Captain C. J. Cardigan (David Farrar) has been tasked with capturing Jim Brecan (Robert Ryan), a man accused of killing the son of the royal family. While the royals want Brecan executed, the British captain insists he should be legally tried for the crime.
Brecan manages to elude capture for a while, but may finally be caught when he goes to the plantation owned by fellow American Gwen Moore (Barbara Stanwyck). That’s just where Cardigan expected him to hide out.
Escape to Burma was directed by Allan Dwan, who had been directing films since 1911 — nearly 45 years by the time this one was released! The screenplay was written by Talbot Jennings and Hobart Donavan from a story by Kenneth Perkins.
Escape to Burma is a pretty soapy film — a pulp-drama rather than one to be wholly taken seriously. But pulp isn’t a bad thing! The film is more than watchable if you can just sit back and have fun with it, enjoying it for what it is.
And although it is pulpy, that doesn’t mean it’s lacking its share of tension. There are a few effective scenes of suspense, and plenty of action.
This technicolor adventure features a lush landscape that looks wonderful even on my cheap VCI DVD. It wasn’t filmed on location in Burma, but captures the type of wild landscape a ’50s viewer would expect from a film set in such an unfamiliar place.
Stanwyck’s role is that of Gwen Moore, an American owner of a Burma teak wood plantation. Gwen loves elephants and hangs out with orangutans. (“The more I see of you two, the more I like elephants,” she tells Cardigan and Jim in one scene.)
Though the setting is more “exotic” and some of her associates have four legs, the character of Gwen isn’t all that different from the tough-gal ranchers and horsewomen Stanwyck played in several Westerns. Gwen isn’t one of her most memorable performances, but it’s still a good one — one of the film’s strong points, along with the performance of Robert Ryan.
Though I would consider Stanwyck the real reason to tune in here, the story is decently engaging, and a revelation involving the plague wraps the drama up in an interesting, unexpected way. Recommended for die-hards of Stanwyck or fans of jungle adventures.