Movie Mirrors Index

The Purple Plain

(1954 c 102')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Based on the novel by H. E. Bates, a shell-shocked pilot risks danger and is considered deranged. A doctor helps him meet people in a Burmese Christian community, and he begins to recover. Then he and two others crash land and have little chance of being rescued in enemy territory.

         In 1945 Canadian squadron leader Bill Forrester (Gregory Peck) wakes up thinking there is an air raid in Burma, and in panic he tries to rouse a sergeant, who calms him down. Bill flies among flak and drops bombs without orders. His navigator is wounded, and Bill wants his plane fixed quickly. The wounded man says Bill is a lunatic. Col. Aldridge (Anthony Bushell) says Forrester cracked up and has to go. His tent mate Blore (Maurice Denham) says Bill should be married, and Bill recalls the past. Bill is dancing with his bride. Suddenly the place is bombed, and she is killed.

         Bill wakes up and walks outside. He watches a Burmese girl playing with a lizard. Dr. Harris (Bernard Lee) invites Bill on a trip to a Burmese community of Christians. The girl kills the lizard, and they talk about death. Dr. Harris introduces Bill to Dorothy, who came from Rangoon. Bill dozes and wakes up and meets Anna (Win Min Than). She takes him to see rubies and other gems, but he does not buy any.

         Bill learns his plane is almost ready, and he is angry that his new navigator Carrington (Lyndon Brook) has moved into his tent. Dr. Harris tells Bill he is invited to dinner with Miss McNab (Brenda De Banzie), Anna’s mother, Mr. Phang, and Anna. Miss McNab says fighter bombers are wicked, and three hundred died on her journey from Rangoon. After dinner they sing a hymn. Bill hears planes and goes outside and sees Japanese bombers. As bombs fall, he goes with Anna to the dispensary. As people panic, they try to put out the fires. Dr. Harris treats the wounded. Anna’s hands are shaking, and he tells her to lie down. She is pushed along by the crowd, and Bill rescues her. He helps Miss McNab treat the wounded. She is glad he is not married.

         The next day Anna gives Bill a ruby and asks him to keep it for her because he has no one to give it to. He says that early in the war he met a woman, who was killed during an air raid. He says he wanted to die but got medals instead. She asks if his dream is over, and he says it is and that he wants to stay in Burma. They embrace.

         Col. Aldridge says Blore will be going with him. Carrington flies with Bill for the first time. They see an oil leak, and the engine catches fire. Bill calls, “May Day,” and they crash land. They get out, but Carrington is burned. They give him morphine. Carrington says they were on course, and Blore believes they will be found. Bill says they are in Jap territory. Blore tells Carrington that they can not trust Bill’s judgment. Bill looks at the surrounding area.

         Bill tells Blore they can walk to their own area in four days. He says they could carry Carrington on a stretcher at night. Blore says it is crazy and hopeless. They build a stretcher and leave at sunset. They try to lower the stretcher down a steep mountain. Blore slips and slides down. Bill finds that Blore broke his collarbone. Blore assumes that he and Carrington will die.

         Col. Aldridge tells Dr. Harris that a patrol will probably not look for them in Japanese territory. Dr. Harris tells Anna, who hopes he will come back.

         During the day Blore wakes and hears a plane. Bill asks Blore if he would like to be the one to go for help. Blore says Bill hates him because he has a wife and family. Blore suggests they go back to the plane and wait for a rescue plane, but Bill is asleep. Bill wakes up and cannot find Blore. Bill tells Carrington that Blore is gone, and Bill leaves to bring him back. Blore looks for the wreckage, and Bill calls his name. Blore falls down and spills the last of his water. Bill hears a shot and finds Blore dead. He takes his gun and his wallet and returns to Carrington. Bill carries him in the daytime because he is hungry. In the evening they stop for a rest and fall down. Bill gives Carrington a drink of water, and Carrington tells Bill to drink his too. The water is gone. Carrington tells Bill to go on alone so that he can get water and food. Bill leaves the gun and his watch. He asks Carrington to fire a shot at dawn and once an hour so that he can get his bearings. Bill walks at night and during the day. Exhausted, he lays down. He hears water and finds a stream.

         Dr. Harris tells Miss McNab that they were picked up by the river. Bill says he will be seeing Carrington and gets off the plane. Bill asks Dr. Harris for a jeep ride. Miss McNab welcomes Bill, and he lays down next to sleeping Anna.

         This drama shows the devastating effect of the Pacific War on a few people in a remote place. The Westerners and Burmese have been told that the war is necessary, but no one seem to understand why.

Copyright © 2009 by Sanderson Beck

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