powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
A woman fights to survive as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II.
In 1941, Agnes Newton Keith is the only American resident of Sandakan, the capital of British North Borneo. She is married to British colonial officer Harry Keith and, unknown to him, is pregnant with their second child. Concerned about rumors that, in the event of war, Japanese troops could come through the East Indies, Henry suggests that Agnes and their four-year-old son George return to America. Agnes insists on staying but agrees to send George back. However, before that can happen, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor and the inhabitants of Sandakan are advised that they will soon be invaded, that they cannot be evacuated and that they must not cooperate with the Japanese. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese, led by Colonel Michio Suga, take over the area. Suga, who speaks English fluently, asks to see Agnes as he has read the Japanese edition of a book she has written about Borneo, and asks her to autograph a copy of the American edition. He talks of his children, a girl and two boys, one a little younger than George. The Japanese occupation of Sandakan is a very trying time, and after a month, Agnes has a miscarriage. In May 1942, the Japanese Army orders that all Europeans be evacuated to prison camps and that men and women be imprisoned separately. George goes with his mother by small boat to Berhala, a desolate, ill-equipped camp, where they endure nine months of filth, hunger and degradation. The men are only a few hundred yards away in a separate compound and, occasionally, notes can be passed between them. Thus, a meeting is arranged between Agnes and Harry. Leaving George, who is feverish, in the care of her friend, Betty Sommers, a terrified Agnes sneaks out under the wire, past the guards, to meet Harry for the first time in five months. However, while Agnes is away, George's fever worsens and Betty has to go to the camp's captain to plead for quinine. The captain decides to see George's condition for himself, and Agnes makes it back to the barracks just before he arrives. The women eventually leave Berhala but the men remain there. After ten days at sea in miserable conditions, the women arrive at another appalling camp, run by Lieutenant Nekata, who tells them that the war will last another ten years. Although the women are forced to labor in the rice paddies, their daily food ration consists of one cupful of thin rice gruel, five tablespoonfuls of rice, an occasional vegetable and a cup of tea. One day, Agnes is summoned to Nekata's office to discover that Suga is there, having been put in charge of all camps in the area. He has brought a copy of Agnes' book, which he took from her house, and she autographs it "To Colonel Michio Suga-a lover of beautiful letters." One night, a group of Australian male prisoners-of-war from a nearby camp come to flirt with the women and try to climb the wire fences. Suddenly, the compound is ablaze with light and the guards begin shooting the men, horrifying the women with the sight of bodies impaled on the wire. Months later, Agnes is brutally attacked by one of the guards and complains to Suga. He assigns Nekata to conduct an investigation but Agnes cannot identify her assailant as it was too dark. Suga apologizes to her but, once he leaves the camp, Agnes is again interrogated by Nekata, who insists that she identify the man from a line-up. When she cannot do this, Nekata orders her to sign a document denying that she was attacked. Agnes refuses to sign as, she knows Nekata can have her executed for falsely accusing a Japanese soldier if she does. Agnes is tortured but refuses to sign. Later, Agnes is summoned for another interrogation, and fearing she will not return, she asks Betty to look after George. Nekata is about to torture her again when Suga returns to the camp and learns that Agnes has now decided to drop all charges. In May 1945, the women are working in the fields when the area is bombed by Allied planes. Although they hope the attack means their freedom is imminent, three months pass before the Australian Air Force drops leaflets announcing that Japan has surrendered and that help will arrive as soon as possible. Suga tells Agnes that his wife and children have been killed in the Hiroshima bombing. Later, when Suga finds George and two young friends scavenging for food, he invites them to a picnic at his house where, upon seeing the happy children, he breaks down. One morning, the women awake to find that their captors have left. Soon, trucks loaded with Australian soldiers and liberated male prisoners from surrounding camps arrive, and Suga is captured. Agnes' friend Betty reunites with her husband but there is no sign of Harry. After Agnes and George keep a vigil at the camp's entrance, Harry finally appears on crutches. Although barely able to walk, Harry runs toward Agnes, but falls in the dusty road. Agnes and George rush to help him, and the family is together once more.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 20 Feb 1950|
|Release Date:||1950||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
Leonard Maltin Ratings & Review
LEONARD MALTIN MOVIE RATING
LEONARD MALTIN MOVIE REVIEW:
User Ratings & Review
This title has not been reviewed. Be the FIRST to write a review by CLICKING HERE >
User Ratings & Review
Mr. Blandings 2011-08-24
Emotionally gripping film with another outstanding performance by Ms. Colbert. Not the kind of film one can easily rewatch but it does make you appreciate...
Three Came Home (1950)
James Higgins 2009-12-06
This is such a fine and inspiring film, Claudette Colbert gives a stand out performance, and Sessue Hayakawa gives an amazing supporting performance. It...
Gritty and Gutsy Movie
This is an important movie, well documenting a part of the war that should never be forgotten. Yet, the movie never preaches and avoids falling into the...