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Blood Alley (1955)

Duration1h 50m
RatingsUK: U, USA: Approved, Netherlands: 6
Source of storyA book of the same name by A. S. Fleischman
DirectorWilliam A. Wellman
Writers/ScriptA. S. Fleischman
StarringJohn Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Paul Fix, Joy Kim and lots of Chinese actors.
RatingsIMDb: 6.2/10 by 3,400 people .  Rotten Tomatoes: 40% by 5 critics. Review2view: 5.5/10

Summary: An American ship captain, Tom Wilder, jailed by the communists in Shanghai, is broken out of jail and taken to the village of Chiku Shan, whose elders have arranged for his escape. He is told he is to captain a ferry boat, containing all the villagers to Hong Kong. He meets Cathy Grainger, a young woman whose father, we find, has been executed by the communists. Also when the village is being searched by communist soldiers one attempts to rape Cathy, but is killed by Wilder. The plan is acted on, the ferry is captured and loaded with the villagers and their stuff, and a patrol boat is wrecked  by sunken sampans. Once at sea a disident group sabotage the trip by poisoning the food and tainting the water. The ferry calls in at “the ship graveyard” which allows them to replace the water, collect wood and catch fish. But they are attacked by a Chinese warship. To escape Wilder takes the ferry into the marches, eventually outdistancing the warship and reaching Hong Kong.

Content: No sex or nudity, some beer drinking and a bit of smoking. A lot of time spent in the village in preparation for the escape. There is a Rolls Royce in a yard, immobile but sat in by a village headman. The captain is freed and spends time in a sampan being ferried to the village. He and Cathy are slightly antagonistic, but she is more friendly after he protects her. Once the ferry is captured the rest of the film concerns the voyage. The captain is seen often spinning the wheel, and has to remember the route, and draw his own chart. There is a big set piece when the ferry is alongside the hulks, and then is fired on by the warship. Thereafter it is towed through the marshes to get away from the Chinese.

A View: This slightly odd anti-communist film has a sort of creaking charm. It is obvious that the ferry is real, although it seems to be bigger on the inside than the outside. The captain does the steering, and so does Cathy, but there seems to be no room for a compass in the wheelhouse. As usual the lights are on in the night and the logistics seem to be all over the place. I have travelled the route from Shanghai to Hong Kong, and rather than the coastline being marshy, it features many mountainous islands. But even without its nautical limitations it is not a great film. Maybe have it on for nothing while doing your knitting.

From the vast number of films I have reviewed, only three of them have featured John Wayne. In addition to this one the others are How the West Was Won and The Longest Day.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels


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