Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The year is 1942: eight American airmen crash-land during the Doolittle bombing raid on Tokyo and are taken prisoner. Though slated for execution, the pilots are put through a "show trial" by the military, on a charge of committing war crimes. The Japanese judges promise to be merciful if only the Americans will reveal vital US military secrets. But captain Dana Andrews speaks for the rest of his melting-pot crew-some of whom have been subjected to the most horrific of tortures--when he chooses death before dishonor. In its own way, The Purple Heart is as racist a piece of propaganda as was ever produced by Hollywood. The Japanese are shown to be little more than sadistic beasts (at one point, the judges interrupt the trial by moronically shouting "Banzai" after receiving news of a military victory), while hissing, buck-toothed interrogator Richard Loo ("I attended your...Amelican universities"), unable to admit that he's been wrong about Yankee resilience, commits hara-kiri. Remember, however, that The Purple Heart was made at a time when America was still at war with Japan, and political correctness was hardly a consideration. Its jingoism aside, the film is a first-rate piece of moviemaking, socked across by director Lewis Milestone with the same fervor that he'd expended on his anti-war masterpiece All Quiet on the Western Front (1930).
Japanese [nationality], military, military-trial, POW (Prisoner of War), torture, war, war-crimes, bombing