Friday, April 5, 2013

Sr. Joan Collins

I think I've stated once or twice before that Joan Collins gets unfairly maligned, largely because of all that time she spent as part of the cast of Dynasty in the 1980s. To be honest, there are better actresses out there, but Collins was not incapable when she was young. A good example of this is Sea Wife, which is airing at 6:00 AM tomorrow on the Fox Movie Channel. (It will be getting another airing on April 22.)

The movie starts off in London at some point after the end of World War II. Richard Burton plays a man who's taking out classified ads in all the London newspapers, looking for somebody he calls "Sea Wife", and signing the ads "Biscuit". Who's "Sea Wife", and why won't she answer? Obviously, we're going to find that out in a flashback....

Flash back to the beginning of 1942. Japan is attacking Singapore, which was a British colony at the time. Because of the Japanese siege, everybody who can is trying to get out of Singapore, and the boats are severely overcrowded. Burton is able to get on one of the boats, where he's got a place sleeping on the top deck cheek-by-jowl with a bunch of others waiting for him. Joan Collins also gets on, but gets a slightly better place to sleep. She's a nun, and is ministering to the sick children who got on the boats and whose parents couldn't; or, at least, that's more or less what's implied. It's not a comfortable journey though, even for her, as the cabins are overcrowded as well. In addition to being uncomfortable, it's downright dangerous, what with all thost Japanese subs patrolling the Indian Ocean trying to bomb ships. And, sure enough, this ship gets torpedoed.

In the panic, four people get off the boat into one of the lifeboats: Burton, Collins; a man nicknamed "Bulldog" (Basil Syndey), and a member fo the ship's crew (Cy Grant) who is given the nickname "Number Four". The panic is so severe that Collins loses her nun's habit and winds up in the lifeboat with an outfit on that I suppose could pass for some old-fashioned sleepwear. So Burton, who is given the nickname "Biscuit", falls in love with Collins, giving her the name "Sea Wife", while she doesn't return the favor. There's a major plot hole here, which is the question of why on God's earth she didn't just tell him she's a nun? As opposed to, say, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, in which Robert Mitchum's character sees Deborah Kerr's nun in full nun's vestments praying in church when he first meets her on that deserted island.

And if anything, the script is the problem with Sea Wife. In addition to keeping a secret about the real identity of Collins' character from Burton's, the plot has some other problems. Number Four is black, and so you know they just have to make Bulldog racist to provide sufficient tension. And then the lifeboat makes it to an island that is presumed to be one of the Andaman or Nicobar Islands. Either there would have been British patrolling the area at the time, as that would have been close to the front line in the war, or the Japanese would have found the survivors since they occupied the islands in March 1942. Collins does OK given the trite material she has to work with, while Burton seems to be working for a paycheck.

Sea Wife did get a DVD release, although I'm not certain if it's still in print.

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