Sunday, June 14, 2009

On an island with you

This afternoon at 1:30 PM ET, the Fox Movie Channel is showing the drama Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.

It's a movie with a very limited cast; we see only two actors' names showing up in the opening credits. Robert Mitchum shows up on screen first; he plays US Marine Corporal Allison. He's in a life raft somewhere in the South Pacific, as his boat has been destroyed by the Japanese. He washes up on an island that obviously had some human habitation in the past, as there are buildings, including a church. Of course, he's worried that there are Japanese soldiers on the island, so he sneaks his way around, until he gets into the church -- where he finds Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr) lighting candles. It seems that she got left behind because she was taking care of a priest who couldn't get off the island when the Japanese were coming after the rest of her convent's members on another island; that priest since passed away. But, for the time being at least, there aren't any Japanese on the island.

What comes next is a bit predictable, in that the two leads are going to form an unlikely friendship. Cpl. Allison is gruff at best, being in the Marines largely because his earlier life was so messed up that the Marine Corps is the only thing that can provide stability in his life. The good Sister, meanwhile, is naïve at best, and that's being kind. She thinks she can just give herself up to the Japanese should they come, and everything will be reasonably OK for her in an internment camp. Still, the two work together trying to figure a way out of their predicament.

The next thing that happens is predictable, too: the Japanese return. This forces our two unlikely friends into a cave together, whereupon the tight spaces quickly reveal the two have human passions that they have to resist.... Eventually, the Japanese are driven off the island, only to return again, while all along Cpl. Allison and Angela's relationship grows. Will the Americans come in time to save them from the Japanese? More importantly, will the Marines come in time to save our two protagonists from themselves?

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is a very well-made movie, even if it touches on themes that were visited in a lot of earlier movies. Love in tight spaces shows up a lot, as I mentioned a few days ago, even including Lifeboat as an example of a movie where two people who would otherwise never meet fall in love thanks to spending lots of time next to each other. Closer to Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, though, would be The African Queen, although in that case, it's more plausible for the religious lady to give in to her passion as she's only a missionary, not an ordained nun with a vow of celibacy. At any rate, Mitchum and Kerr both give excellent performances. Unlike earlier movies, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison was shot in Cinemascope, making the island look much more beautiful than any of the scenes in The African Queen. It's also available on DVD.

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