The Purple Plain (1954)
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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.
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.
Different and a film that allows this wonderful actor to exert his acting muscles.
A good,dramatic film with serviceable performances by the cast. Especially by Brenda De Banzie as a missionary.
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!
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.