A dozen British soldiers, lost in a Mesopotamian desert during World War I, are menaced by unseen Arab enemies.A dozen British soldiers, lost in a Mesopotamian desert during World War I, are menaced by unseen Arab enemies.A dozen British soldiers, lost in a Mesopotamian desert during World War I, are menaced by unseen Arab enemies.
Gripping War Film From the Distant Past
This early John Ford "talkie" (1934) crams in a lot of action and tension in just over an hour. It's the kind of classic film that could stand a good remake considering the subject matter and today's headlines in the Middle East. The plot is simple but effective. A dozen British soldiers on patrol in the Mesopotamian desert are attacked by an unseen force of Arabs. Their commanding officer is killed by a sniper and he was the only person who had knowledge of their exact location in the endless arid landscape. With no hope for reinforcements, the remaining soldiers are soon stranded on an obscure oasis and picked off one-by-one. Victor McLaglen is superb as the ranking sergeant trying to hold his dwindling force together. Boris Karloff is excellent (albeit a bit "over the top") as a religious lunatic who attempts to "convert" his comrades and the enemy to no avail. Adding to the suspense, the bewildered soldiers never see their attackers. The film's larger message regarding the utter futility of war hangs over the proceedings like a funeral shroud---but never gets in the way of the action. The surprising and shattering ending to this tale is one of the most unforgettable moments in 1930s cinema. Ford went on to make bigger pictures, but not too many were better than this one.
- Jul 20, 2006
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