A Few Words About A few words about...™ Tora Tora Tora -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Something has always bothered me about Tora Tora Tora, an otherwise decent account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

    What troubles me is the stupid Americans.

    Really, idiotically portrayed, stupid Americans.

    As the Japanese fliers head over the Hawaiian Islands, there this cute little scene with a woman teaching a young man to fly. It's cute because while we see dozens of not-yet enemy planes forming behind her, she does't have a clue, and finally takes over the controls, and gets out of the traffic.

    As the planes fly low over military buildings, battleships, aircraft carriers, etc. our presumed idiot military appears to be watching an air show. These are Japanese planes! Two officers suggest that for flying low they should be reported. "Get that fellas number!" The leader of a military band just continues on, finally realizing that something might be up, and has the band play faster, just before bullets and bombs fly.

    Now I know that our military wasn't stupid in Pearl Harbor. They've never been stupid. I have huge respect for our military, which is probably why this bothers me. There were communication breakdowns, and well, let's be honest. The Japanese didn't precisely play by the rules. A great may lives were lost at Pearl Harbor, and what troubles me is that I don't find it in any way, well...

    funny.

    But that's the way that it's played. There's some abominably bad acting here, which reminds me of the way that Otto Preminger had Peter Lawford, as a British officer, making comments about the Jews in Exodus. I don't have a problem that he makes the comments. That's his character. It's Preminger's direction that makes him look, well... stupid.

    I don't mean that Tora Tora Tora is a bad film. It isn't. But it really isn't a very good film, especially for something of epic proportions.

    As is the norm, Fox presents the film as a beautifully produced Blu-ray, and for this new release makes available the Japanese version, that runs 154 minutes, in addition to the domestic.

    I truly wished that I liked this film more, but I don't. I find the performances wooden, and well... enough said.

    Tora Tora Tora, in two versions from Fox is a beautifully produced Blu-ray of a very large, okay production. For those who are fans of the film, and there are many, you'll be thrilled by this Blu-ray presentation

    RAH
     
  2. rsmithjr

    rsmithjr Screenwriter

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    I agree with many of your points. A few notes:
    1. The Japanese are also played rather stereotypically with overly formal and intense gestures.
    2. The Japanese ambassador and his staff are practically out of a Mac Sennett comedy.
    3. It is my understanding that many actual conversations and events were taken practically verbatim for the screenplay. That is likely why much of it seems so wooden.
    4. Many seemingly implausible events such as the handling of the radar and the telegram actually occurred as far as I know.
    5. One of the biggest blunders on either side may be Admiral Nagumo's failure to order a third strike, which might have made the recovery at Pearl much more difficult had that strike been ordered.
    6. It is not mentioned in the film that a reason for not revealing too much of the intelligence is that the Americans were trying to keep the fact that the Japanese code had been broken very much a secret. As it happens, the Japanese never did figure out that their communications were being successfully monitored, which was a big factor at Midway 6 months later. Many historians think that Midway really decided the Pacific theater, although many other battles such as Saipan and the Battle of the Philippine Sea were yet to be fought.
    7. The film provides a very fair assessment of Kimmel and Short, who were unfairly (IMHO) blamed for everything at the time. One sees that they were trying hard to figure things out and do a good job.
    8. The most important person in the film is arguably Yamamoto. I think he comes off very well.
    I do admire a film that tried so hard to replicate much of what actually happened.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Still "one hell of a way to start a war."
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Yes, I don't agree with RAH's assessment of the film as I found it very informative and quite different than most WWII up to this time in the way it chronicles the events leading up to the Attack and the Attack itself. Sure, there was some mediocre or bad acting in the film, but I look at the film as more of a docudrama which might not be entirely accurate in details, but provides a good narrative of what took place back then. I think it does a much better job of showing the details of the battle than say The Battle of the Bulge which took all kinds of artistic liberties with that battle.





    Crawdaddy
     
  5. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    I'm already in for buying and appreciating whatever it has to offer, but this is all especially interesting, because "wooden acting" or "docudrama" or the many other descriptives above are not out of line with my own vague memories/impressions from having seen the film only once upon its release...at a tender age. I sat through it dutifully, with of course my dad and mom getting the most out of it. It's too bad this one misses the mark of excellence in the telling and the portrayals. Nevertheless, as I can now far better appreciate both the great and the less-great films about "my father's war", I rather look forward to the long-ish exposition, slow buildup, etc., and to a re-read of these comments after seeing it.
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    A great deal of accuracy is there, and for many it will be a way of learning more about the attach without having to read about it.

