Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Claudette Colbert, Patric Knowles, Sessue Hayakawa, Florence Desmond|
|Producer:||20th Century Fox|
This WWII film is based on the autobiography of Agnes Keith, who was held along with other British civilians in Japanese prison camps (she was American-born, married to a Brit).
When the Japanese invade their area of Borneo, Mrs. Keith and her husband (Claudette Colbert and Patric Knowles) along with their young son George (Mark Kenning) are at first kept under house arrest and are later taken to prison camps (one camp for men, another for women and underage children). Col. Suga (Sessue Hayakawa), commander of the area occupation force and later commander of the prisons, is very friendly to Mrs. Keith. He’d been educated in the U.S., and he’d read a book by Mrs. Keith that was sympathetic to Oriental culture. Even so, he can’t control all the actions of the men under his command. Camp conditions are difficult; and the behavior of the guards is unpredictable, ranging from random kindness to random brutality. (Hayakawa also played the camp commander in “The Bridge on the River Kwai.”)
Content Warnings: Not for young children. This film isn’t as harsh as more modern productions of its type; but there is a scene of attempted rape, a scene of mass killing of men trying to scale a fence, and the continual suffering (hunger, sickness, mistreatment) in the women and children’s camp. Other than singing a hymn here and there, there are no noticeable expressions of faith in God.
Since it’s a true story, I recommend this film for WWII buffs and for anyone interested in the general topic of courage under adverse conditions.
On the same theme: “Women of Valor” (1986), “Empire of the Sun” (1987), “Paradise Road” (1997)