The attack on Pearl Harbor and the days leading up to that fateful event are the subject of the 1970 effort. The narrative jumps back and forth between the Japanese and American perspectives as just enough things go both wrong and right on both sides (the ascendancy of the militant army faction over the reluctant navy in Japan, crucial intelligence always arriving just a bit too late to the right people in States) to make the surprise attack inevitable.
For anyone who has had to endure the unspeakable Pearl Harbor, this is a welcome antidote. Its approach is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Michael Bay’s. There is no romance story here. In fact, there are barely any characters – top-billed Joseph Cotten has about twenty words of dialog and an equal number of seconds of screen-time, and the closest one gets to a character arc involved Admiral Yamamoto and his reluctant, despairing planning of the attack. What one has instead is a sense of people as chess pieces being moved about by a sadistic master playing solo. And rather than Bay’s ridiculous CGI, actual planes are used, with the result that even with the passage of years, the attack in this film is far more convincingly realized.
Tora, Tora, Tora is presented in its original aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 30 mbps. Get past the slightly grainy and speckled opening credits, and the print looks pretty damn good. There are still a few shots here and there that have some noticeable grain, but otherwise the image is very sharp and clean. The colors, contrasts, and blacks are very strong. The movie looks quite good. You can finally see some detail that earlier versions just could not provide. It’s a worthwhile upgrade, to be sure.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is another huge improvement over any previous release. You’ll find strong sub during the air battle scenes. Dialog comes through sharply, and there is only a slight hint of distortion from time to time. Surrounds make it feel like a more modern film. Some of you might find them a bit too aggressive as a remix.
The commentary, by film historian Stuart Galbraith IV in conversation with director Richard Fleischer, is first-rate – articulate and informative on so many levels – but it, too, was on the earlier DVD.
“Day of Infamy”, a solid 20-minute doc about the attack, and the theatrical trailer.
The “History vs. Hollywood” episode on the film is a nice history of the film, dealing as well with the questions of accuracy in the film’s recreations.
Meanwhile, the “AMC Backstories” episode concerns itself more specifically with the difficulties the production encountered. For more direct history, there are ten Fox Movietone newsreels concerning the attack and its aftermath (including the Doolittle raids on Tokyo). There are two still galleries (behind-the-scenes and production) and trailers. You also get the extended Japanese version of the film. The real nice extra is the full-color hardback book that contains the disc. It’s 22 pages of nice stills and a fountain of information on the film that will be a special treat to fans.
If you’ve been holding out until now, however, this is a first-rate package.
Portions of this review were written by Gino Sassani