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4.3 out of 5 stars32
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Mark Robson's ambitious Lost Command is one of those films that has all the right intentions and a formidable array of talent but doesn't quite get it right. It's bold subject matter for a Hollywood epic - the increasingly unwinnable French war to hold onto its colony in Algeria after their humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu led to them losing Vietnam, something even the French didn't want to see movies about - but in its need to make an unpalatable war palatable to a mainstream audience it never quite gets the balance right.

Things start promisingly enough with the French flag being blown up and paratroopers landing in a minefield at Dien Bien Phu (a scene largely thrown away behind the opening credits) before being captured by the Vietnaminh and being released in disgrace. His regiment disbanded, Anthony Quinn's Colonel Raspeguy, a working class Basque soldier who worked his way up through the ranks but is still regarded as a useful animal and an even more useful scapegoat by his superiors, finds himself without a command unless he's willing to take a brigade of outcasts to Algeria to end the insurrection by any means necessary. Naturally, once there he discovers that the leader of the rebels is one of his former paratroopers while his two Captains take very different approaches to dealing with the locals as the atrocities on both sides start to escalate.

Knowing his right-wing political views, Alain Delon is curious casting as the conscience of the film, the unit's military historian, though he has more to work with than Maurice Ronet's brutally pragmatic moral opposite number, but, not being able to tempt Omar Sharif to play the role, there's a disastrous bit of miscasting as the Algerian paratrooper-turned-FLN leader: George Segal with cocoa beans smeared on his face doing what sounds like Peter Sellers' Indian doctor routine before veering off into a bad Welsh accent. Still known as a dramatic actor at the time, he does his best but he's no more convincing as an Arab than Sharif was as a Nazi in Night of the Generals. You can only guess what Tunisian-born-and-raised Claudia Cardinale thought as his onscreen sister...

As a retelling of then recent events, it covers most of the bases - the `Lizards' torture suspects and kill villagers in reprisals (albeit offscreen) while the rebels use women to bomb soft civilian targets - and it ends on a note of moral abdication from one character and a note of solidarity for the rebels from another (more in sympathetic thought than deed), but it's a film that seems as torn as Delon's character as to quite what it wants to be or believe in, falling into a no man's land as part old-fashioned studio war movie, part underdeveloped political/moral drama. The Spanish locations don't always convince, especially with the desert standing in for the jungles of Vietnam (complete with Cantonese-speaking Burt Kwouk as a Vietnaminh officer) while Franz Waxman's score veers more to the Spanish bullrings than the French legions or Algiers casbah. It's certainly a brave film to make in 1966, but compared to the power and immediacy of Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers that's not quite enough to make it more than just worth a look.

