Plot: What’s it about?
We’ve all read about the Pearl Harbor bombing in history books and seen television programs about it, but never have we seen both sides of the story, until now. In Tora! Tora! Tora!, we’re taken behind the lines of both the American and Japanese forces, to see just how this tragic event unfolded, first hand. We all know what happens in the end of course, but as this film proves, there is much more to this story than a single bombing raid, to be sure. You’ll watch as both sides push to gain upper hand, then back off somewhat, only to attempt it all over again. Was Pearl Harbor a complete surprise attack as we’ve been told, or was there some knowledge about the swarms, only delivered too late to prepare enough for the onslaught? In other words, could we have avoided the carnage or at least lessened it?
This is the second edition of Tora! Tora! Tora! to hit this format, but this time around, Fox has laid on some cool extras to enhance the experience. The video & audio seem to be the same however, so if you’re not into the bonus materials, then an upgrade isn’t called for in this case. But more on the disc’s specs later on, let’s talk about the movie itself for a spell, shall we? This film deals with the Pearl Harbor bombing, but does so in a most unique fashion. Instead of seeing things just from the American side of the coin, this picture takes us behind both lines, which paints a much different portrait about the man on both sides. It can become a little jarring going back and forth so much, but I feel it works out very well and since both sides have their own style, it is always interesting to watch. The two sides were shot by American and Japanese filmmakers, which is why each camp seems to have unique traits and such. A terrific idea and in this case, one that was executed well enough to fulfill the idea’s potential. I think this film makes for an easy recommendation and with this new special edition release, there’s no reason not to check it out.
His work hasn’t always been consistent, but in this case, director Richard Fleischer delivers and then some. This seems to me like it would be a tough feature to put together, with the two different sides of everything, but Fleischer and his crew were more than up to the task. I think Tora! Tora! Tora! comes through as a cohesive picture, never as two smaller efforts, which is a real feat if you ask me, given the circumstances. I am always surprised to see some of his later works in such poor form, as he came through here, on what had to be a difficult production in all respects. But Fleischer could drive home a great film when he was on his game and thankfully, he was in prime form when he worked on this picture. Other films directed by Fleischer include Soylent Green, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Doctor Dolittle, Compulsion, Fantastic Voyage, and Conan the Destroyer. The cast here includes Jason Robards (Magnolia, Parenthood), E.G. Marshall (Christmas Vacation, 12 Angry Men), Martin Balsam (The Delta Force, St. Elmo’s Fire), James Whitmore (Planet of the Apes, Kiss Me Kate), and Joseph Cotten (Soylent Green, Shadow of Doubt).
Video: How does it look?
Tora! Tora! Tora! is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is the same THX approved edition that was included on the previous release, which means once again, this film looks excellent. I saw some small flaws at times, such as grain and slight color fades, but never enough to lower the score much. The print used looks cleaner than expected, with minimal specks and scratches to be seen. The colors look solid most of the time, but do fade in a few instances, while flesh tones seem natural at all times. I was unable to find much fault with contrast either, as shadow depth is dead on and no visible detail loss is evident. I am very pleased with this presentation, as it allows this 1970 film to look much, much younger.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included Dolby Digital 4.1 surround option is good, but it seems like the volume is a shade low, which forced me to turn up the master volume higher than usual. Not a real problem, but kind of strange and of course, I wanted to pass it along here. This mix is a good one, but of course it can’t stack up against more modern tracks, though it does hold its own in the end. The surrounds are given the same signal and are used often, usually for the musical score, but also for some atmospheric presence at times. Even the bass kicks in at times and of course, most of that comes toward the climatic finale. No errors in terms of dialogue either, it all comes through in fine, crisp form and never falters. This disc also includes an English 2.0 surround track, a French mono option, and subtitles in English & Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This is where this new release outpaces the old edition, with a few new bells and whistles to peruse. The main draw for me is the audio commentary track, which features director Richard Fleischer and Japanese film historian Stuart Galbraith. This track moves at a nice pace and whenever it slows, Galbraith steps in to add some comments or ask questions of Fleischer, very cool session indeed. I do wish Fleischer was more open here, but he does manage to reveal some good information, so no real complaints in the end. The other big extra here is Day of Infamy, a featurette that looks at the Pearl Harbor incident. No, this is not focused on the film, but since it deals with the same topic, I think it enhances the film’s impact and as such, I am pleased Fox has included on this edition. The piece runs just over twenty minutes and while sometimes a little slow, I found it to be well made and informative program. This disc also includes the film’s theatrical trailer, which is always nice to have on board.