The Purple Plain (1954) Poster

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The Purple Plain
roy-buswell5 June 2006
I suppose the reason why I loved the film so much was that I was actually watching the film being made in Sigaria in Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka). I was part of an RAF Police team from RAF Columbo called to investigate the theft of some property from the set of the film. The visit also gave me the opportunity to actually have breakfast with Grgory Peck before the days shooting. I was astounded by the amount of detail that went into the making of the film, and the amount of responsibility put upon Jean, the continuity girl. Gregory Peck was a perfect gentleman, and I was so proud to actually be introduced to him by Brummie Benson, an RAF extra on the film set. To me, the film depicted courage at it's best, and as said by a previous critic , a simple story, with no over blown heroics,a good and believable cast, and a most enjoyable though somewhat predictable conclusion. But, NO bad language..... It's a pity more films of today cannot follow the same pattern. In all a very good example of the Royal Air Force at it's humble best, and a credit to the J.Arthur Rank Studios for its production
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Unusual, well written, acted and produced love/war movie.
SmilingBrian11 November 2004
This is a Rank Company (British) medium budget production of a post war H. E. Bates novel. Well directed by Robert Parrish, the screen writing by Eric Ambler is quite good. It was shot on site in, what was then, Ceylon. (Same location as "Bridge on the River Kwai")

The young Gregory Peck plays Bill Forrester a Canadian pilot in the RAF serving in far off Burma in the closing months of WWII. He flies a two seat Mosquito fighter-bomber. (The actual aircraft was provided through the cooperation of the RAF and repainted in accurate camouflage and markings, for once.) Forrester, it seems, has gone "round the bend" after losing his new wife in the Blitz. He's self destructive, wanting to end it all in combat. "You'd think that would be easy in a war", he explains to Anna, "but I just kept getting medals instead." Anna is a small, slim, pretty teacher, played very well by Win Min Than, a Burmese actress (how refreshing). They, of course, fall in love (It's a MOVIE, folks) and his life really seems to be turning around. But, on a routine flight, he and two others go down in a very remote desert area of Burma's central plain (hence, the title). From there on we have a rather good, believable survival saga.

The English love eccentric characters and this story has several, all well depicted by some of those fine performers who bounce back and forth between the British "legitimate" stage and cinema. Watch for Brenda De Banzie, who plays Miss McNab, an elderly missionary. (Ya couldn't miss her!)

The Purple Plain is a good movie, a fine movie really. Not too heavy, it's historically accurate with good production values. Forrester's growth curve coming out of his personal hell is quite interesting. I found the depiction of the native Burmese was respectful without being condescending. For instance, the love between Bill and Anna is portrayed in a very reserved manner, as it would be between a Westerner and a Christian Asian woman in real life. All in all, the story line and performances are very believable and very enjoyable. I highly recommended The Purple Plain, if YOU can find it.
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Peck at his most enigmatic
Michael Warburton4 September 2006
A pot-boiler of a Film that is intelligently crafted by Director Robert Parrish. To some it may seem intolerably slow & lacking pace, but to others like myself the Film does something that nearly all Films in the Fifties and indeed many now do not even attempt to achieve, and that is take the time to investigate the main characters in depth and in detail. This is done not via long tracts of dialogue, but via the un-said. In particular Peck and the astonishingly beautiful and talented Win Man Than as 'Anna' develop their relationship in the Film in the subtlest and most delicate of manners. I can find no further information on Win Man Tan, but her performance in this period piece, is one part enchanting, one part mesmerising. We understand fully how Peck's psychiatric problems eventually dissolve as hie begins to find perspective courtesy of love for 'Anna'. This Film is not staggering nor the best piece of Cinema you will ever see, but it is superbly acted, wonderfully cast, sparingly written, adroitly directed, and deserves to be watched by anyone who has a love of Cinema. Recommended, because what we see at our Cinemas today has MUCH to learn from Movie making such as this.
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THE most underrated movie of the 1950s!
ekeby4 July 2006
I've had this movie on my 10 Best List for many, many years.

This story of healing from loss through love is immensely powerful. It's exquisitely photographed; it looks much more art film than Hollywood. The direction is solid, and the pacing near perfect. Peck holds his own among a field of scene-stealing character actors. His performance gives us a clue as to what he was like on the stage. His good looks don't distract you; he's utterly convincing as a pilot who's lost the love of his life and no longer cares whether he lives or dies. In the first part of the movie his character is not a good guy, and it's believable. Hard to do when you look like Gregory Peck.

