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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Destination Tokyo (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). (1 Viewer)

Herb Kane

May 7, 2001

Destination Tokyo

Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: 1944
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 135 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97
Package: Keep Case

The Feature:
Similar to The Humphrey Bogart Collection boxed set that Warner Bros. released last year, they are about to release The Cary Grant Collection to commemorate the legendary actor’s 100th birthday. Unlike last years Bogart release, all of these releases are DVD debuts consisting of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947), My Favorite Wife (1940), Night And Day (1946) and the feature film, Destination Tokyo (1944). The film, a Warner Bros. production, is unique in that Destination Tokyo was the only military-action film Grant starred in during the war. It also marks the directorial debut of Delmer Daves (Pride Of The Marines, Dark Passage and 3:10 To Yuma). The titles can be purchased individually for $19.97 SRP or the entire boxed set can be purchased for $49.92.

Newly promoted Captain Cassidy (played by the suave and charismatic Cary Grant) is the skipper of the U.S. submarine, Copperfin and is about to embark on their fifth recent tour into action. The mission is top secret and even the Captain isn’t aware of the details until the 24th hour of their journey which starts in San Francisco. With the invasion of Japan imminent, Cassidy is given instructions to guide his vessel into through the Aleutian Islands and into Tokyo Bay to deploy a spy team on shore. Critical for the impending air raids, is knowledge of where the Japanese ships are deployed within the harbor and various temperature and weather readings, all of which are gathered and reported to the carriers for the attack that would be known as the Doolittle Raid.

There’s plenty of action along the way. The first suspenseful dive occurs when the crew comes under attack from a pair of Japanese Zero float planes. Both planes are downed but not before an unexploded bomb becomes lodged below the deck of the sub and must be manually disarmed. It’s during this event that many of the rookie crew members get their first glimpse at the horrors of war as one of their shipmates is killed while trying to rescue the downed Japanese pilot who just ejected from his plane. But the bulk of excitement comes as the sub enters enemy waters and must remain undetected if there mission is to be a success.

Much of the 135 minutes is spent in developing the characters who give great support aboard the submarine that includes a host of colorful personalities. In charge of the crew is the likeable and respected Captain Cassidy who doesn’t think much of wearing the newly issued stripes and cap. Then, there’s Wolf (played by John Garfield), who’s still the tough guy and likes to keep his shipmates amused with long tales of womanly encounters. Next up is the comical and always wisecracking cook, “Cookie” (played by Alan Hale Sr.) who never seems to get the appreciation he deserves. Even though many of the “special effects” might seem crude by today's standards, they still did a pretty decent job, considering what they had to work with at the time.

For those who missed the specs mentioned above, all of these titles come in individual keep cases, sans inserts. It would seem as though the studio has turned a corner and is listening to what the customers have requested. Here’s hoping the trend continues. Kudos to Warner Bros..!!

The Feature: 4/5

The film is presented in its OAR of 1.37:1 and I have a feeling fans of this film are going to be delighted.

Surprisingly, the film starts out with a fair amount of light shimmer, but that is short lived and the remainder of the picture looks pretty impressive. Black levels were exceptional and white always looked clean and stark. There was an extremely good sense of shadow detail with a healthy grayscale that was equally impressive.

Image detail for the most part was sharp with occasional instances of softness. There were a few scenes which looked exceptionally soft, but after seeing some of the clearly defined images, I’m confident it’s not transfer related. There was a minimal amount of fine to medium film grain present which was appropriate. Occasionally, there were instances of dimensionality and depth and for the most part, the movie presented itself in a film-like manner.

There were infrequent instances of dust and dirt as well as light speckle but never did I find them distracting. There were also a few occasions of vertical scratches but again, these were minimal. Thankfully, there was no evidence of any compression errors or artifacting etc.

During the commencement of the air raid, archival newsreel footage was used to show the planes taking off, much of which is in pretty rough shape but it’s not too distracting nor is it lengthy.

