24 February 2002 | petershelleyau
superior to the later Paradise Road
The tale of American army and navy nurses who are prisoners during the Japanese occupation of the Phillipines in the second world war. Kristy McNichol appears in the Bataan Death March, as one of gender disorientation, since her killing of a Japanese soldier makes the others assume she is a boy. In a memorable scene McNichol and Susan Sarandon slug it out as a form of self-punishment for the gratification of the guards. McNichol's role is supportive to Sarandon who is the star, but she brings her usual tomboyish spunkiness to proceedings. The teleplay by Jonas McCord rationalises the Japanese's brand of cruelty with the idea that they do not believe in surrender. They would rather suicide than be shamed in the way they believe the women have allowed themselves to be, and therefore the Japanese think the prisoners deserve no kindness. However not every guard enacts this philosophy, with one noticeably friendly to one woman who falls pregnant, and the commander being an American-Japanese, having being raised in San Francisco, makes him more amenable to Sarandon's requests for mercy. The treatment is narrated by Sarandon, at a post-war hearing, so we know she will survive the camp, but it does not answer the question of why the Americans left the Phillipines so quickly once they declared war on Japan. The idea that they are not aware that any Americans have remained in the area is raised at the camp's liberation, but clearly sentiment is against Douglas MacArthur when he announces his withdrawal. Director Buzz Kulik uses black and white newsreel footage and matching decoloured recreations for the progression of the war.