    Giving it appropriate thought, I'm probably let down by the concept of what it might have been, especially considering the talent involved.

    It's a very popular film.

    RAH
     
  7. Stefan Andersson

    Stefan Andersson Second Unit

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    Some information that may be of interest:
    A recent article on the restoration of the film:
    http://www.military.com/entertainment/movies/movie-news/digital-magic-restores-tora-tora-tora?comp=1198882887570&rank=3
    The article briefly mentions 10 mins. of footage only seen in the Japanese version of the film. It also says footage shot by Akira Kurosawa, originally intended to direct the film, could not be found. Around a year ago there were brief online news items saying approx. 8-10 mins. of footage shot by Kurosawa had been found. Maybe they were really referring to the footage from the Japanese version.
    See also http://akirakurosawa.info/2011/12/06/new-tora-tora-tora-blu-ray-released-footage-shot-by-kurosawa-assumed-lost/
    A storyboard by Mr. Kurosawa: http://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/5965962 (go to upper left hand corner and click to enlarge)
    Kurosawa´s 659-page screenplay to be published (in Japanese I assume, apparently including storyboards):
    http://akirakurosawa.info/2011/12/06/tora-tora-tora-screenplay-by-kurosawa-oguni-and-kikushima-to-be-published-electronically/
     
  8. Ernest

    Ernest Supporting Actor

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    At the time of WW II America was trying very hard to not get dragged into another European war as they were in WW I. America tried to diplomatically deal with Japan's invasion into China and other Asian countries by placing an embargo on raw material Japan desperately needed. Our leaders never thought Japan would attack our Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and Tora Tora Tora clearly shows our lack of concern. This movie is presented as a documentary drama retelling the events as they happened. The acting is fine it is the screen play based on actual events that makes the acting seem wooden.
    The events describing our service men not understanding the value of radar are supposedly true. One needs to understand at that time (1941) the British were the only ones that truly understood the value of radar. Tora Tora Tora is an excellent movie from a documentary perspective to be enjoyed the same as watching "The War", "WW II in HD"," Vietnam in HD" . If you are looking for more of an action packed movie with romance than Pearl Harbor with Ben Afflec is for you.
     
  9. FrancisP

    FrancisP Screenwriter

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    The fact is that these are the facts as they happened. It may not be pretty
    The incident with the female pilot getting caught in a flock of Japanese planes actually happened. There was nothing phony about it.
    Also every blunder the Americans made that were depicted in the film actually happened. The failure to mark a telegram urgent, blowing off the radar contact of the Japanese planes, the failure to follow up on the Ward's contact with a enemy submarine as well as other assorted goofs. The fact is that the Americans did very little right that morning. I also think some scenes were designed to show how complete the surprise was. As a result, you have some scenes where the officers think these are planes doing training.
    The Japanese had planned to play by the rules. The fact is that the Japanese had planned to deliver their declaration of war before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet in one of the few Japanese blunders, they had no clerk typist that had enough clearance to see the messages. As a result, it was delivered well after the attack. It also does a good job of showing the political climate in Japan. The fact that the Army was pushing for war while the Navy and diplomats were against war. Of course, the Army's opinion was all that counted. It also gives us a true picture of Yamamoto. He spent considerable time in the US and the movie depicts this in scenes where he tells a diplomat that they would have to dictate terms from the White House and later when he tells his officers that despite the uninformed opinion of the Japanese people, America would be the most formidable foe that they had ever faced.
     
  10. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    Tora! Tora! Tora! has always seemed particularly realistic, to me at least, because it tried very hard to stick to the facts, including the 'goofs' that in a traditional Hollywood script you really couldn't make up. Incidentally, whilst I hesitate to quote Wikipedia, I read this a while back:
    ...which seems to be quite likely.
     
