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The Lost Patrol

The Lost Patrol(1934)

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In Mesopotamia during World War I, the leader of a British desert patrol is killed by an unseen Arab sniper. After the sergeant takes over command, the patrol begins a torturous journey across the sands, which takes a toll on both men and horses. Then, as the soldiers near total collapse, soldier Morelli spots an oasis in the distance. The sergeant, who has confessed to Morelli that he never received orders as to the patrol's exact mission, leads his men to the oasis, where they revel in the shade and drink from the plentiful water supply. The next morning, however, the men discover Pearson, a fresh-faced, eager recruit who was assigned to the night watch, slain, Corporal Bell seriously wounded, and all of the horses stolen. After the group discusses their options, veteran soldier Hale climbs a palm tree to survey the area and is shot down by a sniper. Sure that they will not survive while traveling as a group, the sergeant orders everyone but Sanders, a religious fanatic who is going insane, to draw straws to determine who will go for help. Jock MacKay makes the unlucky selection and picks Matlow Cook to accompany him. Later Abelson, succumbing to the effects of the desert sun, stumbles away from the oasis and is shot by a sniper. In spite of Morelli's heroic rescue, Abelson dies from his wound. Determined to retaliate, the soldiers open fire on the Arabs, and two men, Quincannon and Corporal Bell, are killed. The next day, while scanning the horizon, the sergeant sees two figures riding toward the oasis and orders them shot. When they reach the fallen men and horses, however, they find the slaughtered, mutiliated bodies of MacKay and Cook. After Sanders forcibly berates and threatens Morelli, a former music hall performer, for his "sins," the sergeant learns that George Brown, a "gentleman soldier," slipped away during the night to avenge his comrades' deaths. Now only three, the survivors are spotted from the air by a British aviator. As the pilot descends from his plane, however, he is killed by the snipers, and his death causes Sanders to fly into a deranged rage. Morelli and the sergeant tie up Sanders, then set the plane on fire to alert any passing troops of their whereabouts. As hoped, the fire attracts the attention of another patrol, which alters its course toward the oasis. Before the other unit arrives, however, Sanders escapes and, while carrying a hand-fashioned cross, strides toward the snipers. In spite of his hatred for Sanders, Morelli rushes after him, but both men are brought down by the snipers. Alone, a dazed sergeant kills several Arabs who try to claim the oasis, and is finally rescued by his fellow British soldiers.