Director: Mark Sandrich
Writer: Allan Scott
Cinematographer: Charles Lang
Producer: Mark Sandrich
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
This is the type of film where I want to grab studio executives and progressives together in a room and say that we need more like this, with all female leads in such an exciting and powerful situation. My strategy would be to find a very unique and exciting voice on the festival circuit. And I’m not talking about your generic, pro-woman voice. I’m talking about someone who embodies those ideas but can integrate them seamlessly into a tale that can transcend politics or gender, as the greatest books, films, and movies often do. Once discovered, and you have your first Blockbuster Female Filmmaker, you could give her a project like this, showing women under extreme duress, willing to sacrifice everything for their country and each other - as it's long overdue.
It’s funny because I’m sitting here listening to "The Pacific" soundtrack and wondering how this movie would play with an updated score. There are scenes in the film that really burn into your mind, as any great war film achieves. When the Nurses (and by Nurses I mean the trio, which is easier than writing three names in a row), meet a fellow nurse Lt. Rosemary Larson (Barbara Britton) from an exploded ship, she explains how she lost her husband, bitter with rage, vowing to kill “Japs” with terrifying prejudice. When they arrive at the next base and divide the responsibilities, they discover that Larson went to the Japanese soldier hospital, hoping to kill them. The Nurses rush over to stop her and discover she couldn’t do it. Later, and during one of three absolutely incredible action sequences, as soldiers close in on their position, trapping them in a house while they hang out at the road, Larson grabs a grenade, buries it in her shirt and walks toward the Japanese soldiers, pulling the pin and killing herself and the soldiers, saving the women. Let’s just say you’ll be surprised how much they actually show, given the year this was made.
In another mind blowing sequence, as their more fortified position is overrun, hundreds of women jump into boats, fleeing the burning city. In wide vistas, we see the dozens of canoes paddling across the bay as fire burns the city beyond. It was a both a beautiful and terrifying image, as chaos overwhelms them, not knowing where anybody is or if they survived.
I’m truly blown away that this came out in 1943. I would need to put a list together, but for all the WWII films I’ve seen from the same period, nothing even comes close to this level of bleakness. While it could use a twenty minute trim at 2 hours and 8 minutes, it’s a great and highly underrated film.
BELOW: A radio theater version of the story
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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