24 Frames: Amargo Triunfo (Bitter Victory, Nicholas Ray, 1957)

I kill the living and save the dead.

A wonderful and terribly underrated war movie; what is striking now (apart from how it anticipated, in various respects, both Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Minghella’s The English Patient) is the sheer, unflinching intensity of some of the scenes: Leith stabbing the Nazi guard, his mercy-killing of the wounded Nazi soldier, his being bitten by the scorpion, Mokrane’s killing of the camel for ammonia. The dramatic heat is intensified still further by the way Ray focuses attention on stark, mythic elements (sun, sand, stone, wind, water, fire), and by our awareness that the loss of life involved in what almost turns out to be an entirely fruitless expedition counts for little indeed among the top brass, shown by Ray to be callously resigned to incurring high casualties in the furtherance of their plans.

The Films of Nicholas Ray: The Poet of Nightfall – Geoff Andrew

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