PURPLE HEART, THE
(director: Lewis Milestone; screenwriter: Jerry Cady/story by Darryl F. Zanuck as Melville Crossman; cinematographer: Arthur C. Miller; editor: Douglas Biggs; music: Alfred Newman; cast: Dana Andrews (Capt. Harvey Ross), Richard Conte (Lt. Angelo Canelli), Farley Granger (Sgt. Howard Clinton), Kevin O’Shea (Sgt. Jan Skvoznik), Sam Levene (Lt. Wayne Greenbaum), Tala Birell (Johanna Hartwig), Don “Red” Barry (Lt. Peter Vincent), John Craven (Sgt. Martin Stoner), Charles Russell (Lt. Kenneth Bayforth), Richard Loo (Gen. Ito Mitsubi), Peter Chong (Mitsuru Toyama), Benson Fong (Moy Ling), Torben Meyer (Karl Keppel); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Darryl F. Zanuck; 20th Century Fox; 1944)
“Wartime jingoistic POW courtroom drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Lewis Milestone (“All Quiet on the Western Front”) directs this wartime jingoistic POW courtroom drama. It’s loosely based on a true incident. Jerry Cady provides the script from a story by producer Darryl F. Zanuck. It’s set in 1942, during the Doolittle bombing raid on Tokyo and other Japanese cities. A squadron of eight American airmen are shot down in China and taken prisoner by the Japanese occupiers. The airmen are accused of murdering civilians and for propaganda reasons are tried in a civil court in what goes for a “show trial.”
The squadron is led by Captain Ross (Dana Andrews), who protests that the trial is in violation of the Geneva Convention Treaty. The only problem is that the Japanese never signed the treaty. Their interrogator is the slimy buck-toothed General Ito Mitsubi (Richard Loo), a graduate of an American university, who is intent on getting by any means the men to disclose where their air-craft carrier, The Hornet, is located. The General resorts to torture, and several of the men are left with crippling injuries yet don’t blab. Attending the trial are a number of hand-picked international newspaper war correspondents, who take the party line except for one journalist who turns in his credentials in protest to the injustice. In the conclusion, the Emperor’s court is willing to show clemency if any of the Americans provide the valuable military information they requested. If not, they will be sent to POW camp to await execution. When all the men refuse to talk, the General commits hara-kiri by shooting himself in the head while the court is still in session.
Considering the film was made during the war, a lot of the politically incorrect characterizations could be excused. There are fine performances by Andrews, Sam Levene, and Richard Conte, and Milestone directs with passionate fervor a film that is ironically apart from his noted anti-war classic.
REVIEWED ON 2/10/2005 GRADE: B-