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Perhaps because it came out so soon after Pontecorvo's classic "La Battaglia
di Algeri" (The Battle of Algiers), "The Lost Command" got, well, lost.
That's too bad, because I saw this movie only once about 20 years ago, but
still recall it vividly as a surprisingly well-done action film spiced with
social commentary that doesn't overwhelm the whole.
Anthony Quinn is especially believable as a hard-bitten professional soldier who manages to rise to high command in spite of his peasant birth. Alain Delon is his pretty boy right-hand and George Segal has a particularly interesting turn as an Arab serving with Quinn and Delon in Indochina at the film's beginning who is radicalized upon returning to his native Algeria and takes up arms against his former comrades.
The highlight of the film is its retelling of the Battle of Algiers, with Quinn in the role of the real-life para colonel Jacques Massieu.
The battle scenes are well-done and realistic, especially the opening sequence, which is set in the final, desperate hours at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Despite being well-made and underrated, this film is not often shown on television, so you'll probably have to rent it.
The more honored documentary like film, The Battle for Algiers by Gillo
Pontecorvo is considered the last cinema word on the subject of the
title and this film is often overlooked. Yet Lost Command has a lot to
recommend it and it's a pity it doesn't get more acclaim than it does.
This is a retelling of a part of the Algerian War for Independence which ate like a cancer at the French body politic. For reasons best left to French historians, the Fourth Republic of France when it was created after World War II, decided to reassert it's sovereignty over its colonial possessions. France was then involved with a whole lot of brushfire wars in its colonies.
The film opens actually in French Indochina at the Battle of Dienbienphu where the French got themselves surrounded and the guerrillas they had been fighting for years came out in the open. Among others surrendering was Anthony Quinn's regiment of paratroopers which included the unit historian Alain Delon and George Segal an Algerian Moslem serving in the French army.
Quinn is a tough and charismatic leader of his troops who's risen up through the ranks to become a Lieutenant Colonel. He's not got any family connections, but he's not above making a few of his own by romancing the widow of his commander Michelle Morgan to get out of the doghouse he's found himself in. The French army as in the days of Dreyfus is looking for scapegoats for Dienbienphu.
Quinn gets command of a new unit of paratroopers assigned to Algeria and upon getting there finds his old comrade Segal now thoroughly radicalized and fighting for independence. Quinn sees an opportunity for promotion and a chance to clear himself if he does a good job in Algeria. Delon is horrified by the brutality of the war on both sides, even more so when he's made a fool of by Claudia Cardinale who is Segal's sister and seduces him into allowing her access to the French command headquarters.
Though the French gave independence to their other African colonies like French West and French Equatorial Africa and Tunisia and Morocco, for some reason they wanted to hang on in Algeria. In their minds they deluded themselves into thinking that it was part of metropolitan France. After the action in this film concludes, the Fifth Republic was formed and Charles DeGaulle returned to power for the express reason of dealing with the bloody war in Algeria. Only DeGaulle had the prestige and clout to get the French to quit Algeria. It was a personal and political risky position to take as DeGaulle soon found out. Time has proved the wisdom of what DeGaulle did.
In a way all of the leading characters either get what they want or are proved right. You'll have to see the film to get my meaning.
The film was shot in Spain which served as Algeria. The battle scenes are excellently done and the players are all well cast. By all means catch this film if it is shown on television.
Having seen Pontecorvo's "La Battaglia di Algeri" (The Battle of Algiers) which is an excellent French docudrama my attention was drawn to this. I have to say that it is a good movie which not only serves as an entertaining drama (unlike the previously mentioned which was more documentary-like), but a reasonable record of some of the issues facing Algeria, France and society at the time. The choice of George Segal in the role of as Mahidi was particularly odd but reflects the era when it was made. Alain Dellon was in his prime at the time (and very good looking). Anthony Quinn as Raspeguy also surpasses many of his other roles in being highly engaging and convincing without the need, as was the case of some of his other roles, to resort to comedy. Two hours long but a lot packed in. The action sequences are well handled.
Remember that Henry Fonda movie THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE ? That`s the war
movie that was set in the fog shrouded snow bound forests of the Ardennes in
December 1944 but for some reason the movie`s big set piece battle takes
place on an arid desert plain . LOST COMMAND starts with a very similar
error in geography involving the battle of Dien Bien Phu where the French
built a heavily fortified base in the middle of a mountainous jungle in 1954
, except this film would have us believe that the battle took place in the
middle of a desert !
