TORA! TORA! TORA!
MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
On the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, 20th Century Fox released a Blu-ray book of “Tora! Tora! Tora!” This is the first Blu-ray release of the film, and it features a 22-page booklet within the packaging about the movie.
When it hit theaters in 1970, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” was a flop in the U.S., though it was a pretty big hit in Japan. Watching the film now, more than 40 years later and understanding the cultural differences between the countries back then (and to a degree, today), this is not a surprise.
Told from a rigid historical perspective, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” shows the lead-up and the attack from the perspective of the United States and the Empire of Japan. The American segments were directed by Richard Fleischer while the Japanese segments were directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku.
From a strictly historical perspective, I respect “Tora! Tora! Tora!” because it makes a pretty solid attempt at making sense of how this attack could have happened. It points out where the holes were in the American preparedness while looking at the planning from the Japanese perspective, not as an evil sneak attack but rather a military risk.
However, it’s easy to see why this film was rejected by American audiences. While the country started down the path of criticizing its own military in the 70s, few people wanted to see the bumbling idiots that the World War II heroes were made into. It’s a polarizing film because it is heavy-handed on both fronts.
From the American side, we are made to barely keep our organization running. People are flippant and dismissive to the point of fault throughout. Plus, it paints the American sailors are panicky and stupid. Things reach a point of silliness when two generals stare at a bomber blowing up ships for several minutes without even running. It pains me to say that Michael Bay’s atrocity “Pearl Harbor” did a better job recreating the chaos surrounding the event than this film does.
On the flip side, the Japanese are portrayed in typical overly honorable fashion. Not a shred of humor, humanity or comfort is shown. They are painted as near-flawless and overly brilliant, when the success of their attack relied on a lot of luck, as many military victories do.
Still, “Tora! Tora! Tora!” is an interesting footnote in cinema history and worth checking out at least once for anyone interested in World War II movies, though it’s no less propaganda than the flag wavers from the 1940s.
The Blu-ray includes both the U.S. theatrical cut and the extended Japanese version. There’s a commentary track, plus two galleries of stills. Several documentaries are included that examine Pearl Harbor and the film: “Day of Infamy,” “History vs. Hollywood – Tora! Tora! Tora!: A Giant Awakens” and “AMC Backstory: Tora! Tora! Tora!” Finally, and probably most interesting, is a collection of ten vintage newsreels from Fox MovietoneNews reporting on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath.