Destination Tokyo (1943)

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Released 10-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
Short Film-Gem Of The Ocean (21:50)
Trailer-Cary Grant Trailer Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 129:22
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:18) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Delmer Daves

Warner Home Video
Starring Cary Grant
John Garfield
Alan Hale
John Ridgely
Dane Clark
Case ?
RPI Box Music Franz Waxman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Debonair, suave and very gentlemanly Cary Grant is probably much better known for his romantic comedies and especially the goof ball comedies for which he was unsurpassed. So Destination Tokyo is something very different from the average Cary Grant film.

    The sole contribution of Cary Grant to the war effort, Destination Tokyo is very much a propaganda film and it does not bother to hide it at all. Cary Grant plays Captain Cassidy, captain of the U.S.S. Copperfin and an obviously well liked and experienced officer who may be on his way out of the silent service by way of promotion. What will be will be however, and his immediate concern is for the next tour of duty for which the orders have just been issued - curtailing his crew's leave just before Christmas. Casting away from San Francisco, the captain and crew know only that they are heading into the North Pacific as the orders will not be opened until they have been at sea for twenty four hours. So we get to meet the crew of the Copperfin as it sets off on its mission: men like Wolf (John Garfield) who seems to have nothing but dames on his mind, Mike (Tom Tully) the seasoned veteran who takes the newbies like Tommy Adams (Robert Hutton) under his wing, pharmacist mate Pills (William Prince) who got the job simply because he passed chemistry at college, Cookie (Alan Hale) who has a decent self preservation streak in him and Tin Can (Dane Clark), the son of a Greek émigré who has a yearning to kill some Japs. This collection of characters, who unlike a real crew seem incapable of bad language and any serious hijinks, and the rest form the band that Captain Cassidy is proud to lead.

    But once the orders are opened, things become really serious - no guessing where these guys are headed! Tokyo here they come, right smack bang into the middle of Tokyo Bay to land an aerologist (John Ridgely) in order to gather vital information for a special mission being put together by the Americans - the bombing of Tokyo by B-25 bombers being launched off the U.S.S. Hornet. Now all they have to do is actually get to Tokyo Bay, evading the Japanese Imperial Navy all the way, hide outside until an opportunity arises to get in through the submarine nets protecting the bay, land the small team to gather the information and then hide until the mission is over - then get the heck out of there all the way back to San Francisco. Nothing to it really - especially when this is the good old United States Navy.

    If you want nice, gritty, realistic stuff where they have not got a cat's chance in hell of pulling off this near-impossible mission, then you will not be looking at Destination Tokyo. There is no way the American public is going to be denied victory on this mission. So with little more than a heavy sweat from the captain, the crew's survival can in general be pretty much guaranteed - despite the efforts of about half the Imperial Navy to depth charge them into oblivion in Tokyo Bay.

    This is really one war film that has not weathered the passing of time too well. That is not to say that it is a bad film but rather that the level of reality here is rather superficial. The biggest problem the film faces in the digital medium, however, is that the effects are rather poor. Not that it starts out with ease anyway - as we all know, any special effects involving water were always the worst to try and carry off well, as water in miniature simply does not act in a realistic way. So when those obvious models start to churn across the obvious tank of water, realism is pretty well forgotten. Even worse are the underwater effects where the model submarine plays amongst underwater greenery that towers over it in size, amongst boulders that are unrealistically huge. I know it is not fair to d*** a film for the shortcomings of the time in which it was made, but this one really gets way too obvious at times and I feel this detracts from the gripping drama that is trying to be played out here.

    On the plus side of things, the cast do a pretty good job all in all and the story was reasonably decent.

    I don't recall having seen the film before, which would be rather remarkable given that this would seem to be ideal matinee fodder. Perhaps if I had seen it before my expectations would have been lower than they were, but sadly they weren't and so the film left me a little disappointed. Way too much propaganda stuff populates this film, and obviously so, with too many clichés included to boot, with the inevitable result that it is very much a product of its time and only its time. It is nice to have it on DVD, though, as anything by Cary Grant is well worth seeing, but I wish it left a rather more telling impression upon me than it has.

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Transfer Quality


    Since the film was made during World War Two, you can pretty much guess that it was made in the old Academy ratio, very close to the 1.33:1 ratio that we have here. It is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    It should be noted straight out that the film does use stock footage for some sequences, as well as specific footage from actual events around which the film is based - most notably the B-25 bombers taking off from the U.S.S. Hornet for the raid on Tokyo. As such, you have to expect a rather wide variance in the quality of the material, and that is what we get here - the inconsistency might not be to everyone's taste but I had no real problems with it.

    The original film material is quite reasonably sharp and well detailed, although there are one or two places where the image does degrade noticeably to something a bit soft. Shadow detail is rather variable but rarely gets more better than average, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the transfer. There is an occasional problem in the film material with light grain, but nothing too serious. The serious problem with grain is in the stock footage, which is at times well plagued with heavy grain. There is nothing in the way of low level noise and clarity is generally pretty good.

