Escape to Burma (1955)
This RKO release featuring two top tier stars from our vantage point looking back seems to have borrowed a script from the basement cellar of poverty row studio Monogram Pictures.
When Robert Ryan flees the local Sultan on a murder charge in Burma he treks through the jungles and swamps until he runs right into an estate Lorded over by Barbara Stanwyck. She takes one look at the big tall guy and judging by the look in her eyes she’s about to conquer any sexual frustrations she might be harboring. After all she’s a single woman overseeing her property in the middle of Burma with nary a white man equal to her in sight. Her character is kind of a poor imitation in a gender switch on Charlton Heston’s Leiningen in The Naked Jungle. Cue the Heston Cameo!
Barbara is so swept up in the moment she isn’t all that concerned about Ryan’s story or the fact that he sleeps with a gun and has a sack full of rubies tied around his neck. For safe keeping, Ryan agrees to let her store them in her safe.
With a bit of stock footage supplied by the producers, director Allan Dwan places Barbara in danger as she goes up against an angry tiger. This in order to pacify the local natives and their superstitions and get them back to working the fields of her tea plantation that is suitably aided by working elephants. Thankfully her hero is on hand to rescue her when the tiger gets the upper hand. Perhaps “upper paw” would be a better phrase. Either way it’s all a rather silly bit leading to a campfire love scene.
Into the couple’s Eden comes David Farrar as a local police officer hunting Ryan. The man he is accused of killing is the heir to the throne and the rubies are reputed to be stolen. Ryan is stoic and refuses to admit or deny anything yet Barbara is steadfast in defending her man. Ryan once again heads into the backlot jungles with both Barbara and Farrar trailing his every step.
When Farrar realizes Barbara is on Ryan’s side and refuses to help he interjects in classic camp style only a “B” film lover could appreciate, “He’s made love to you hasn’t he?” Incredible! But laugh out loud silly.
Plot points are sure to come out down the stretch of this 83 minute programmer that will be sure to set things straight on whether or not Ryan is guilty of murder or just a rather stubborn and not all that wise character. One almost assumes that this was looked at as just another payday or a film owed to RKO by the two brand name stars. In reality they should have been paired in a Noir/Crime Drama as opposed to this adventure that one expects Tarzan of the day Gordon Scott to jump out at in his loin cloth
Stanwyck and Ryan did work together previously in a much more suitable piece for Fritz Lang in 1952’s Clash By Night.
There’s very little to recommend here other than the two leads if they are on your list of faves. Ryan has always fascinated me so anytime I get the opportunity to catch up on a film that he graces I quickly do so. As for Barbara she’s always been a favorite so finding a copy of this on DVD from VCI is a nice catch even if the film is second rate and seems to be an outdated 1930’s script turning up in the mid fifties.