Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

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Released 12-Nov-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Theatrical Trailer
Audio Commentary
Trailer-The Longest Day; Patton
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1970
Running Time 138:53
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:08) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Richard Fleischer
Toshio Masuda
Kinji Fukasuka
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Martin Balsam
Joseph Cotten
E.G. Marshall
James Whitmore
Jason Robards
Soh Yamamura
Tatsuya Mihashi
Takahiro Tamura
Eijiro Tono
Case Six-Sided Star Clamp
RPI $36.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.0 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    On December the 7th, 1941, at around 8am on that fateful Sunday morning, the Japanese launched over 400 aircraft from carriers located off the island of Hawaii and began a sneak attack upon the American Pacific Fleet at anchor in Pearl Harbor. Caught literally with their pants down, the Americans and the ships in the harbour took a real pasting, although none of their front-line carriers were caught at dock. The attack, which at first looked like a disaster was to have the effect of bringing America into the Second World War on the side of the Allies and prove decisive in swinging the balance of power.

    If the truth be known, less than six months after Pearl Harbor, the Americans were able to claw back some of their influence at the battles of the Coral Sea and Midway thereby blunting the Japanese aggression in the Pacific, although it would be another three murderous years of fighting before they were totally beaten. To many, the battle in the Pacific against the Japanese was little more than a sideshow compared to the real battle in Europe.

    Hindsight is always perfect and it can easily be understood why the conspiracy buffs have a field day with the likes of Pearl Harbor. The movie intimates that many Americans knew of the coming attack. It portrays a certain reluctance by many of the principal characters of the time to do much more than pay lip service to all the rumours and intelligence floating around. Possibly it was simple naivety that no nation would attack unprovoked, but then the Japanese had a history of doing just that. Some questions will never be fully answered, like 'why were the American carriers at sea when the attack began?'. 'Was it good fortune or clever strategy?'. 'Did President Roosevelt deliberately ignore the warnings, wanting American involvement at that time?' We shall probably never know the whole truth, but this movie at least attempts to accurately portray the events leading up to the attack.

    In regards to the movie itself, it must rank as something of a rarity where the subject is offered up with a fair degree of objectivity. A more pro-American, anti-Japanese portrayal would have been more in keeping with the typical Hollywood style but in Tora! Tora! Tora!, it's the Japanese who are shown as an efficient, coherent military organisation whereas the Americans are portrayed as bumbling amateurs, to a degree. I personally don't subscribe to the theory that they were totally inept - anyone can look like a bumbling fool when they are caught by surprise. Even so, the Americans had been on active alert for some time, so they could have been guilty of nothing more than having a day off, which wouldn't have been inconceivable. Even so, given the normal level of American paranoia at any time, you'd have expected some semblance of security to be in effect, and that did seem to be totally lacking at the time of the attack.

    The movie is shot in two different styles. The reason for this was the fact that two different film crews were used, one American, one Japanese, and each shot the various segments that dealt with their own forces. These were then edited together. The Japanese style of film making is very much over-the-top when compared to the American style and is sharply contrasted in many scenes within the movie. Still, the different styles do blend together for a very coherent effort overall, even if they aren't totally complimentary to the Americans. It has to be said that little time is really given in the movie to character exposition, and the movie is solely interested in presenting the facts in a simple, but sharply defined manner. For this reason, the movie does appear a little stilted at times.

    On the plus side, the special effects are first rate, and it's a real pity that their impact has been somewhat diminished by the fact that many of them have been seen in other movies of the era. It would seem that Fox lost a packet on this movie, as well as some others at the time and tried to recoup some of their investment by selling off the film stock. Midway was one movie that made use of the footage from Tora! Tora! Tora!. Some of the effects have the feel of the real thing which greatly adds to the tension during the climactic final scenes. Another interesting aside is that due to the G rating of the movie there was no portrayal of the actual body count shown. Actors were blown off, blown up or tossed around but they never showed a dead body.

    Although this movie has its detractors, and they have some valid points, Tora! Tora! Tora! is one of the few movies I've seen that tries to offer a balanced approach to a military conflict. To be fair, if you watch the movie towards the end it is the Japanese who become timorous and lose the advantage by not pressing home the attack more fully and destroying the dry-docks at Pearl Harbor. The release of this movie is timely considering the imminent release of the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer production of Pearl Harbor, which promises to be nothing more than mere pap by comparison (although I hear the special effects were superb, but there's more to a movie than effects). For those of you who know this movie well, this is a superb offering visually and the audio isn't too shabby either.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer has all the hallmarks of a restored print. The overall quality is simply superb given its age and the state other movies of this era have been presented in on DVD. Anyone who was not privileged enough to have seen this movie in all its pristine glory on the big screen won't be too disappointed by this transfer.

    This is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Minor edge enhancement is visible with this transfer, especially when you see it used against the background matting on offer. Apart from this though, sharpness is excellent with shadow detail and fine detail a real treat with excellent depth to almost every scene. Grain is consistently minor throughout, with only the outdoor shots a problem and then only in comparison with the low levels on offer during the rest of the movie. The worst grain was probably seen during the night-time take-offs from the Japanese carriers from 82:30 onwards. There appeared to be a little bit of blooming in the blacks, but again this was very minor indeed.

