Lost Command (1966)



Director:     Mark Robson.

Starring:  Anthony Quinn (Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy), Alain Delon (Capt. Phillipe Esclavier), George Segal (Mahidi), Michele Morgan (Countess de Clairefons), Maurice Ronet (Capt. Boisfeuras), Claudia Cardinale (Aicha), Gregoire Aslan (Ben Saad), Jean Servais (Gen. Melies).

 French-Algerian guerilla warfare in North Africa




An o.k. movie dealing with the French-Algerian conflict in Algeria.  Covers pretty much the same material as "The Battle of Algiers."  The story starts with the French loss in French Indochina at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.  The French commander Lt. Col. Pierre Raspeguy(Anthony Quinn) and his men spend some time in a prisoner of war camp. After the armistice is signed, the men are sent home.  The Lt. Colonel learns that his unit is being disbanded. 

But Raspeguy does not want to fade into the night.  Quinn catches the eye of the deceased French general's wife, the Countess (Michèle Morgan), who helps get him the command of paratroopers sent to put down the Algerian revolt.  (He falls in love with the general's wife and promises her that he will be eligible marriage material when he returns from Algeria as a general.)  He recruits most of his former officer colleagues, including Captain Phillipe Esclavier (Allain Delon), but was not able to find the whereabouts of his Algerian army doctor French Algerian Mahidi (George Segal). 

In Algeria Raspeguy gets his new unit into shape.  He is then sent to Gafez to stop the destruction of French farms by Algerian independence fighters. Raspeguy soon finds that the enemy is much stronger than he was told.  To defeat the rebels he gradually over time becomes more and more willing to use any means to his end of victory and becoming a general.  His unit is soon committing atrocities against the Algerians and using torture to extract information from the rebels. 

Quinn's unethical methods soon earn him the reputation of a man who gets things done and he is given the assignment of subduing the rebels in the city of Algiers, in what became known as the Battle of Algiers.  Quinn continues his use of torture and lying. 

Captain Esclavier becomes very disillusioned with the actions of the French army in Algiers.  He finds a diversion in the beautiful Arab Aicha, (Claudia Cardinale), who the French despairingly refer to as the "Moorish whore." 

There are some twists and turns and some surprises.  Will the immoral and ambitious Raspeguy come to justice or will Esclavier be the loser in this struggle between good soldier/bad soldier? 

The film in a bit cynical, which I did not care for, but on the other hand, given that the French killed nearly 1.5 million Algerians in order to keep what little remained of their empire, it is somewhat what one might expect from the French. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


See The Battle of Algiers (1965).


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