(1944)3Craig ButlerAlthough The Purple Heart was widely hailed when it was first released, modern audiences may not be quite as receptive to it. In 1944, with the war still ongoing, there was an emotional connection and an immediacy to this material that is simply lacking decades later. Even in its time, Heart had a propagandistic agenda, and its depiction of the Japanese was not totally on-the-mark even then. (This isn't to say that there were not horrific abuses by Japan, merely that the film's depiction is by design intended to amplify these abuses.) But there are other problems unrelated to this, mainly the obvious and manipulative dramatic structure of the film and the manner in which logic falls by the wayside for dramatic purposes. The chief culprits in this last regard are the courtroom "celebration" scene, the hara-kiri sequence, and the court allowing Dana Andrews and Sam Levene the freedom to mouth off at some length. Even with these failings, however, Heart manages to be exceptionally powerful, thanks in large part to Lewis Milestone's masterful direction. He handles the material with total commitment, and the depth of feeling he brings to the project is palpable and invaluable. Plus, Milestone's inquisitive camera is much in evidence, moving around what could be static courtroom sequences to create as much drama as it captures. The cast is quite good, with Andrews providing the strong center and significant turns from Levene, Richard Conte and others as well. Even Richard Loo's stereotypical enemy works in context; it's not a subtle portrait, but it's got oomph.