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A priest (William Holden) arrives at a mission-post in China accompanied by a young native girl who has joined him along the way. His job is to relieve the existing priest (Clifton Webb), who is now too old and weak to continue with the upkeep of the church. However, Communist soldiers arrive at the mission and seize it as a command post. Their leader rapes the native girl and impregnates her, only later to realise that Communism is no good for him. In the end, the foursome flee to the border, but are pursued by Communist forces along the way. Written by
Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>
In the scene immediately following the opening credits, as Father O'Banion leads a donkey carrying Siu Lan along a mountain path overlooking a valley, their shadows are plainly visible on the painted backdrop of the valley. See more »
Under-rated melodrama which could be viewed as an unofficial remake of Going My Way.
Satan Never Sleeps is the final film by great director Leo McCarey, whose finest hour was probably the fondly-remembered Going My Way. This is almost a remake of Going My Way in many ways, but back in 1962 when the film was released it was savaged by critics who found it vulgar, cliche-ridden and boring. When I first saw the film in 1993, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The performances are good, the story maintains a reasonable level of interest, and it is shot colourfully. The film is certainly overlong and some of the characters are painted in too broad strokes, but apart from that the critics were unfairly unkind to the film.
Father O'Banion (William Holden) and Father Bovard (Clifton Webb) are a couple of Catholic priests running a remote mission post in China in 1949. O'Banion has recently befriended a young Chinese woman Siu Lan (France Nuyen), but she makes him feel uncomfortable by frequently flirting with him and hinting that she would like to share his bed. Communist forces move into the area and damage the priests' chapel. To add to their woes, Siu Lan is raped and impregnated, and the Communist forces order the public execution of all Christians in the region. Ultimately, they have to flee for safety, pursued by Communist soldiers.
The film was actually filmed in England and Wales, but only occasionally does the lack of authentic location lensing show. Holden gives a decent performance and Webb, though miscast, is entertaining to watch as his older companion. Nuyen strikes the right balance as the flirtatious native girl. The worst performance comes from Weaver Lee, as a Chinese communist colonel
his character is written as a caricature rather than a realistic person,
and he just can't get across a convincing reading of the role. On the whole, Satan Never Sleeps is an engrossing, diverting way to pass a couple of hours
certainly not the mega bomb that the critics would have you
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