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A TOWN LIKE ALICE (THE RAPE OF MALAYSIA) (director: Jack Lee; screenwriters: W P Lipscombe/Richard Mason/based on the novel “The Legacy” by Nevil Shute; cinematographer: Geoffrey Unsworth; editor: Sidney Hayers; music: Matyas Seiber; cast: Virginia McKenna (Jean Paget ), Peter Finch (Joe Harman), Marie Lohr (Mrs. Dudley Frost), Renee Houston (Ebbey), Jean Anderson (Miss Horsefall), Maureen Swanson (Ellen), Tran Van Khe (Captain Sugaya), Nora Nicholson (Mrs. Frith), Eileen Moore (Mrs. Holland), John Fabian (Mr. Holland), Vincent Ball (Ben); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph Janni; Rank Film Distributors of America; 1956-UK)
“Harrowing but dated WWII drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jack Lee (“The Captain’s Table”/”The Wooden Horse”) directs this harrowing but dated WWII drama; the true story was a smash hit at the box office. It’s based on the first part of the best-seller novel “The Legacy” by Nevil Shute and written by W P Lipscombe and Richard Mason. The story line revolves around the stiff upper-lip women POW Brits and their stereotyped Japanese captors. It covers in detail how a small group of women and children were marched through Malaysia in a cross-country forced march by the Japanese. The group is befriended by a couple of jolly truck driving Aussie POWs, and the romance part has frail blonde POW Virginia McKenna falling for POW Peter Finch (he comes from a cattle station outside Alice Springs, hence the title).

The bleak film tries hard to inject a few lighter moments, but I just couldn’t march in lock-step to its overall grim beat. It’s a film about heroics, British pride and courage, and if you can accept it on its own simplistic terms then it has a certain strength of purpose in its documentary-style shooting that rings loud and clear for reality filmmaking.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”