All in all a pretty impressive effort.

Video: 4/5

Presented in Dolby Digital monaural, this track is virtually flawless and does a most impressive job at doing what is required of it.

The track is absolutely free of any hiss or other anomalies and the overall fidelity of the track is natural, never sounding compressed. Dialogue was always exceptionally clear and bold.

Needless to say there are a ton of explosions and action sequences and monaural track does a reasonable job at keeping things realistic – well, as realistic as possible for the time. The dynamic range has a little bit of meat on its bones and does a pretty fair job. This track goes slightly beyond its expected limitations doing a first-rate job.

Audio: 4/5

Special Features:
Although the special features on this particular title are rather sparse, what is included is rather interesting.
[*] The first special feature is a Vitaphone presentation, The Gem Of The Ocean, which is an interesting short musical of sorts centered on a group of travelers aboard a cruise ship. It’s in reasonably good condition – although it seems to have little to do with the feature film. Duration: 21:49 minutes.
[*] A Theatrical Trailer Gallery which contains trailers for ten of Cary Grant’s films. Those included are:

- Bringing Up Baby (1938)
- Gunga Din (1939)
- My Favorite Wife (1940)
- The Philadelphia Story (1940)
- Destination Tokyo (1943)
- Arsenic And Old Lace (1944)
- Night And Day (1946)
- The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947)
- Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
- North By Northwest (1959)

All of these are in pretty respectable condition. Don’t suppose there’s anybody interested in the first two titles on that list… I love the inclusion of theatrical trailers, so needless to say I enjoy these clusters.

Special Features: 2.5/5

**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

Final Thoughts:
What an absolutely wonderful film. Many of the WWII wartime effort films were rather clichéd and patriotically predictable, but this film is slightly different. All of the performances are brilliant, particularly Grant’s as he is able to convey a true sense of fear during the mission’s darkest moments. The film is as engaging – if not moreso, than any of the modern day submarine films, as a tense battle drama. While the film has its requisite share of propaganda it was a necessary evil that allowed the troops and folks back home to be energized during the war.

Although this particular disc is a little light on extras (to be clear, it looks like there is plenty on the remaining titles), if this presentation is any indication of what’s in store for us with the other titles, this may very well get my vote to date for the bargain of the year. Purchasing these titles individually makes very little sense if you are even remotely interested in two or three of them, considering the boxed set can be had for around $35 bucks.

Now, I’m off to spend more time with Mr. Grant, and I can’t think of many others who I’d rather spend it with…

Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)

Highly Recommended…!!

Release Date: June 1st, 2004

george kaplan

Senior HTF Member
Mar 14, 2001
Looking forward to this as well as Bachelor and especially Mr. Blandings. Thanks for the review. :emoji_thumbsup:

One point I'd make about Destination Tokyo, is that this is a wartime film, and there are some unflattering generalizations about the Japanese (in particular their childrearing habits), but it's understandable as wartime propaganda, and doesn't keep this from being a great movie.

Robert Crawford

Senior HTF Member
Dec 9, 1998
Real Name
Thanks for the review, this is one dvd I can't hardly wait to get in a couple of days.

Garrett Adams

Supporting Actor
Sep 27, 2000
Slight correction. An invasion of Japan was not imminent. The Doolittle raid occurred on April 18, 1942. It was designed more as a headline grabber to boost U.S. morale, and as some payback for the attack on Pearl Harbor four months earlier.

Douglas Bailey

Second Unit
May 7, 2001
Massachusetts, USA
Real Name
Douglas Bailey
I'm amused that the back cover lists Gem of the Ocean as a "wartime short" when it was released in 1934.

As for the feature itself, I noticed several shots that had excessive brightness in a vertical band along the right edge of the screen. This comes and goes from shot to shot, so it's not a transfer problem: possibly an issue with the original elements? In any event, it's not a significant flaw and didn't put me off my viewing at all.

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