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Escape to Burma (1955)

 |  Adventure  |  9 April 1955 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.8/10 from 348 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 6 critic

A fugitive in British Burma hides on a teak plantation, thanks to a mutual attraction with owner Gwen Moore.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Jim Brecan
Murvyn Vye ...
Lisa Montell ...
Robert Warwick ...
The Sawbwa
Robert Cabal ...
Peter Coe ...
Captain of the guard
Alex Montoya ...
Anthony Numkena ...
John Mansfield ...
Gavin Muir ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Joe Ferrante
Tim Nelson


A local prince in British Burma has been killed, apparently by his prospecting partner Jim Brecan. The bereaved father wants Brecan's head, no questions asked, but Captain Cardigan of the colonial police hopes to find him first for a fair trial. Meanwhile, Brecan finds refuge on the teak plantation of wealthy colonial Gwen Moore, where mutual attraction soon makes him indispensable... Written by Rod Crawford <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A searing story of sudden love ... and sudden death ... in the hot green hell of the Burma jungle.




See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 April 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Flucht nach Burma  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.00 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the Burmese jungle temple, some of the apes are chimpanzees, which only live in Africa. See more »


Gwen Moore: [to Brecan and Cardigan] The more I see of you two, the more I like elephants.
See more »


Song of Burma
Written by Hal Borne and Louis Forbes
See more »

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User Reviews

A strange, refreshing film from undervalued maestro Dwan.
19 April 2001 | by (dublin, ireland) – See all my reviews

It is one of the cliches of mainstream Hollywood cinema that the desire of the hero is limited to two options - a good girl (marriage, security, family, society), and a bad girl (lust, transgression). In this scenario, women are barely people at all, more embodiments of Law and Desire, the socially acceptable and unacceptable.

Not the least of this brilliant film's achievements is the way it transfers this cliche to the heroine, making it new and strange. It is the two male characters who represent the two options open to the woman - Robert Ryan is the outlaw, suspected murderer and jewel thief, sexually direct; David Farrer is the policeman, punctiliously obeisant to the law, sexually repressed.

Ryan hasn't stepped foot in Barbara Stanwyk's elephant ranch before he's made himself at home, made her frankly voracious and got her talking about 'marriage', which we suspect has little to do with religious ceremonies. Farrer no sooner arrives then he wants to take a man home with him. The film's most striking scene occurs near the climax, in the symbolic space of an abandoned, monkey infested Buddhist temple, the two men grappling like Lawrentian blood brothers, and Stanwyk gaping hungrily on, absolutely thrilled.

This central twist is part of the film's wider iconoclasm. Like more renowned peers (Minnelli, Sirk etc.), Dwan takes reactionary material and dismantles it. Firstly, the film offers an odd mish-mash of genres. The film is supposedly set in Burma and its environs, but this is an Orient in the tradition of Powell and Pressburger, the hero of whose 'Black Narcissus' stars here (Farrer).

Whereas 'Narcissus' was a work of complete, defiant artifice, 'Escape' offers a disturbing clash between real location footage and cramped studio sets, often within the one scene which, especially in action sequences, has a jarring, alienating effect. The most notable example occurs early on, when Ryan and Stanwyk hunt a marauding tiger - the effect takes us out of the 'realistic' adventure and alerts us to a more symbolic plane.

Although the film is set in the east, the three genres it evokes originate much further away. Even though the film is an action adventure - and a very exciting one, full of chases, gun-fights and dangerous animals - it is also a melodrama, about a lonely woman stranded in the middle of nowhere, powerful but so starved of 'companionship' she'll attach herself to the first man who comes along. Some of the lighting effects and careful compositions recall the contemporary melodramas of Sirk. The film also belongs to the jungle sub-genre, full of thick forests and animals being cute.

Most important, however, the film is a transposed Western, with Ryan as the outlaw hiding out in Stanwyk's ranch, and Farrer the sherriff sent to being him back. Except, like Ray's 'Johnny Guitar', the colour, the mise-en-scene, the extravagant sexual rituals tend to undermine macho Western self-importance; a female 'Eastern' reflecting back the male Western.

As the scene I mentioned earlier suggests - the brawl in the temple - the idea of play figures throughout, with narrative action turned into ritual or theatre, with extras, ceremonial gestures, and, most importantly, an audience. The most alarming of these is Ryan's torture, but throughout there is an emphasis on people watching, usually obscurely, through gaps and grills, or being framed in proscenium arches within the narrative frame.

Another motif alerting us to mistrust appearances is the mirror- so often a symbol of metamorphosis or revelation; actual mirrors co-exist with mirroring scenes, for example the symmetrical skulking of Stanwyk and the tiger watched by Ryan (doubly mirrored and reversed in the temple scene)

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