Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movie review - "South Sea Woman" (1953) **1/2

The opening credits indicate this is going to be a tropical island film movie, making you annoyed it's not in colour, but actually it's more a south seas adventure movie in the vein of say China Seas or Across the Pacific - although I still wanted it to be in colour. And have a better cast than it did, and was written better.

This has the ingredients for something really fun - Chuck Connors deserts the Marines in 1941 Shanghai in order to marry lounge singer Virginia Mayo, along with best mate Burt Lancaster. They squabble and have a series of adventures, including winding up on a Chinese junk (cue some racist jokes), on a Vichy occupied island (the best part of the film), then taking on a Japanese destroyer around the time of the Battle of Guadacanal.

It's a silly over the top movie, a buddy comedy where the two guys are in love with each other as much as the dame. I think it was a mistake to structure it in flashback at a court martial - this slowed down the action, made things less fun, and didn't always make sense. Maybe it was also a mistake to set it during World War Two and have such cartoonish action - you got away with that in the early days of the war, it didn't feel right in 1953 somehow.

Lancaster is a lot of fun in his grinning teeth swashbuckling mode - though you never get the impression he's that into Mayo. Chuck Connors doesn't have his skill or charisma but he tries. Virgina Mayo is pretty bad as the girl - she lacks the necessary fire that someone like say Yvonne de Carlo would have brought to the part.

Structure wise the attack on the Japanese boat felt like an adventure too far. I think they would have been better off keeping things on the island - they could have had the Japanese arrive there.

Still, it has high spirits, and when we aren't in the court martial scenes, director Arthur Lubin keeps things running at a decent pace.

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