  11. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    RAH wrote:
    "Something has always bothered me about Tora Tora Tora, an otherwise decent account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
    What troubles me is the stupid Americans....."
    I think several Americans are shown in the film to be smart, shrewd, and capable. They do figure out what's going to happen before it happens, which is true to history. But with a more than average level of SNAFUs, also portrayed in a way that is true to history, it was too little too late.
    When looked at closely as it is in the film this is an uncomfortable event in history for Americans, portrayed with unusual accuracy for a Hollywood film.
    It is also unusual (and much, much better than that later Pearl Harbor film of a decade ago) in that it shows with equal force how step by step the Japanese decided to engage in an attack that would eventually result in national disaster for them. And the irony that the attack was masterminded by Isoroku Yamamoto, who knew better than anyone in the Japanese military that his country was not likely to win a protracted war with the US, is shown well in the film.
    The final quote in the film by Yamamoto, however, does not seem to be accurate. It does roughly equal something that he does appear to have written:
    "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack."
    The bottom line for me is that this is a good film and a strong blu-ray.
    I wish we also had the (in a sense) sequel to this film on blu-ray! Spencer Tracy in THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO. This is also a solid and accurate (for Hollywood) film on the bold US strike ordered by FDR shortly after Pearl Harbor...
    From wikipedia:
    Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo is a 1944 MGM war film. It is based on the true story of America's first retaliatory air strike against Japan four months after the December 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The movie was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Sam Zimbalist. The screenplay by Dalton Trumbo was based on the 1943 book of the same name by Captain Ted W. Lawson, a pilot who participated in the raid. In both the book and the film, Lawson gives an eyewitness account of the training, the mission, and the aftermath as experienced by his crew and others that flew on the Doolittle Raid of April 18, 1942. Lawson piloted "The Ruptured Duck", the seventh of 16 B-25s to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.
    The film stars Van Johnson as Lawson, Phyllis Thaxter as his wife Ellen, Robert Walker as Corporal David Thatcher, Robert Mitchum as Lt. Bob Gray and Spencer Tracy as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the man who planned and led the raid.
    The film is noted for its accurate depiction of the historical details of the raid, as well as its use of actual wartime footage of the bombers in some flying scenes....
     
  12. Lyson

    Lyson Auditioning

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    Appreciate the discussion of what is my favorite of the various movies touching on the attack on Pearl Harbor. The behind the curtains views of both American and Japanese military and political provide a somewhat unusual perspective. This is something I also enjoy about The Longest Day. When you think about it the failures of both the US and Germans to connect the respective dots early enough allow both attacks to succeed although the way the US ships were strung together off Ford Island would likely have resulted in a lot of damage being inflicted on the Navy in just about any scenario.
    I agree that some of the American depiction - like the band reference is cartoonish - but overall I think they successfully convey the surprise attack conveyed many different reactions or responses - just as 911 did.
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    For the record, I don't dispute that certain things may have occurred in the heat of an attack from nowhere. My problem is with the way that specifically two tiny bits were played in the opening attack, as directed, in the film -- specifically the two officers being made to sound like hall monitors, as what are obviously Japanese aircraft fly overhead, and the band leader... playing on. The film has many positives and negatives for me, but in the end, as entertainment, as opposed to history, at least for me, the negatives win out.

    It does attempt to show the lead up to hostilities, and notably does it on an equal basis for both sides, something I'd not seen in other films. Having quality actors and directors each recreating their stories is also of great interest. On the negative side, are many, what I consider to be wooden performances, of actors reading lines while people work in the background, and it leaves this looking like a movie as opposed to lifting to a higher level, where we hit suspension of disbelief. This never happens for me in this film.

    I do feel that it's a quality history lesson.

    As to Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, I agree that it's a suburb M-G-M production, with a great cast, directed by the incomparable Mervyn LeRoy, with a screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, and photographed by two great cinematographers:

    Harold Rosson, whose work goes far back into the mid-teen silent era, and shot productions such as The Docks of New York (Sternberg), Madam Satan (DeMille), Red-Headed Woman, Red Dust, Treasure Island, The Garden of Allah, The Wizard of Oz, Edison, the Man, Honky Tonk, The Hucksters, Command Decision, The Asphalt Jungle, Singin' in the Rain, The Bad Seed and El Dorado.

    And Robert Surtees -- King Solmon's Mines, Quo Vadis, The Bad and the Beautiful, Mogambo, Oklahoma!, Raintree County, Ben-Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), The Collector, Doctor Doolittle, The Graduate, Coogan's Bluff, Sweet Charity, The Last Picture Show, The Sting and The Turning Point, among others.

    Thirty seconds had the best in the business both in front of and behind the cameras, in all departments.

    I'd also love to see it make an appearance on Blu-ray, but as it's difficult to get some of the top Bogart films into the marketplace, we may have to live with the standard def DVD, which is in print, at $6.49.

