A newly wealthy English woman returns to Malaya to build a well for the villagers who helped her during war. Thinking back, she recalls the Australian man who made a great sacrifice to aid her and her fellow prisoners of war.
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In 1941, The advancing Japanese army captures a lot of British territory very quickly. The men are sent off to labor camps, but they have no plan on what to do with the women and children of the British. A group is sent on a forced march from place to place searching for a Women's Camp. Told from the point of view of one of the women, she meets an Australian soldier who sneaks food for them from his labor camp. After the war, she goes to Australia to see the town he was from and hopefully reunite with the soldier. Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
According to the book 'The Golden Gong - Fifty years of the Rank Organisation, its films and its stars' by Quentin Falk, "While at premiere of a Disney film, 'Robin Hood' [See: The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952)], he [Earl St. John] was particularly impressed by the young man who played the Sheriff of Nottingham. The name on the programme was that of Peter Finch. St John bumped into Finch on the stairs of the theatre and invited him to come and talk business at Pinewood. Next day he gave Finch what would be a pivotal role in his burgeoning career: the Australian soldier, Joe, in 'A Town Like Alice'." See more »
The Japanese Soldiers are armed with British SMLE (Short, Magazine Lee-Enfield) No. 1 MK III rifles not Arisaka Rifles Type 38 or 99 which is what they would have been issued. See more »
Opening credits prologue: The characters in this story are fictitious. The story itself however is based upon true fact. See more »
A gutsy and gut wrenching 1950s low budget movie about WWII in Malaysia
A Town Like Alice (1956)
A remarkable movie, completely under everyone's radar, about a group of English women in Asia during World War II. They suffer under the hands of the Japanese not as prisoners, quite, but as refugees caught between captors. Having nowhere to go and no one to protect them, they end up walking and walking, through jungle and no-man's land, past actual POW camps and through native villages, until gradually they start to die from the hardship.
Mixed into this really vivid and heartbreaking drama is a love affair between a passing Australian soldier and one of the women. The man is a prisoner of the Japanese who seems to have some freedom because he can fix things for them, and he crosses paths with the women a few times over the years.
Years, yes. The movie moves quickly through a long period of war. This is the real war for most people, the occupation by the Japanese and their arrogance, and the patience and impotence of ordinary people. It is told with alarming frankness. I mean, it's still a movie from the 1950s, not a documentary, but the plainness of the actors, the relatively low budget of the film, and the location shooting all make for a convincing final product. It's amazing, at times, and heartwarming as much as heartwrenching. There is even the one terribly good Japanese soldier trapped by the same bigger circumstance of a war that was not his doing.
The one known actor here is Peter Finch, who is marvelous, even though his role is limited. He is meant to be a bright spot in the life of this woman, and he is wonderfully bright and cheerful (a true Aussie stereotype that we all love).
The book that inspired the movie is widely regarded to this day, and was written by Nevil Shute, who heard about a group of Dutch (not English) women shuttled about by the Japanese in Dutch Malaysia during the war. It turns out that they were not usually made to walk, but Shute's misunderstanding of the story led to the main drama of the book and later movie. The crucifixion of prisoners by Japanese soldiers (shown in the movie) is substantiated, however, and it's a gruesome final turn of events for the plot.
There are few movies of this post-war period that really deal with ordinary suffering by ordinary people in Asia during the war (the suffering of civilians in Europe or Britain is fully shown, by contrast). This one does it well, very well. A wonderful surprise.
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