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Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison

Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison(1957)


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In 1944, somewhere in the South Pacific, Corporal Allison, a lone Marine, drifts, half-conscious in a life raft. Spotting land, he jumps overboard, pulls the raft to the beach and scouts the island. Coming upon a church, Allison is startled to see a nun, clad in an all-white habit, sweeping the porch. The nun, Sister Angela, is equally stunned to see him. After she informs him that although she is the only inhabitant of the island, God is her constant companion, Allison, exhausted, passes out. Upon awakening, the nun feeds him the last of her supplies and presents him with a pipe that once belonged to Father Philips, an elderly, beloved priest who died on the island. Sister Angela recounts that she and Father Philips came to the island to take the local priest to safety in Fiji. Once they reached the island, however, the natives who rowed them there fled in fright, leaving them stranded. The Japanese soldiers had wiped out all signs of life, and the local priest had vanished. Soon after, Father Philips died, leaving Sister Angela totally alone. Allison then relates that he ended up alone after the Japanese sunk his submarine, killing all but himself. The nun and the Marine begin to form a bond as they work in unison to catch a turtle for dinner. That night, Allison proposes that they attempt to sail the three hundred miles to Fiji on his raft. The sister eagerly consents to join him, and begins to weave a rudder from palm leaves. While working one day, the gruff, poorly educated Marine, wary of offending the proper nun, explains that he never knew his parents and took the name of Allison from the street on which his orphanage was situated. He continues that the Marine Corps offered respite from his life as a juvenile delinquent and concludes that the Marines are his church. Hearing the sound of Japanese reconnaissance bombers, the two take shelter in a cave. That night, the ground rumbles as the Japanese pummel the island with their bombs, causing Sister Angela to shake uncontrollably. Allison tries to reassure her, but they emerge to find the island in flames, their raft destroyed. Out of the rubble, Allison finds the charred church cross and presents it to Sister Angela. A flotilla of Japanese ships then appear on the horizon, and soon a battalion of soldiers are charging up the beach, forcing Allison and Sister Angela to retreat to their cave. With raw fish as their only food source, Allison sneaks into the Japanese camp one night to pilfer some supplies. Trapped in his hiding place when some officers enter the supply room to play a game of Go, Allison is forced to stay the night in the camp. Come morning, when the troops assemble for reveille, Allison steals back to the cave and finds the nun wandering the jungle, cross in hand, anxiously searching for him. When Allison presents her with a gift of a comb he fashioned from a reed, Sister Angela tells him that although nuns do not use combs because their hair is so short, she will cherish his as a keepsake. After Allison observes that leaving the nunnery must be akin to deserting the Marines, the sister confides that she has not yet taken her final vows. That night, the sky is lit by the gunfire of a distant sea battle, and by the next morning, the Japanese troops have departed. Relieved, Allison begs Sister Angela not to take her vows and proposes to her, but is embarrassed when she responds that she has already given her heart to Christ. The next day, he apologizes to the nun and avers that a Marine is not the marrying kind. That night, as a heavy rain pounds their shack, Allison gets drunk on sake and laments the irony of being stuck on a desert island with an attractive nun. When he smashes Father Philips' pipe in frustration, Sister Angela runs out into the rainy night. Allison finds her the next morning, soaked and delirious. Soon after, the Japanese return and Allison carries her into the cave and then sneaks into one of their tents to retrieve some dry clothes for her. Discovered by a soldier, Allison stabs the man and dumps his body into the water. Two days later, Sister Angela awakens, now coherent, and Allison informs her that the Japanese have returned. When the island erupts in flames, Allison explains that he had to kill a man, and thereby alert the enemy of their existence. As Sister Angela prays, the soldiers locate their cave. The Japanese are about to toss in a grenade when Allied bombers announce their presence, causing Allison to dance in delight. With dawn approaching, Allison announces that he has received a message from God, directing him to lessen casualties by disabling the massive Japanese artillery guns. While throwing the breech blocks for the guns into the sea, Allison is wounded. His mission accomplished, Allison returns to the cave, and knowing that they will soon be rescued, bids goodbye to the nun. In response, she promises he will be her dear companion always. As the American flag is hoisted over the island, American Marines carry Allison down the hill on a stretcher, the nun walking by his side.