TORA! TORA! TORA! CINEMA CLASSICS COLLECTION Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year/Length: 144 minutes Genre: Drama/War/History Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English 4.1 Surround English 2.0 Surround French 2.0 mono Subtitles: English & French Film Rating: Release Date: May 23, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Joseph Cotton (Henry L. Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War), Martin Balsam (Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet), James Whitmore (Admiral William F. Halsey), Jason Robards (Lt. General Walter C. Short, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Hawaii), Richard Anderson (Captain John Earl), Sô Yamamura (Vice Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto), Tatsuya Mihashi (Commander Minoru Genda, Air Staff Officer, Japanese First Fleet) Written by: Larry Forrester (U.S.A.) and Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa & Hideo Oguni (Japan) Directed by: Richard Fleischer (U.S.A. Sequences), Kinji Fukasaku & Toshio Masuda (Japan Sequences) The incredible attack on Pearl Harbor as told from both the American and Japanese sides. You are about to watch an historical film. It is historical in the sense that it was painstakingly written to include every detail with an original screenplay that amassed over 650 pages from both Japanese and American writers. It was largely based on information gathered by author Ladislas Farago for his book titled The Broken Seal: Operation Magic and the Secret Road to Pearl Harbour. It is historical in the sense that both Japan and the United States, enemies in World War II, cooperated on creating an accurate film, and even worked with one of the men who helped execute the plan of attack. It took many years to get production on a roll, financing, and cooperation between both American and Japanese sides. It is historical because its success pulled Fox out of deep financial trouble after a series of high-budget flops. So Tora! Tora! Tora! can be considered an historical film in many respects. Made with a budget that far exceeded 25 times the cost of the original invasion of Pearl Harbour, Darryl F. Zanuck insisted that the motion picture Tora! Tora! Tora! be as accurate to the real event as possible. It was filmed on location; large scale sets of the American ships like the Arizona were created and blown up in the harbour where it happened. New Japanese planes were made from old American ones and the film takes its time showing planes taking off, flying, and attacking. There is no CGI here and is something that is missed with films these days. It’s Hollywood at its biggest and its best, and one of the many films of the day to authenticate it with reality. As mentioned, Tora! Tora! Tora! tries very hard to be detailed about the events that led to the attack of Pearl Harbour and the failure to defend it. Unlike Michael Bay’s 2001 film Pearl Harbour, Tora! Tora! Tora! doesn’t tangle itself in love story plots or anything else that doesn’t deal with this U.S. military defeat. And unlike the films made of the attack before it, it wasn’t condemned by the Japanese for being untruthful and all lies. “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” - Vice Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto Zanuck, along with producer Elmo Williams, went to great lengths to make sure that both the Japanese and the Americans wrote this film and the militaries of both countries gave the film their blessings as long as the information was accurate. The result is a film that feels much more like a documentary without a narrator. Throughout its 144 minutes we are introduced to countless upon countless of historical people who were involved. Their names and their titles are subtitled at the bottom of the film frame (and for your information, ALL subtitles are preserved and kept intact on the original film frame and not regenerated by the player in the unused black area below the widescreen frame). This consistent reliance upon subtitling to introduce us to new characters is overwhelming and after the first few introductions it was difficult to keep track of them. But the writers do their best to make the historical story flow, although doesn’t feel like a story like Zanuck’s successful 1962 World War II film The Longest Day. Sometimes adding too much detail can also cause the film to slow somewhat since more than half of the film goes by without any action before the attack at the film’s finale. The film’s three-minute intermission with Jerry Goldsmith’s score is seen about an hour and twenty minutes in. The result is a film that may appear more to men than women; with a predominantly male cast (I counted just two women), we see the planning on the Japanese side leading up to the attack and the carelessness of the Americans who failed to recognize it before it was too late. With great care in filmmaking, Tora! Tora! Tora! is a World War II classic that shouldn’t be missed and is now released as part of Fox’s Cinema Classics Collection in a 2-disc special edition. VIDEO QUALITY / Those waiting for this release will be pleased to know this is still a THX-certified video transfer as it was in both the 1999 and 2001 releases. What remains to be known if this is if anything different has been done to this release. Digging a bit into past reviews of this title, I’ve read people complain a bit about noticeable edge enhancement on the past release. When watching this new DVD, I can honestly say there isn’t a hint of edge enhancement to be seen. So while the transfer of film to tape may be the same, how it is brought to DVD may be slightly different this time around. I found the image to be very smooth looking, but not soft. A part of me says that there is a possibility that some kind of noise reduction could have been used on this title to give it the smoothness, but another part of me tells me that isn’t true – but just the resolution limits of SD-DVD. I’m finding it slightly frustrating now that HD is everywhere and when my eyes go back to an SD-DVD it feels like I’m missing out. Regardless, the image is clean of artefacts – very clean actually, and the only time film grain is an annoyance is during the scenes filmed at night. The scene that comes to mind is when the Japanese planes are taking off from the aircraft carrier preparing for the attack. The low light the camera is taking in from the sunset raises the grain level in the film. Aside from this, all other scenes look absolutely wonderful and I have to give this release a high rating. I can’t imagine this film looking better on DVD so I may have to call this release the definitive one. The aspect ratio looks correct at 2.35:1. Colours are dated looking but well reproduced. Skin tones look slightly pale because of the datedness and colour vividness is fairly good. The outdoor scenes at Pearl Harbour look fantastic as tree show off vivid greens and the sky is bright blue. Interior scenes are also very well lit never looking dim or out of focus. AUDIO QUALITY / I don’t usually mention this but I will for this older film, two English soundtrack options are available: a Dolby Digital 