    RAH
     
  14. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    It's nice to see that RAH also admires Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. I'm sure some others feel the same way. And thanks, RAH, for telling us about all of the talent involved in Thirty Seconds, which I was not aware of for the most part. No wonder it was such a good film! Where some other productions during the war are just, well, not realistic, this one very much is for a Hollywood film. And in some ways, if I'm remembering it right, the structure for good or ill is somewhat parallel to Tora--there's a long, long build up to a dramatic climax at the end. It's a black and white film, but the production values are quite good. Even the special effects are impressive for 1944.
    And as much as I do like Tora, I think RAH is correct in saying that it's probably more of a good history lesson than a great dramatic movie. For me and some others it still works, but the wooden quality he identifies is certainly there. But still I think it's quite an impressive production overall, and a blu-ray with wonderful PQ. I read that Tora cost the, for the time, quite steep sum of $25 million, which would be about $140 million in today's dollars. Probably it was in part paid for with the profits from Sound of Music....Does anyone know how Tora did at the box office back in 1970?
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    According to IMDb, cost was 25, gross 14.5.
     
  16. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Wow, quite a lot of red ink. This one, Dr. Doolittle, and Star spent all of the profits from Sounds of Music, plus a whole lot more, no doubt. After facing near doom with Cleopatra, Fox was probably almost back there again by 1970....
    I still have hope for the Bogart films, but you're right it is taking quite a while.
    I assume Thirty Seconds is owned by Warner at this point, so maybe there's a little bit of hope...
     
  17. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Well, it's kind of hard to accomplish that when the outcome of that battle and war is so well known. While RAH might be correct on some of the acting performances, I think the film depicts the course of those events accurately and did so very well.
     
  18. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I find the approach to the dramatic layout of Tora! Tora! Tora! as effective in its own way as 1776 was. In both, we know the outcome before we start the film. What's fascinating, at least for me, was seeing how we got to that end point. In Tora! we find out that the surprise attack SHOULDN'T have been a surprise. There were safeguards and equipment in place to waylay it but for a set of extraordinary circumstances (it was Sunday so a skeleton staff was working), snafus, miscommunications, and hubris on the part of several officers and people in charge one after another starting all the way back to the decision to put the planes together in the center of the field to discourage sabotage. The movie lays these circumstances out point by point, all the while showing the Japanese getting ever closer to their objective, and I found it dramatically adept and often gripping. And once we get to the attack, it's a terrific action set piece, too.
     
  19. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    What's amazing to me is that Marshall and Stark didn't simply call their commanders at Pearl Harbor.
     
  20. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    A few quick points, not arranged in any particular order.
    I saw Tora, Tora, Tora when it came out, and the theater was not full. After I had watched for about 20 minutes or so, I realized that the Japanese scenes were being filmed in a very different manner than the American ones, very stylized sets, and stylized placements of figures within the frame, especially when the camera was dealing with the Japanese officers and various conferences. The American scenes didn't seem to have any style in particular, or rather, they were simply not as stylized as the Japanese ones. I didn't know whether I was seeing a specific approach, determined by both crews, or whether I was seeing a reflection of two different (national) film styles, but I thought it was pretty cool anyway.
    Historian Ian Kershaw published a book a few years ago called Fateful Choices, which analyzed the decision-making processes of the various governments during 1940-41, including the Japanese decision to attack the US fleet at Pearl Harbour. He suggests a couple of things relevant to the discussion, first, the declaration of war was supposed to be delivered either at or very shortly before the attack took place. As Francis P. has noted, snafus at the Japanese embassy prevented that from happening; however, the US had already decoded the message some hours before, and knew what it contained. Second, it's not quite true that the Japanese Navy didn't want war where the Army did. Kershaw points out that all elements of the armed forces were in favour of war – they needed raw materials to sucessfully prosecute the war in China, which was kind of their Vietnam, a quagmire – and had decided that creating a colonial empire was the way to do it. The movie simplifies a more complex situation, where the the Navy favoured one strategy to achieve this aim, and the Army favoured a knockout blow against the US, followed by a quick war to secure the colonial territories, and then being able to deal with the US from a position of strength. Hirohito decided in favour of the Army's strategy.
    As near as I can figure (i.e., using an internet calculator, which you can find here http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/) 14.5 million gross is about 80 million in today's dollars, and a 25 million budget would be about 140 million today.
    And I will definitely be getting a copy, because, with all its flaws, I still enjoy it tremendously, especially the airplanes, which are real, and not CGI. The Battle of Britain has very similar flaws, but I value it partly because the late 1960s was a good time to film these stories. There was enough distance from the war for the adversaries to see each other as human, but it was still close enough that actual participants could give the film-makers information about what it was like to be there. As well, it has a great scene, almost at the end of the film, featuring one of my favourite character actors, Neville Brand (not looking his best, I admit), as an Army sergeant I think, who has to send off a cable about the attack, and the little boy who is a runner is a young Japanese-American. Great scene. The whole audience drew in its breath.
     

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