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United Kingdom 1954
Directed by
Jack Lee
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Town Called Alice, A

Virginia McKenna warms up for her iconic British WWII heroine, Violette Szabo, in She Carved Her Name With Pride (1958) with this story (based on a novel of the same name by Nevil Shute, itself based on real events) of a plucky young English secretary, Jean Paget, caught up in the Japanese invasion of Malaysia. Captured with with a group of other women, some with children, they are forced to walk hundreds of miles across Malaysia as their captors do not know what to do with them. Although more than half died in the process, en route she encounters a charming Aussie P.O.W., Joe Harman (Peter Finch). You can guess the rest .

Colonialist, racist (anyone of colour is a "boong" to Joe) and hardly designed to mollify contemporary attitudes to the Japanese it is dated stuff, often clumsily directed (the capture sequence is particularly ham-fisted) with the usual English stereotypes (which the film acknowledges with a bit of self-deprecating humour), a sentimentalizing style (McKenna is only a shade off Joan Of Arc in her saintliness) and budget-driven production values (a lot of it is shot at Pinewood studios and in the Buckinghamshire countryside and looks very half-baked).

Broadening his accent for the occasion, Finch saves the from complete banality but unless you have a particular fondness for him or McKenna there is little reason to watch this although near the film's end there is some nice vintage footage of Alice Springs of the time accompanied by some good old Strine banter, things which might have appealed to the many Poms contemplating emigration at the time.




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