In 1942 the Japanese Army takes occupation of North Borneo and imprisons the colonial population. American writer Agnes Newton Keith (Colbert) and her young son George (Keuning) are sent to a women’s camp, while her British husband (Knowles) goes off with the men. The Japanese Colonel Suga (Hayakawa) is a fan of Keith’s work, and initially it seems he might show her some favoritism. But for more than three years, Keith suffers continual hardship, while remaining unsure of her husband’s fate.
This touching drama is based on Keith’s actual memoir about her time in North Borneo before and during the war. The film vividly exposes the human cost of that conflict: starvation, humiliation, and torture are all touched on in this harrowing tale. But it also emphasizes the friendship and solidarity among the women prisoners. Most notable is the portrayal of Colonel Suga by Hayakawa (“The Bridge on the River Kwai”); it was possibly the first time that an American war drama showed a three-dimensional enemy character. Notably, Colbert was unable to star in “All about Eve” after hurting her back during production. Still this remained among her favorite roles.