The Purple Plain (1954)

Didn’t really know anything about director Robert Parrish (other than him being one of the many cooks involved in the broth that was Casino Royale), so I looked up his IMDB credits and was interested to learn I’ve actually seen a surprising number of other films he was involved with; he actually started out as an actor, in loads of uncredited bits from 1927 onwards, several of them in films by John Ford, for whom he graduated to doing sound effects and negative cutting (uncredited again) before becoming an editor in the 40s and finally a director in the 50s (credited at last). Glenn Erickson here is somewhat more enthusiastic than I am about The Purple Plain, one of those Rank productions from mid-century that’s probably played uncountable times late at night on ABC over the years to the point where watching it on DVD tonight at a comparatively civilised hour almost felt weird. Personally I thought it was a bit unbalanced on the whole, with the story being in two parts. Gregory Peck is a pilot stationed in Burma, he’s acquired something of a death wish and an accordingly bad reputation among his fellow air warriors. In the first half of the film he’s gradually reintroduced to the concept that life actually might be worth living when he falls in love with a young Burmese girl; in the second half he’s flying a non-combat mission when an accident forces him to crash-land in Japanese-controlled territory. Nothing inherently wrong with either part, but I can’t help but feel the proportions are wrong somehow… also it didn’t entirely help that I never exactly felt the Japanese threat in the latter part (cos we don’t actually see any, for one thing), and even more unfortunately I somehow never felt Peck’s character was quite the nutter everyone else seems to think he is; you can be brusque and unpleasant (as he is) without being mad as such. Not actually a bad film, just a bit ordinary on the whole.

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