The Children of An Lac (1980)

Ina Balin and Beulah Quo in The Children of An Lac (1980)

The Children of Saigon

As part of the USO touring Vietnam during the 60s actress Ina Balin (playing herself) became aware of the plight of the orphans in the country returning many times over the years as she became involved with the work at the An Lac orphanage in Saigon. But in 1975 as the communists look set to take the city Ina with the help of Madame Ngai (Beulah Quo) who runs the orphanage and Red Cross volunteer Betty Tisdale (Shirley Jones) set about trying to evacuate all 400 orphans, flying them to America.

"The Children of An Lac" is one of those movies that if you watch aware of the true story it is based on you really want to love. Unfortunately whilst the true story on which it is based is commendable and as a whole "The Children of An Lac" is both interesting and entertaining it is by no means a great movie with a mix of issues holding it back from at times a feeling of being rushed to some awkward acting which makes it feel less than subtle. To put that into context there is a scene where Ina Balin is flying to Vietnam and a man starts chatting to her at which point she tells him all about the An Lac orphanage, giving the sort of detail you only find in movies where they need to tell the audience stuff because they don't have the time or money to do it more naturally.

Unfortunately through out "The Children of An Lac" there are more scenes which end up feeling forced in a similar way to that one on the plane and it has the effect of becoming at times a little like a lecture rather than a movie. It is a shame as what these 3 women did and the bravery it took to try and evacuate so many orphans is powerful stuff especially when you hear about the personal danger they put themselves in. But unfortunately whilst telling their story this made for TV movie doesn't do it justice although it is aided not only by Ina Balin starring in her own story but also through the performances of Shirley Jones and Beulah Quo who manage to make some of the more forced scenes engaging.

What this all boils down to is that "The Children of An Lac" tells a story which without question deserves to be told. But unfortunately as a movie "The Children of An Lac" is riddled with issues which weaken the stories power especially when it resorts to spoon feeding information in a forced manner.