4.1 surround and a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround option. Both are different sounding and I’ll have to leave it in your hands as to what you prefer. The 2.0 surround option will give you more surround envelopment. Your surround processor will take that surround information and pull it to the back channels at a louder volume than the discrete 4.1 option will. In both cases, the surrounds are mono, although those with Pro-Logic II decoding may benefit from a slight separation in the rear channels. But decoding with Pro-Logic won’t give you a tight center channel focus like the discrete 4.1 version will. It also won’t give you as wide of a soundstage since a lot of the sound information is being pulled towards the middle. My recommendation is to stay with the 4.1 soundtrack because it sounds smoother and not as bright sounding as the 2.0 version (and I can’t say that any detail was lost even though some sounds sound lower compared to the 2.0 track). Another further recommendation will be to view this film with your center channel set to “off” only if you sit in the sweet spot between your two main speakers. This is a film with directional dialogue and effects. I have an eight foot spread between my main speakers as well as an eight foot-wide screen. When sitting in the correct spot the dialogue and sound effects properly pan across the screen as if the actors were right in front of me. I love directional dialogue and unfortunately very few movies today use the phantom imaging between the center channel and the left or right channels. If you decide to leave the center channel on, some of the directionality can be attained, although the sound won’t be placed in the same vertical space depending on where your center channel is placed. In my case, mine is located just below the screen and it doesn’t image that well with the left or right channels. Putting the identical tower speaker that I use for multichannel music in front of the screen is not an option here, so my next best option is to rely on phantom imaging. Is it a bad choice? Absolutely not if you are sitting in the correct place between your speakers. If not, you may want to leave the center channel on. Dialogue that is centered on screen comes from this channel, although a small and almost unnoticeable amount still comes through both left and right channels as well. The fidelity of sounds is limited in detail as expected, sometimes sounding very restrained and lifeless. Dialogue is also dated but clear sounding, but overall the character of the sound is thin. The 4.1 option does have better bass, not because of the LFE channel though (which is almost useless), but in the main channels. Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which seems to run almost continuously through the film, clearly benefits from this and doesn’t sound as good on the 2.0 surround audio option. Press material for this DVD claims that this is the “best-ever audio” this film is presented in. How this differs from the previous 4.1 releases of the past remains to be heard. I don’t have the previous releases so I open this discussion up to forum members. SPECIAL FEATURES / I could spend hours upon hours watching all of the special features on this DVD release. Unfortunately I can’t because there are many other titles I have to browse through and it would be too time consuming. So the best I can do is to tell you what I saw as I went through these features and let you know if they are worth it. In short. Yes. Now for the long explanation: On disc one there is a running audio commentary with director Richard Fleischer and Japanese film historian Stewart Galbraith. Together they “informally” discuss about the separate English/Japanese productions and the difficulties of working with the two units, the integration of two scripts, and the piecing together of both units into one unified work. While I didn’t listen too far into the commentary, I do believe you will find it very informative. Two documentaries are included as well; one on one disc and the other on disc two. Titled Day of Infamy (narrated by Burt Reynolds) and Tora! Tora! Tora!: Hollywood Backstories, both dive into the story of Pearl Harbour and the amount of work that went into this film. In enjoyed these very much. Disc one also has the film’s theatrical trailer and is presented in 4:3 full frame. On disc two, there is the film’s Original theatrical trailer. At first glance they look exactly the same. I didn’t take a second glance… Now these next features are my favourite and are priceless in terms of entertainment. They are the 10 Fox Movietone News shorts. Not only do they show a good deal of history (including actual footage of the destruction of Pearl Harbour), but also the propaganda machine grinding out the B.S. to support the war – and rightly Americans should have – I just think the way it was shown here is so…fake and happy go lucky? These shorts are: Movietone News: The First Pictures of the Attack (2.22) Movietone News: Pearl Harbour, December 7, 1941: “Now It Can Be Shown” (8.17) Movietone News: A Year Since Pearl Harbour (6.52) Movietone News: War With Japan (6.45) Movietone News: U.S. Declares War On Japan (5.24) Movietone News: First Pictures of Attack on Japan Islands (2.26) Movietone News: Jap Cities Were Bombed By U.S. Army Planes (1.10) Movietone News: President Honors “Jimmy” Doolittle For Raid on Japan (2.59) Movietone News: War Reports Of The United Nations (2.02) Movietone News: Doolittle’s Raiders, Who Bombed Tokyo, Mark Anniversary (1.14) Apparently some of the footage that is supposed to be real was actually taken from a Japanese film called Hawai mare oki kaisen. According to IMBD.com, ”Special effects footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor from this film was so convincing that General MacArthur's Film unit confiscated the film and sold the footage to Frank Capra and Movietone News Corp. The footage was released as actual Japanese footage of the infamous attack." That’s an interesting bit of info. Whether any of the above News segments include this movie footage is unknown; it’s still fun trivia. Also included are 24 pictures in the Behind the scenes still gallery and 71 pictures in the production gallery. Theatrical Trailers for the other two WWII Cinema Classics released with Tora! Tora! Tora! are included. The films are The Longest Day and Patton. IN THE END… This is a great title to add to the Cinema Classics Collection. This wave of Cinema Classics are all World War II films and include The Longest Day and Patton. These titles are fairly new (1962-1970) compared to the rest of the titles in this continuing collection, still they are welcomed editions. I’m very pleased with both the audio and video presentation and I find the Fox Movietone News clips an absolute gem on this disc. I get a kick out of hearing language like “were not happy until we slap the Japs right off the map!” on these news clips…the crazy thing is that they were serious at that time. So, if you love history as much as I and don’t mind watching more fact than fiction, Tora! Tora! Tora! is worth the purchase. Michael Osadciw May 17, 2006.