    The black and white image is also pretty good with good range across the grey scales in the film material. The stock footage is noticeably worse in this regard. The only time that the image degrades significantly is during some of the nighttime stuff where the poor shadow detail combines with some very black colour scales that really don't aid the film at all.

    There are nothing in the way of noticeable MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts are also noticeably absent, but everything changes when considering film artefacts: there are a fair dollop of them, and mostly quite noticeable. The opening two minutes or so of the film includes a rather noticeable scratch down the right hand side of the image and you fear the worst. It does get better after that but there are still plenty of issues - especially in the stock footage.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 64:18. Since I did not notice it during the playback of the film, it would seem to be completely non-disruptive to the flow of the film.

    There are nine subtitle options on the disc, including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. They are generally pretty good, although some dialogue is lost.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, an English Dolby Digital 1.0 soundtrack that is presumably the original mono soundtrack for the film.

    Since it is more than likely the original soundtrack, making it over sixty years old, we really cannot complain too much about the quality on offer. The dialogue comes up fine in the soundtrack and there does not appear to be any audio sync issues.

    The original score comes from one of the greats of the art in Franz Waxman. This is not the best he ever did but it still has plenty of those Franz Waxman touches to it, being quite bold and dramatic and very well suited to the film. Its the sort of soundtrack that would be good to listen to on an isolated music track, even though it does not have a really distinctive theme to it.

    There really is not much to say otherwise about the soundtrack. Even though it is the original mono soundtrack, it is thankfully free from any major blemishes and the only issue of note is the occasional presence of some light hiss that is easy to ignore.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Not an inspiring extras package, but still better than nothing at all.


    Nothing really special and the main menu comes with some slightly strident audio enhancement. They are rather perversely in widescreen format.

Short Film - Gem Of The Ocean (21:50)

    I am really struggling to understand why this of all things was chosen for inclusion in the extras package of Destination Tokyo. Aside from the fact that they have the sea as a setting there is nothing that remotely connects the short with the feature, at least as far as I can see. Dating from 1934, from what I can find out this is quite a rare film and is one of the very few films in which French singer Jeanne Aubert appears: she was apparently better known as a stage actor and singer, appearing frequently on Broadway in musical comedies. No, I had never heard of her either. Not at all my cup of tea and frankly eminently avoidable given the lack of any real connection with the feature film, the ordinary performances and the mediocre musical numbers. It is of course presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, very close to the Academy ratio of 1.37:1 of its theatrical presentation. The video is very much showing its age with film artefacts galore, with scratches, reel change markings and assorted specks amongst the problems noted. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 notably for the constant hiss throughout the presentation, to which crackles add occasional harmony. The sound is also a tad strident and ever so slightly out of sync at times. The setting is an ocean liner, presumably travelling from New York to France, and the story revolves around a French singer and her beau, and a thief. The short is described as a Wartime Short on the box set slick, adding to the lack of quality.

Cary Grant Trailer Gallery

    Presenting the theatrical trailers for all four films contained in The Cary Grant Collection, of which Destination Tokyo is one. The efforts for Arsenic And Old Lace (2:42) and North By Northwest (2:08) appear to be the same efforts as we have already seen in the separate releases of those films, so only the efforts for Destination Tokyo (2:09) and Night And Day (2:12) are actually new to us. All four suffer in some way, be it some fairly film artefact riddled video or some rather strident sound. That for Night And Day suffers too from some rather average colour, as well as being a bit dark. All barring North By Northwest are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 that is of course not 16x9 enhanced (North By Northwest is in 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced). The sound is uniformly Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Destination Tokyo is included in the Region 1 release The Cary Grant Signature Collection, which is the closest Region 1 equivalent to the Region 4 The Cary Grant Collection. It is, however, also available separately for those wanting just this film, an option not yet available in Region 4. It is very similar to the Region 4 release barring a variation in the trailers: unlike the four available on this Region 4 version, the Region 1 version presents nine different trailers. It would appear that the general quality of the release is on a par with the Region 4.

    I have not been able to verify any other releases of the film on DVD, although presumably the same release will be forthcoming in Region 2. On the strength of the additional trailers however, the Region 1 release would be the version of choice on a technicality at the moment.


    Quite obviously a piece of propaganda, Destination Tokyo has really not worn the years well. Whilst some proclaim it amongst the better war films made during World War Two in Hollywood, I really cannot concur with that assessment. I really did not find it a gripping piece of work and its obvious lack of authenticity (everything is so sanitised it is not funny) weighs heavily against it. Also weighing heavily against it is the rather obvious special effects work, way less than stellar and brutally exposed in the digital era as such. This is perhaps one instance where the old VHS tape could hide a multitude of sins and thus the film's shortcomings were more easily hidden. It is still an enjoyable effort, though, and Cary Grant is always worthwhile watching, even though this is the sort of stuff that really was not his forté.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Monday, November 29, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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