Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, and Reginald Denny. We see excellent per­for­mances by Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Reginald Denny and the rest of cast. Karloff is creepy as a religious fanatic.

Modern rating would be the equivalent of PG. It was filmed at suitably hot Butter­cup Dunes, Imperial County, Calif., USA. The stark, desolate beauty of this location was very nicely photographed and this greatly accentuated the lost and hope­less predica­ment of the British soldiers. It has a run­time of 73 min. Sound mix is Mono (RCA Victor System), color Black and White, aspect ratio: 1.37 : 1 as for a square TV screen. Victor McLaglen, who plays the Sergeant, is the brother of Cyril McLaglen, who played the Sergeant in the 1929 film version. Max Steiner's fine musical score was nominated for an Academy Award. The weapons in “Lost Patrol” are authentic British WWI Lee Enfield rifles and a scrounged Lewis Gun, and it looks like the officer's revolver is an Enfield of the period.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This movie does very well without a lot of bells and whistles. You have a very serious situation that the British as is typical treat frivolously. The movie would make a good poem and it does make a first rate picture.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Nail biting action. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with parental guidance. Special effects: Well, at least you can't see the strings. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Unless otherwise noted, scripture is taken from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software, Print.

Scripture quotations marked NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION or NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Print.