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The Lost Battalion (2001) – DVD Review

The Lost Battalion DVD cover art


Written by: Jim Carabatsos
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Starring: Rick Schroder, Phil McKee, Jamie Harris, Jay Rodan, Adam James


  • Dear Home: Letters From World War I, a special from The History Channel
  • Schroeder biography and filmography

Released by: A&E
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Avoid it.

It’s World War I. The 77th Infantry Division has just been given its orders to take the Argonne Forest. Its commanding officer, Major Whittlesey (Schroder), is fairly certain the mission is going to get their asses killed with a great deadness. He’s a lawyer from New York, we learn, so he’s not what anyone thinks too highly of in the way of military material. However, he’s a good soldier, so with his thoughts on the matter on record, he goes in and actually succeeds in his mission–and he gets surrounded by the Germans. Losing men the way Spinal Tap lost drummers–albeit on a much larger scale, mind you–he refuses to retreat or give in, certain that help is on the way. But is it?

[ad#longpost]The story behind the film is fascinating and the good news is that the battle scenes for the most part are shot with that “Saving Private Ryan individual clots of dirt hanging in air” technique. They’re brutal, and rightly so. These are guys running aroung with large steak knives attached to their rifles, so there’s lots of carnage to behold. Also the good news is that Schroeder does as well as can be expected with a fairly wooden role.

Unfortunately, the film wants to Hammer Two Things Home. First, that Whittlesey really is a Real American HeroTM and better than what everyone thinks about him. I’m not spoiling this for you folks, it’s telegraphed that it’s coming from the first five minutes of the film. Secondly, the Germans just can’t match those Americans for pluck and spirit and just plain gumption. Now–it’s not to say that I disagree with that statement, I just don’t need to get it rammed down my throat in every other scene. I don’t need Germans standing around their base wondering aloud what makes those plucky Americans tick. I believe the term is “hamfisted.” By the time you get to the ending speeches, you just want to whiffle bat the writer into unconsciousness, trying to just get him to tone down it all down just a wee bit.

The extra feature that comes on the disc is a special from The History Channel: Dear Home: Letters From World War I. Since they are The History Channel, I would have preferred maybe an actual historical discussion regarding the incident in the film–but I figure they had Dear Home canned, so what can you do? And the special is nice, but for some strange reason they saw fit to forget to include chapter stops–so if you watch the first twenty minutes and then have to come back to it the next day, you’re fast forwarding. It’s not like the special didn’t already have breaks for commercials.

Anyway, war film completists, those interested in World War I, or those interested in this incident in particular should check this one out. But for the rest of us, there just isn’t enough to warrant watching.

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