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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"A Marine, that's what I am. All through me, a Marine, like you're a nun. You got your cross, I got my globe and anchor."
DVD ReviewYou have to admit that John Huston knew a good thing when he saw it. After The African Queen (where the heck is that DVD?) was a huge success, Huston profitably returned to the same territory with this tale of a mismatched couple thrown into uncomfortably close quarters by war. Although Robert Mitchum's not quite Bogey, Deborah Kerr fills in for and improves upon Katharine Hepburn quite nicely.
During World War II, Corporal Allison (Mitchum) is stranded on the South Pacific island of Tuasiva. At first believing it abandoned, he soon runs across a marooned nun in full habit, Sister Angela (Kerr). By aiding one another they struggle to survive, a task made much more difficult by the sudden landing of the Japanese military, which forces the pair to take shelter in a cave. Tensions mount as they fight both hunger and illness and their own human natures as they attempt to wait out the occupying force.
Although the cast—other than the walk-throughs by Japanese and American soldiers, it's just Mitchum and Kerr—is terrific, the screenplay helps them immeasurably by upping the ante from Huston's earlier film. Mitchum's sexual and romantic attraction to the nun almost gets us into nunsploitation territory (indeed, Kerr gets an off-camera nude scene), but the whole is surprisingly innocent in nature. That's certainly aided by Kerr's naïve and sweet portrayal of Sister Angela. Where the script (co-written by Huston) falls short is in giving her any sort of backstory. While Allison's past is well-developed, there's precious little to make the nun well-rounded, including any discussion of why she entered the convent in the first place. A lot is therefore riding on Kerr's talents as she once again puts on the wimple, but she pulls through nicely, making the film quite memorable in its own right.
Huston pulls a Hitchcock with a few terrific suspense sequences as Mitchum infiltrates the Japanese camp to steal some food. At times the tension is practically unbearable, especially when a rat gets a bit friendly with the carefully hidden Allison. Less effective is a faceoff later on with a kendo artist, which is resolved in an almost perfunctory manner.
The result is just as entertaining as (and in many respects superior to) the earlier version of the story. Recommended.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The CinemaScope anamorphic widescreen picture looks very nice indeed, with good color, particularly in the vibrant greens of the jungles. The day for night sequences are quite dark, in fact barely legible, which is the primary fault of the visuals. There's a modicum of grain but it's not distracting and is very well rendered. Textures are attractive, most notably in the coarse fabric that makes up Sister Angela's habit, and the dirt that symbolically clings to its whiteness. Frame damage is very limited, only surfacing in the form of minor speckles. Occasionally pans against the jungle foliage result in minor aliasing but on the whole the transfer is commendable.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Both an English 2.0 stereo and 2.0 mono track are provided. Both are quite clean, although there are some extraneous low rumbles on occasion that may be picked up by low-tuned subwoofers. The bombing raid sequences on the surround track pack a solid punch and have convincing authority. The original mono track sounds good as well, though it is recorded at a more moderate level than the surround version. The menu states that the French track is stereo, but it's really mono, as indicated on the box.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring 13 Rue Madeleine, The Blue Max, The Desert Fox, The Enemy Below, Sink the Bismarck
Layers Switch: 54m:08s
Extras Review: Other than the usual set of trailers for other discs in the Fox War Classics series, the sole extra is a small group of newsreel excerpts. Three relate to battles for South Pacific islands (Tarawa and Saipan). The fourth newsreel gives coverage of the Photoplay magazine awards, including a win for Kerr in this film. These vary from 29 seconds to 4m:10s in length, and aren't much for substance, but are nice to have in any event. Chaptering is a bit thin.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsMitchum and Kerr provide memorable protrayals in this tale of desperate survival during wartime. The disc sports an excellent transfer and a few good extras.
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