December 7th: Pearl Harbor Story

December 7th: Pearl Harbor Story

Director: Frank Capra, John Ford, Gregg Toland

Cast: Frank Capra, John Ford, Gregg Toland, Walter Huston

     
 
In contrast to most of the video releases issued to piggy-back on the release of Pearl Harbor (and the film itself), December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story is of considerable cinematic interest, mostly because it contains the feature-length version of December 7th: The Movie, which was the work of John Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland (who actually

Overview

In contrast to most of the video releases issued to piggy-back on the release of Pearl Harbor (and the film itself), December 7th: The Pearl Harbor Story is of considerable cinematic interest, mostly because it contains the feature-length version of December 7th: The Movie, which was the work of John Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland (who actually did most of the directing). VCI's DVD release contains December 7th in both its Oscar-winning, edited 34-minute version released in 1943 and the uncut 82-minute version that was suppressed until 1991. But it's also loaded to the gunnels with extra material -- two-and-a-half hours' worth -- some of which is revelatory and some not. The disc opens with Universal Pictures' earliest newsreel devoted to the first days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, which made this country look a hell of a lot better defended than we actually were, as well as claiming that our defense against the initial Japanese attack was better than it was. One minor point of interest is that the newsreel contains more of President Roosevelt's address to Congress on December 8, 1941, than we normally see (it was a good speech). That short is followed with a November 1942 Fox-Movietone newsreel that presented the first public showing of the uncut footage of the Pearl Harbor attack. The film presents an amazingly positive outlook on the results of the attack, even as it shows the seldom seen unedited footage of the destruction of the U.S.S. Arizona. The Fox-Movietone film is followed by Frank Capra's Know Your Enemy, Japan, from the Why We Fight series, narrated by Walter Huston, an extended anti-Japanese tract that today seems hopelessly inflammatory and runs at least 20 minutes longer than it should. In contrast to the two preceding films, it can be skipped over without any loss, especially if one has seen it before. The disc picks up the pace considerably with a ten-minute videotape report from Japanese television, dealing with the release of December 7th: The Movie. It explains the reasons that the government suppressed the original movie (it had too many Japanese-Americans depicted and focused too much on people and not enough on war, as well as ending with an internationalist message that probably seemed too political). The Ford film itself is a strange piece of propaganda, which manages to all but accuse Japanese-Americans of disloyalty after defending their rights as Americans. Almost an hour into the movie, an extended argument between Walter Huston and Harry Davenport, playing the symbolic characters "Uncle Sam" and "Mr. Conscience," finally comes to the events of December 7, 1941; the story has been told many times, but it is still excitingly portrayed when it arrives here. This is mostly thanks to the work of directors James C. Havens (whose other credits included Creature From the Black Lagoon and Away All Boats) and Ray Kellogg (who subsequently worked as second unit director on Tora! Tora! Tora!). The battle scenes are well staged despite the use of some obvious model work in the re-creating of the attacks on the battleships. This section of the movie, incidentally, seems to draw the distinction between Japanese nationals and Japanese-American citizens, but the film's position on that point is muddled to say the least. Totally unambiguous is a role call of some of the dead from the attack, as well as images of their families; it's terribly sad, yet also eerily patriotic as handled in the script and the shooting. The final section -- in which Dana Andrews portrays a sailor killed in the attack, talking with Paul Hurst playing a soldier who died in World War I -- is surprisingly astute and sophisticated, and was probably just specific enough in its idealism to bother government censors who thought it had a political message. It's strongly anti-isolationist and may well have been cut from the released version of the film for just that reason. Kit Parker Films has done a good job of restoration on the Ford/Toland movie, and the rest of the material is in good shape as well. The disc is programmed a little awkwardly, with a menu that is overly complicated, and there are audio bonus materials present that may not be accessible to anyone with normal patience.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/24/2001
UPC:
0089859050725
Rating:
NR
Source:
Vci Video
Region Code:
0
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Time:
1:22:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; Universal Newsreel Pearl Harbor first films; Movietone News extra: first actual battle films - includes comments by Al Brick, the Movietone cameraman who filmed the footage; Japan's Reaction - when this "uncensored" version was first shown in Japan in 1995, it was treated as a major news story - see actual newscast; Full commentary by four actual Pearl Harbor survivors; Learn the inside story on how the un-cut version of "December 7th" was made and why the U.S. government kept it classified and away from public view for decades; Compare the "cut" and "uncensored versions"; Feature has English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired; Frank Capra's infamous "Know Your Enemy: Japan" (1945), 62 minutes - produced for the U.S. Army, this propaganda piece is a combination of authentic newsreels, captured enemy films, scenes from Japanese feature films, plus re-enactments filmed in Hollywood

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Side #1 --
2. Universal Newsreel [9:57]
3. Movietone News [8:40]
4. Know Your Enemy [1:17]
5. Nippon Newspaper [5:16]
6. Emperor Hirohito [14:12]
7. The Samurai [12:51]
8. Japanese Factory Workers [5:32]
9. Hakko Ichiu [12:10]
10. The Japanese Soldier in Action [3:28]
11. Prison Camp [3:44]
12. Defeating Japan [4:04]
13. NHK News (Japan/1995) [5:38]
14. December 7th (Uncensored Version) [1:38]
15. Uncle Sam Meets Mr. Conscience [4:51]
16. Honolulu, T. H. [6:08]
17. Nisei Loyalty [10:09]
18. Spies [15:19]
19. Uncle Sam's Nightmare [1:19]
20. "Disregard Radio Alert" [3:02]
21. Attack! [1:05]
22. Salvage and Repair [20:47]
23. Beginning of Censored Version [11:12]
24. Conclusion of Censored Version [6:02]

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