A dozen British soldiers, lost in a Mesopotamian desert during World War I, are menaced by unseen Arab enemies.
During World War I, the young lieutenant in charge of a small British mounted patrol in the empty Mesopotamian desert is shot and killed by an unseen sniper. This leaves the sergeant at a loss, since he had not been told what their mission is and has no idea where they are. Riding north in the hope of rejoining their brigade, the eleven remaining men reach a deserted oasis where they find water, dates to eat and shelter.
During the night, one of the sentries is killed, the other seriously wounded, and all their horses are stolen, leaving them stranded. One by one, the remaining men are picked off by the unseen assailants. In desperation, the sergeant sends two men chosen by lot on foot for help, but they are caught and their mutilated bodies returned. One man, Abelson, suffering from heat exhaustion, sees a mirage and wanders into deadly rifle fire. The pilot of a British biplane spots the survivors, but nonchalantly lands nearby and despite frantic warnings is killed. After dark, the sergeant takes the machine gun from the aircraft and then sets the plane on fire as a signal to any British troops. Sanders, a religious fanatic, goes mad and walks into deadly fire.
In the end only the sergeant is left and, thinking he too is dead, the six Arabs who have been besieging the oasis advance on foot. Using the machine gun from the aircraft, the Sergeant kills them all. A British patrol which had seen the smoke from the burning plane rides up and the officer in charge asks the sergeant roughly where his men are. In silence, the sergeant shows him their graves.
Trivia & Goofs
- The Lost Patrol was reprised in a number of films, the script was the basis for the 1936 Soviet film The Thirteen, set by director Mikhail Romm in the Central Asia desert during the Basmachi rebellion. This Soviet film was then adapted in Sahara, featuring Humphrey Bogart and the 1995 remake featuring James Belushi. Last of the Comanches is a Western remake from 1953.
- The film is a remake of a 1929 British silent film, also named The Lost Patrol.
- Victor McLaglen, who plays The Sergeant, is the brother of Cyril McLaglen, who played the Sergeant in the earlier 1929 version of this film.
- Composer Max Steiner re-used the main title music he wrote for this film for the main title music for Casablanca (1942), albeit with a slightly different tempo and instrumentation.
- Director John Ford’s older brother Francis Ford appears in an uncredited role.
Production & Filming Details
- Director: John Ford.
- Producers: Merian C. Cooper, Cliff Reid, and John Ford.
- Writers: Garrett Fort, Philip MacDonald, and Dudley Nichols.
- Music: Max Steiner.
- Cinematography: Harold Weatherwax.
- Editor: Paul Weatherwax.
- Distribution: RKO Radio Pictures.
- Release Date: 16 February 1934 (US).
- Running time: 73 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.