South Sea Woman [1953]

Burt Lancaster made this picture the same year as the great From Here to Eternity, but other than sharing a military backdrop, that's about where the similarities end. South Sea Woman does have Lancaster in his prime, as a swaggering Marine undergoing a mysterious court-martial after World War II. The nature of his alleged offenses won't become clear until we hear all the testimony, which the movie provides in a series of flashbacks. The story's a goof: how Burt and Marine buddy Chuck Connors end up on an island with gin-slinging dame Virginia Mayo, doing battle with the Vichy French, the Japanese, and each other. There's also a cross-dressing scene, a highly questionable native dance, and assorted slapstick. Journeyman director Arthur Lubin (guiding light of the Francis movies--the talking mule, not Ford Coppola) manages to work up some brawny action in the big climax, and the movie unexpectedly goes for a bit of grandness around Connors' character. Connors, the future star of The Rifleman TV show, was still new to the acting game at this point, having been discovered as a baseball player a year or so earlier. Tall, lean and toothy, he easily holds his own with Lancaster--but then, nobody has to work too hard in these minor, mildly entertaining circumstances. --Robert Horton

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