But I`m more than willing to forgive this goof as LOST COMMAND is a good film , it`s maybe not a great film but if you like action adventure / war films you`ll hopefully enjoy this as much as I did and director / Producer Mark Robson should be congratulated for making a film showing the French fighting man in a good light . Say what you like about French political leaders but France does have a long noble military tradition with a glorious defeat being every bit as courageous as a glorious victory . But the screenplay doesn`t glorify conflict and rightly points out that violence breeds violence , it pits former friends against one another , and it`s always the most innocent who suffer the most
Currently a lot of rear echelon commandoes have denigrated the French for not being grateful lapdogs usually with asides about how they folded in WW2, had to be rescued, etc etc. If the brain dead actually read they would've learned that far from being the walkovers these "jokesters" portray the French soldier was and is just as courageous as his ancestors were in the wars of Europe and the quest for empire. This movie is a spirited reminder of that. Anthony Quinn as the peasant born French para officer has to fight the military politics as well as the armed enemy first at the doomed fort of Dienbienphu and later in Algeria. He's playing for keeps and he and his officers are going to to be ruthless. Good battle scenes and the luscious Claudia Cardinale make this a see it anytime movie for me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is remarkable how few reviews this big-budget war movie has received
over the years on the IMDb. It seems almost forgotten but this is
"Lost Command" has all the makings of a big-budget epic of the sixties : a war theme, large battles and some big stars of the day : Anthony Quinn, Alain Delon and (a very sultry) Claudia Cardinale, including the director Mark Robson, fresh from his success "Von Ryan's Express". But this warmovie is a bit more difficult to categorize.
Based on a novel by former French army officer and war correspondent Jean Larteguy it was made only a few years after the actual events (set in 1958 in French colonial Algeria) this somehow is Hollywood's answer to the better-known and much acclaimed European "The battle of Algiers" (1963)from director Gillo Pontecorvo which was shot in black and white, on a shoestring budget with no major stars and very left-wing.
"Lost Command" is almost the complete opposite : a massive budget, shot in Technicolor, big stars and a rather right-wing attitude. But here's the twist : the movie doesn't ignore the brutality on both sides including those by the French paratroopers towards the Algerian civil population, with scenes depicting the use of torture and a massacre of a peasant village (in reprisal of the brutal murder of several of their comrades). Also the terrorists aren't portrayed as all-out baddies, as their leader, an ex-para himself, is played by, wait for it, George Segal (!) in heavy brown make-up. You hardly recognize him. The restof the cast is excellent, with Anthony Quinn leading the way as the para commander and French actors Alain Delon and Maurice Ronet as his assistants.
It is also historically very accurate : the Dien Bien Phu prologue, the uniforms and weapons, etc... They also face roadside bombs, suicide attacks, booby-traps in the inner city, all rather reminiscent of things to come with the US occupation of Bagdad. No wonder then that former commander of the US troops in Iraq, David Petraeus(a paratrooper himself), is an avid fan of the book (and film) from which he took ideas to support his new counter-insurgency strategy.
Come to think of it, this would be a much more interesting training film to show to the US troops in Bagdad as they did indeed with "the Battle of Algiers" !
As it was made only a few years after actual events this was a bit too close for comfort for the French government so "Lost Command" was banned in France for over 10 years. Subsequent French releases vary rather in length, editing out sometimes more then 30 minutes of the original version. The French only got to see the complete version with the release of the DVD in 2003.
So highly recommended viewing, as it treats its audience as adults and not mere as teenage public just looking for cheap thrills with lots of shootings and explosions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This may likely be the best Mark Robson war movie of the 60's;
certainly much better in my opinion than the more highly regarded Von
Ryan's Express. Due a better fate than rental (Spoiler) due to its
intelligent exposition of the brutalization of war and the erosion of
human honor and self-respect as( Spoiler) Respiguy seeks the patronage
of the widow of the aid who he had suspected of betraying him at Dien
Ben Phu and with whom he and she become lovers. (Spoiler)Once in
Algeria the unit formed initially responds with repulsion to the
atrocities until they participate at Rahlem;s(Spoiler) from this point
on Respiguy's moral decline increases till he wins the final battle
with treacherous tactics.
(Spoiler): The film title may best be explained in the context of Respiguy's erosion of moral compass for personal glory and socio- political security in The Fourth Republic. (Spoiler) Deftly edited and photographed with excellent use of the Panavision camera; a remarkable Hollywood assessment of the first modern Guerilla War.
See it This isn't a great war movie, but it's a pretty good action movie. Anthony Quinn leads French commandoes against a band of rebels in the Algerian War for Independence. The title is a bit misleading. It's not about a group of men who have gotten "lost" behind enemy lines. It's about Quinn's character, who loses command of his unit after a campaign in Middle China, and is given one last chance in Algeria to redeem himself. Willing to do anything to complete his mission, Quinn and his men tread the path of anti-heroes. The story doesn't flow particularly well, but the action and adventure is definitely there.
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