No extras but a mostly acceptable 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, a couple of variable scenes notwithstanding.
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Set in the period when France was struggling with its fall from grace in Indochina and fighting an insurrection in Algeria. Made in 1966 it was still very soon after Evian, and in an era where epic films tended to simplify the issues. In this case Anthony Quinn is the colonel of an elite para unit (probably based on Marcel Bigeard) with two captains who represent the choice between torture and law. Sadly the latter is represented as a self-satisfied little prig by Alain Delon who ultimately lets nasty Maurice Ronet engage in revenge killings, beatings and electro-shock torture. The exploration of these issues is about as deep as you would expect. This is not Pontecorvo's Battle Of Algiers but very little was as good as that; it is an old fashioned pre-Saving Private Ryan war film.
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on 23 April 2009
Dirty war in Algerie (aftermath of Indocina's French disfact). A good film, with a good cast and some good action scenes. As the recent and similar Intimate Enemies is an "exotic" war movie, with French Parà against local guerrilla. Now, You can see the old version, the new version and the classic realistic or "political version" of Pontecorvo.
In my opinion, three good movies, but I prefer this old classic.
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on 14 February 2015
This story of French forces posted to supress independence protesters in Algeria is not as realistic as The Battle Of Algiers, preferring instead to concentrate more on personal experiences of some of the French soldiers to create a fairly conventional action/drama movie. But it does touch briefly on most of the issues and brutalities of colonial rule. None national actors playing the main Algerian roles is awkward, but this is a good effort nonetheless.
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on 23 October 2014
Holds up well from 1966 and is not too far removed from aspects of the truth of the Algerian War of Independence. Quinn is outstanding as the para colonel, and there is an excellent Franz Waxman score. Nothing like the more famous "Battle of Algiers" but effective nonetheless. Odd anachronistic elements jar including George Segal as an Algerian.
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on 23 July 2015
I thought that I would enjoy this movie, but overall I was disappointed. One reason is that another reviewer had said that if you like "Zulu" then you will like "Lost Command." Despite its historical inaccuracies, "Zulu" is a classic, while "Lost Command" is not.
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on 3 June 2008
This is a war film plenty of topics very own of a past time when nobody didn't knew what should become the independence of ancient colonies of Europe countries. Colonel Raspeguy is a typical unorthodox military who has learned to make real war in real combat. Summing up a figure very common in cinema but I'm afraid very unusual in real military professionals. Scenes of action are good, not as realistic as in today movies, but understandable and sufficient. So the movie sounds routine, but there are some points that make this a little different.
The first is there are many screen stars from these years: Michele Morgan, still a beauty, Alain Delon, Anthony Quinn, Maurice Ronet, Claudia Cardinale...
Secondly, it deals with two wars little times seen in movies: Indochine and Dien - Bien- Phu before the USA intervention, were the mean troops were French, but many were ex combatants from Spanish Civil War, German ex- nazis, adventurers, etc. Vietnamites are treated as in general as idiots, as usual in the cinema from these decade, but there are the personage of Mahidi (George Segal), the Argeline parachutist destined to fight later against his friends of the past.
Thirdly, the main personage played by Quinn is too stereotyped, but there are Boisfeuras, the though captain played by Maurice Ronet, a man who after Indochine has a good civil work in France, but prefer the war in the way of a truly fascist who resource to torture if necessary.
In the opposite side is Esclavier, the journalist played by Alain Delon, capable also to fight, but with moral scruples and which understands decolonization of Algerie is unstoppable and regrets the cruel methods the French parachute troops execute on the ground, including vengeance. The women in this movie are, as in the cinema from these years, only decorative figures.
Summing up, a war movie with some touch of critics, not comparable by far to "Battle of Algiers" by Costa Gavras, but with good action scenes and not current at these times when Vietnam War was still rising with many years ahead to finish.
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on 22 October 2009
Based on Jean Larteguy's novel 'The Centurions', the 1966 film 'Lost Command' is one of the few films set during the 1954-62 Algerian war of independence. Anthony Quinn stars as Colonel Pierre Raspeguy (based on the real-life Colonel Marcel Bigeard), a Basque peasant risen from the ranks through sheer ruthlessness, who after the defeat in Indochina is given one last chance in command of a reservist parachute regiment. Desperate to prove himself, he turns his bunch of misfits into a crack unit and leads them into a private war against the FLN guerillas commanded by one of his former Algerian officers, Mahidi (George Segal). Alain Delon and Maurice Ronet play Captains Esclavier and Boisfeuras, the angel and devil, respectively, on his shoulders and whilst the film doesn't shirk the torture and massacres which were such a stain on the French Army in Algeria, it's a world away from the harsh realism of 'The Battle of Algiers' (made in the same year) or the more recent 'Intimate Enemies'. 'Lost Command' is basically a good old-fashioned second world war film set against an exotic backdrop, and in this perhaps the film it most closely resembles is the John Wayne Vietnam potboiler 'The Green Berets'. Uncomplicated fun but you'll have to look elsewhere to understand what led the real-life 'centurions' into mutiny and the brink of civil war in 1961.
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on 13 April 2006
From French Vietnam to pre revolutionary Algeria a realistic war scenario. The French Para's with The Mighty Quinn as their Colonel backed by Alain Delon and George Segal . No Anthony Quinn fan could ask for anything more.
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on 10 November 2014
everything all OK arrived on time brilliant
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