29 May 2008

The Horror, The Horror


So it's a horror movie with Boris Karloff in it, what's the big deal?
It's not what you think. It's John Ford's "The Lost Patrol" from 1934 and its ostensibly about a British army patrol in the deserts of Mesopotamia during World War I that gets, as the title suggests, lost.
There are no monsters, there is no supernatural but it has all the classic apsects of the horror genre. From virtually the first shot of the movie (no pun intended) members of the patrol are picked off by unseen snipers. These killers are not seen until the closing moments of the film and at that point their faces are obscured. Those not killed early on are pushed near or into madness by the desperation of their situation and the manner their comrades keep dropping like flies.
Victor McLaglen (who in real life served the British army in that war in that locale) is excellent in the lead role playing the troop's sergeant. Karloff is creepy as one of his charges, an evangelical Christian who starts losing the few marbles he has with a predictable but nonetheless poignant result. Reginald Denny also features. Film buffs are more accustomed to seeing Denny as the cocktail swilling raconteur in an expensive suit. He shines here especially when giving a soliloquy on his life. The ubiquitous Alan Hale has a relatively small role.
In many respects it is director Ford who stars. As with most of his films the phogrpahy is dramatic and expressive without a wasted shot.
The Lost Patrol is a very real and very scary movie that comments not merely on war but the manner in which people respond to situation of real life horror.
Imagine, a horror film disguised as a war movie.

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