Monday, July 11, 2016

ANTIQUE or CLASSIC?: The Purple Plain (1954)

                “The Purple Plain” was a British film that was released in 1954 and did pretty well at the box office.  Gregory Peck and the fact it was in color probably were responsible for some of the success.  It was directed by Robert Parish from a novel by H.E. Bates.  The movie was shot in Sri Lanka and used some of the sites later used in “Bridge on the River Kwai”.  The Royal Air Force cooperated with the use of authentic Mosquitoes.

                We are in Burma in 1945.  Squadron Leader Forrester (Peck) is suffering from mental instability due to the death of his wife in the “Blitz”.  He has a death wish and everyone thinks he is a “raving lunatic”.  Everyone except the base doctor who refuses the base commander’s wish to have him relieved.  There’s a nice twist!  Instead the doc takes him to a Burmese village where Forrester meets a beautiful girl named Anna (Win Min Than).  Love will conquer his mental problems.  The relationship develops very briskly with Anna pressuring him to commit.  Another twist.  Forrester promises to always come back to her, thus eliminating any suspense over whether Gregory Peck’s character will die with his romance unrequited.  (Like there was a good chance of that otherwise.)  Forrester is a changed man and his brain is fixed.  Unfortunately, his engine is not and he crashes on the very next mission.  Imagine the odds!

                The crash is well done which is at odds with the rest of the movies shoddy effects.  Forrester, Flight Officer Blore (Maurice Denham), and wounded navigator Carrington (Lyndon Brook) are far from safety.  Forrester wants to press on, but Blore insists on staying with the wreckage.  Peck points out to Denham which one of them is the big star so they move on.  Excellent decision plot-wise.  Plus we get some nice scenery and the emoting you get when three desperate men have to make a trek.  Will Forrester be true to his promise to return to Anna?  Check out the year the movie was released for a clue.

                This is an interesting movie.  I had never heard of it and I am a Gregory Peck fan.  It is not one of his more famous roles.  It came between “Roman Holiday” and “Moby Dick”.  He dominates, but Denham was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Actor.  I think this was Win Min Than’s only movie.  It is obvious she was an amateur, but she holds her own and does the opposite of scene-chewing.  The plot is a bit predictable, but the movie is comfortable for a 1950s audience.  Not surprisingly, the PTSD issue is handled in too simplistic a way.  Anna is one great therapist!  Good thing due to the doctor’s bizarre lack of concern that an insane, suicidal officer is leading men into combat.  The cinematography stands out with a lot of close-ups.  Too close actually and too many.  Other than the crash, the effects are those of models being pummeled by fake flak.

                Antique or Classic?  Neither.  Just a mildly entertaining trifle.

GRADE = C+  


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  3. I refer to this movie as 'a technicolour dream', the vibrant colours of the movie being one of its biggest stars and selling points. I find that it is more of a love story than a war story even though it has an extremely well-balanced plot which can not be regarded in any way as being overly sentimental or 'mushy', the latter being a common complaint (mostly from male viewers) about a number of more recent war movies (e.g. Pearl Harbor) with that type of subject matter.
    Unquestionably it is not the type of movie we are likely to ever see made again--unfortunately.


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