Love conquers all, of course. The story turns on his love for a woman. But, as the movie progresses, we find that he loves his crew too, even "old Blore." The young navigator worships him, and the admiration is returned full force. Their relationship is a key element of the story, as important as the romance between Peck and the Burmese girl.

This is one of those rare movies where men openly love each other--not in a gay sense--in a human sense. It's a love based on respect. This is something missing from almost all heterosexual movies. Probably because most men don't seem to be able to easily distinguish between sex, attraction, affection, and love. It all gets mixed up together, and homophobia damps down any positive emotions between men that isn't associated with some sport. Wartime seems to provoke these feelings too, evidently, but it's rare for a picture to show manly affection, except as a joke. It's just one aspect of this film, but one that shouldn't be overlooked.

I can only hope this movie gets rediscovered and recognized for the fine, fine film that it is.
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A real surprise as well as unique film
MartinHafer6 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is an odd film and I don't mean this in a negative way. All too often, films seem derivative and predictable, though this film excels in being different and placing Gregory Peck in a very unusual role--that of a fighter-bomber pilot fighting for the British Empire during WWII. While I loved the film because it featured nice aerial shots of the De Havilland Mosquito (the plane), it was not really a film about dogfights and bombing missions but was instead a character study of Peck as he tries to survive and keep his injured comrade alive. At times the film uses some flashbacks, but generally it is a straight drama about how the crash of his plane impacts him and gets him to reassess his life.

Different and a film that allows this wonderful actor to exert his acting muscles.
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Good movie
RIO-1528 April 1999
Peck is a neurotic, suicidal pilot in Burma during WWII. He's transformed by his love for a native girl, which gives him the drive to survive the trek through the harsh burmese wilderness after his plane crashes.

A good,dramatic film with serviceable performances by the cast. Especially by Brenda De Banzie as a missionary.
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Absolutly Thrilling!
horsegal2516 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Apart from Reach for the Sky, The Purple Plain is the best war film i've seen- particually as I thoroughly enjoy the British war films, and Lyndon Brook is my favourite actor!

A Canadian RAF pilot, Squadron Leader Forrester (Gregory Peck), flying Mosquito Fighter/Bombers in Burma, 1945 is flying with his new navigator, Carrington (Lyndon Brook), and his tent mate, Blore (Maurice Denham- presumably his previous navigator, or adjutant, one of the engines of the aeroplane catch fire, and they crash land in Jap territory. On jumping out, Carrington, gets badly burnt on his right leg, and is therefore flat on his back for the rest of the film. They have little water, and alot of pills...

Soon after crashing, Forrester & Blore rig up a stretcher for Carrington with a parachute harness & such, so that they can travel to the river, which will then be in their territory, but must get through tretchorous territory. I'm not sure how long after they started out with Carrington on the stretcher, but Blore then falls down a small cliff type thing, and breaks his collarbone. After getting some rest, Blore goes out to try and get more water for them to carry on. On the way, Blore, who is delerious with thirst and the heat (which is naturally intense in Burma) shoots himself.

Forrester & Carrington must carry on on their own- but now Forrester must carry Carrington- as he is still unable to walk. Sometime later, they get picked up, just in time, as Forrester finds himself delerious as well, but when he hears the river, which he managed to reach, after leaving Carrington lying down in the shade, they both get picked up by the RAF just in time! They both survive, which is great news!

The anticipation of this film, and the excitement had me shaking the whole time- which my brother wasn't to happy about- but I couldn't control it- its to good-a film!

