The DVD Journal | Quick Reviews: Lost Command
"There is only one rule: Don't die." So says Anthony Quinn as Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy to his rag-tag army of ruffians in Mark Robson's war picture Lost Command (1966). Not only in war, but in life, that's a pretty good rule to live by, and Quinn gives it the same kind of plain-speaking gusto and earthy philosophical weight as he did in Zorba the Greek. But Lost Command is no Zorba not that these films need be compared, as they're obviously very different. But for its star, who carries the picture on his beefy shoulders, Quinn is here to be Quinn. And though impressive, he's not Quinn the great, as he was in two pictures, as the aforementioned dancing Greek and as the circus strong-man in Fellini's La Strada. He doesn't have Alan Bates or Giulieta Masina following him around here (Quinn works well against another intense counterpoint). Instead it's Alain Delon (no stranger to brilliance himself in Le Samourai and Purple Noon), who's connection isn't entirely compelling. One notable thing about the two actors is that, next to Delon, Quinn has a sizable head. It's not very encouraging to watch a meaningful conversation between two inimitable actors and find yourself comparing the size of their noggins. Director Robson whose varied career began working with the visionary producer Val Lewton in little masterpieces of spare horror like The Seventh Victim and Bedlam is less distinguished here. Lost Command concerns the grievous fighting in Algeria while the French defended their long-standing colonial rule. Set in post World War II North Africa, and based on Jean Larteguy's book The Centurions, Quinn plays Lt. Col. Raspeguy, a tough peasant who rises through the military ranks despite his heritage, only to be fired from command after he loses a battle in Indochina. But after meeting and bedding a comely French Countess (Michelle Morgan), she gets him an appointment in Algeria. Enlisting wartime pals to shape his new army a badass battalion of specifically trained, class-conscious soldiers he engages in some exciting battle sequences that make up for many of the film weaknesses. Alain Delon is second in charge as Capt. Phillipe Esclavier, and in an interesting turn, George Segal is an Arab terrorist who's working to purge the French from Algeria. Let's not forget Claudia Cardinale as well, who can appear on screen for no reason and be worth watching. And Lost Command is worth watching, but it's only halfway there; tasteful, but rigid. The battles are impressive, and both the historical and social commentary are intriguing. The film's just on the cusp of a great war picture. Perhaps the failings lie with Robson, who really worked best with actresses. Lost Command is a "man's man" movie, but Robson's not John Ford or Sam Peckinpah. And though Quinn and Delon are lovely to watch, Robson can't turn his gritty and pretty leads into interesting multi-dimensional men. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of Lost Command presents a pristine anamorphic transfer (2:35:1), which is great for the expansive battle scenes, while the Dolby 2.0 Surround audio captures firing guns, exploding bombs, and Quinn's wonderfully rough voice. Supplements include an array of subtitles and theatrical trailers for Lost Command and The Guns of Navarone (a better war picture). Keep-case.