    Given the age of this movie (1970), this has to be one of the most stunningly colourful movies I've seen. This is up there with the finest, both in terms of variety and depth of palette. Apart from one minor incident of bleeding (7:54 on the chairs in shot, red leather that is just a tad too bright), this is perfectly saturated and totally natural looking. The whites are crisp and clean, and the array of colours on display is fabulous. Skin tones are a delight at all times and look totally natural.

    In regards to artefacts, there are a multitude of minor blemishes, but nothing major to report. The usual tiny specks here and there dot the transfer, most of which are black with the occasional white speck seen, but are mostly invisible or too quick to bother with. A couple of dirt marks or smudges appear at 85:19 and 86:37. The latter looks like a mark on the camera lens. The only aliasing came at 90:27 with a slight shimmering on a typewriter. There were no MPEG problems to report.

    The subtitles are interesting in that they sit at the bottom of the screen. There are burned in sub-titles that can't be turned off, that are bright white, leaving the additional subtitles in almost grey. The biggest problem comes when there are burned in titles on display and you have subtitles turned on. They tend to dominate the entire screen and look a bit of a mess. The subtitles don't translate any more of the Japanese spoken by the cast, either.

    Although this is an RSDL disc no layer change was noted, at least not that I can report accurately. There is an intermission that begins at 76:08 and there is a distinct drop-out in the audio, but I can't be sure if this is where the change is. The intermission lasts for 22 seconds of black screen with the word Intermission on it, then the music begins again, with the black screen until 78:12. For those of you who have never watched a movie with an intermission, this was the way it always used to work, so you had time to regain your seat before the movie continued. An ideal place to put any layer change (which is precisely where I believe they put it).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc, besides the Audio Commentary, and that's in Dolby Digital 5.0 at a bit rate of 384 kilobits per second. There was some splitting of dialogue across the front speakers which was an interesting effect. There was a real spaciousness in the soundtrack overall, with some definite assistance from the rears for that added the sense of a solid sound envelope.

    The dialogue is crisp and clean both from the American and Japanese cast members. Because the Japanese speak their own language, there was none of those appalling audio sync problems you often get with voice-overs.

    The music is by Jerry Goldsmith and is quite superb, but that's not surprising considering he's credited with over 250 musical scores for both film and TV. There are large sections of the movie that have no music in them and this was a deliberate decision by director Richard Fleischer. The music itself is a subtle mix of traditional Japanese music remixed with orchestral accompaniment and the more traditional offerings of a big budget Hollywood epic.

    There is a nice mix of special effects and music passed through the surround channels, although for the most part you won't be overloaded with the volume. There's the odd plane zooming by, explosions and the sound of gunfire along with a superior fullness to the music added, but nothing exemplary.

    Although listed as a 5.0 track the subwoofer did receive some redirected signal from my system which nicely augmented the whole feel of the audio track in general.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary

    I was originally going to listen to this commentary only briefly, sampling various chapters and making a value judgement as to its quality. Much to my surprise, this is actually incredibly interesting and although I had to watch the entire movie again (all 139 minutes) it was worth the effort. The commentary is guided by Japanese film historian Stuart Galbraith, who apart from a couple of stilted comments towards the end, is an excellent commentator. He gently guides the 85yo director Richard Fleischer through a series of questions about the film, the influence (or rather non-influence) of Akira Kurosowa as the director for the Japanese filming and his ultimate dismissal from the movie. In addition, Galbraith provides a plethora of interesting tidbits about various actors, especially the lesser known Japanese actors in a well-rounded manner. Information from Fleischer about the stunts in the movie and some amusing anecdotes round out a highly informative commentary. One last note - Fleischer really won me over when asked 'do you prefer letterboxing or Pan and Scan' and his response was fairly derogatory towards Pan and Scan, declaring 'letterboxing lets you see the movie as the director intended you to, not some 3rd party director's interpretation'.

Trailer

There are three trailers offered up on this disc:

R4 vs R1

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

    This movie has been released in a couple of formats in R1. There is a THX remastered version and another that was incorporated into a boxed set called WWII Collection. The differences between these and the R4 version are:
The R1 misses out on:

The R4 misses out on:    Since I own the R1 version, I can categorically state that the sound is almost the same, especially with my system which redirects the bass to the .1 channel anyway. The THX optimised sound would be a bonus for anyone with a full THX setup, but didn't add much in the way of difference. The documentary was interesting but not worth the extra cost involved. The R4 version has the superior picture in my opinion making this the version of choice.

Summary

    Tora! Tora! Tora! is a wonderfully presented movie that depicts one of the most infamous actions of World War II and possibly all time. It was the fateful event that drew the United States off the sideline and into the war on the side of the Allies. While this movie has its critics and may not be totally accurate, it does attempt to portray events without the 'over-the-top' jingoism the Americans seem to love in their movies, that makes them so flawed when viewed in retrospect.

    Superb visuals are on offer here that are a delight to watch. I doubt we'll see a better version for a long long time.

    The audio is good without being outstanding, although the music is a quality offering.

    The extras are light-on, although the audio commentary was a definite bonus for me.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

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