I would deffinatly reccomend this film to anyone, particularly WWII aviation fans, WWII fans, people in need of inspiration- but for inspiration, your best bet is to watch Reach for the Sky- true story of Douglas Bader- the legless WWII fighter Pilot ace. Anyone will be rooted to their seats watching this film- it is one of those war brilliant British war films that grab you- unlike the stupid films of today, and alot of the Yankee films- full of swearing & such- of which NONE of the old British war films had! So, do go and seek this out if you haven't seen it- its a must!
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Wonderful human interaction and drama piece.
mscott814 April 2002
Peck's third best movie. The supporting actors did flesh out the tension and struggle. The story line can be easily followed. The decisions made during the movie are predictable, but the realization that it is life and death struggle overwhelms the predictability.
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a movie for the true connoisseur
jacegaffney20 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
There's hardly an actor of Hollywood's golden age - short of Jimmy Stewart - with more good will on his side than the glowingly decent, lethally handsome, stunningly stalwart Gregory Peck. Unfortunately, as I think this month's TCM bears out, the overpoweringly redoubtableness of his nature produced very few interesting movies. One striking exception however is the British produced THE PURPLE PLAIN of 1954. Here is the one Peck picture whose residual effect is different from all the others. The story adapted by Eric Ambler of an H.E. Bates novel is about a nerve-wracked, embittered, R.A.F. pilot reassigned to a Burmese mission in the war for reevaluation. During this time, he is restored somewhat to humanity through the good offices of a brilliant and good doctor (Bernard Lee), a spiritual lady (Brenda de Banzie) and most importantly, a lovely young Burmese nurse who works with the doctor at the hospital. Peck's character is called Forrester and the pivotal action of the movie is when he crashes a plane behind enemy Japanese lines. Two men are with him in the disaster. One is a dour medic named Blore (Maurice Denham) whom Forrester loses and another is a young navigator whom he bravely rescues along with himself. On the face of it all this conforms to the image of Peck the perfect. But just beneath the surface of the narrative resides the fairy tale of a man who loses his first love in an air raid in England (which he witnesses helplessly) and then has it restored to him through his meeting with the Burmese girl. Nothing could sound more corny but the treatment is anything but. The very last moments of THE PURPLE PLAIN are so perfectly judged, so uncannily rendered in their strangely erotic sense of deliverance that they take one's breath away. The "coming home" feeling of surrender at the end pulls one up short in a beautiful way that has to be experienced by the true lover of cinema - not laboriously described. With a haunting film score by John Veale, this is a most unusual production that deserves searching out. It doesn't deserve to be played at 3 in the morning but that's par for the course for pictures of this nature. It might be what contributes to their cult although THE PURPLE PLAIN isn't quite there yet as a cult item. It should be.
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Worth Looking Into
dougdoepke4 August 2008
Purple Plain is an obscure film in Peck's long list of movie credits. I don't know if this British production got much publicity or release stateside, despite Peck's movie star celebrity. Unfortunately, it's never been a TV regular, which is too bad because this tale of renewal and survival is an unusual and gripping one, in spite of the obscurity.

The film opens in the Burmese jungle during WWII. Peck is a battle fatigued flyer on the ragged edge of breakdown. He's about to be relieved because of erratic behavior, all the while he's flashing back on his wife's death in a London air-raid. These are well-done scenes causing us to sympathize with his loss. Nonetheless, he's jeopardizing his comrades with reckless manuevers because the loss has undermined his will-to-live. Thus, we're torn between sympathy and concern, just like the flight station doctor (Bernard Lee).

In an interesting move, Lee overcomes Peck's agonies by reconnecting him socially, in this case with a nearby missionary community. There Peck finds the vital human relationships so importantly missing from his death-dealing combat duties. As a result, his life takes on new meaning and purpose as a result of rejoining a human community where such life-giving affirmations can emerge. On the whole these are well-done scenes, especially the chaos from the Japanese air attack. In the midst of the carnage, Peck's combat flyer finds a new role in helping to bandage up survivors. Herein lies the movie's basic message and it's an important and humane one, conveyed in fairly subtle fashion, though the turn-around occurs more quickly than I would have liked.

Nonetheless, it's interesting that the script avoids the usual officially sanctioned head-doctor therapies. Note that Peck is not sent to be counseled by an air force psychiatrist, nor to join a chest-baring therapy group, nor to have his past puzzled together Freudian style. Of course, the happy solution here remains a "movie" solution where-- as we all know-- anything can be made to magically happen. Still, for a war-movie setting, the simple affirmation that mental health lies through nurturing social relations and not through government sanctioned killing remains no less suggestive because of its movie origins.

The remainder of the film amounts to a survival trek through the wilds of southeast Asia. It's a well-filmed and harrowing struggle against a forbidding landscape where the crash survivors must decide between staying put or hiking out against great odds. But most importantly, it's Peck's chance to regain his humanity by facing up to the odds, not just for his own survival, but for his two comrades as well. The movie's final scene could not have been better conceived. Indeed, no words are necessary. On the whole, this is a subtly and well thought out anti-war film, no less effective because it concerns the fate of one man rather than thousands.Too bad that its humane message remains so generally unseen.
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