Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An excellent commemorative film to watch today: TORA! TORA! TORA!

It never hurts to bring up a good movie again and again. Just in case you might have missed it the first time. Today, on the 70th Anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, this 1970 film came immediately to mind. (Here's my earlier review from last year.)

What I like best about TORA! TORA! TORA! is the matter of fact way the story is revealed, bit by bit, incident by mounting incident, ineptitude on top of ineptitude (on our side, at least). Much of the film is told from the point of view of the Japanese as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, December is put into motion.

The United States, slow to waken to the threat, caught off-guard through a series of political and military miscalculations adds to the awful tension because of course, we know what will happen next. The 'knowing' part doesn't ease any of the suspense, by the way. In some strange way, it only adds to it.

Best of all, there are no Huge Hollywood Names to muck up the cast with their 'star power'. The sort of thing which almost always disrupts the tension and takes you out of the story for a moment or two - just enough, usually, to spoil things. There is no romance, no side story going on, just the truly dreadful events leading up to our country's involvement in WWII.

Some of the actors are: Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, Jr., Joseph Cotten, James Whitmore, E.G. Marshall and in particular, George Macready as Secretary of State Cordell Hull. On the Japanese side, the actors are not as well known to me: So Yamamura, Tatsuya Mihashi, Takahiro Tamura and Eijiro Tono, among many others.

Not exactly household names and that's just as well. This cast of reputable character actors is just what this film needed to keep from glamorizing the event.

TORA! TORA! TORA! was co-directed by Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda.

The screenplay was written by Larry Forrester, Hideo Oguni, Ryuzo Kikushima, Gordon W. Prange, Ladislas Farago and Akira Kurasawa has an uncredited writing credit (according to IMdB).

My favorite line comes at the end of the film when the Japanese admiral muses that in their actions that day, all they have done is 'awakened a sleeping giant.'

To read about the actual attack on Pearl Harbor, please use this link.


  1. I saw this film nearly three decades ago and liked it more than PEARL HARBOUR. I remember a particular scene where a torpedo or missile snakes through the ground before exploding. You could actually see it. Am I right? Martin Balsam gives a fine performance as well as he does in CATCH-22.

  2. Planning to watch this one tonight. I've seen it once (a couple years ago, I think) and I'm looking forward to seeing it again.

  3. Prashant: Like Elizabeth, I plan on watching this tonight. I don't remember the rocket in the ground scene, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. Sounds very familiar.

    All the performances are good. But my favorite has to be George Macready (as Cordell Hull). The scene where he sputters with outrage over the Japanese ambassador's deception is priceless. Nobody could sputter like Macready.

  4. Me too, Elisabeth. In many ways, its really a remarkable film.

  5. If there is one genre I have trouble with, it is war movies. I just sob all the way through them.

  6. This one shouldn't make you cry, Patti. It's mostly documentary in feel and there are no intensely personal stories.

    Mostly it just made me angry. The futility of it all.

  7. My concern is the young people today really have no interest in any of this. I just did a post on Pearl. I have a lot of WWII movies.
    I just watched a documentary On
    FDR, Gosh I was about 4years old
    that Sunday morning. All the neighbors were talking over the fences and on the street.

  8. My dad fought in Italy and elsewhere and it wasn't until he passed away a few years ago at the age of 88 that we discovered he had some medals on his record. He never spoke about the war at all.

    At any rate, you're right about young people today having no interest in the past, Yvonne. It's a shame really, because we MUST learn from the past or else we're doomed to repeat it.

  9. I need to keep this in mind for movie night at our house. Paul's very picky about movies.

    My grandfather was stationed at Pearl Harbor (but not until 1944). He has the best stories, but I'm the only interested grandchild--my cousins couldn't care less. I can't believe they don't care that Grandpa met Gene Kelly! Then again, they're "normal" and I'm not.

  10. This is a really terrific movie, Lauren. I think Paul might like it. Especially since your grandfather was there in '44.

    Ah, what do your cousins know? :)


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