The U.S.S. Copperfin sails under secret orders for Tokyo Bay in the early days of World War II. The submarine's mission is to enter the bay undetected and place a landing party ashore to obtain information vital to the upcoming Doolittle air raid on Tokyo.
Cary Grant ... Capt. Cassidy
John Garfield ... Wolf
Alan Hale ... 'Cookie' Wainwright
John Ridgely ... Reserve Officer Raymond
Dane Clark ... Tin Can
Warner Anderson ... Andy, Executive officer
William Prince ... Pills
Robert Hutton ... Tommy Adams ('The Kid')
Tom Tully ... Mike Conners
Faye Emerson ... Mrs. Cassidy
This film is a bona-fide classic. Made during the height of the war, and before it was a foregone conclusion that the Allies would prevail, it shows a surprisingly detailed (if romanticized) portrayal of life in the "Silent Service". The characters are finely drawn with a craftsman director's skill, and are the archetypes for subsequent films, not derivative cartoons.
This, like all films made during the war, must be taken in context as a form of propaganda. But it is still a fine effort that produces lasting impressions. Remember that a large number of viewers in theaters had family or friends serving in the military, and must have been astonished to see how their loved ones were fighting the war. While many technical details were abstracted for obvious security reasons, there are sufficiently accurate scenarios to satisfy. The appendectomy performed by a pharmacists mate with no surgical training was a real incident adapted for the screen.
All in all, a memorable epic which, like Casablanca, tells a story from a sense of urgency we cannot recreate today.
The major problem with watching these 1940s films about World War II is how slow they now appear. When released, most films were of similar ilk and moviegoers were used to hearing a lot of talk, having characters developed, suspense built up and not a whole of action. That's fine, but it doesn't work today and particularly for a war movie. Hey, guys - the main audience for action films - want to see some of just action: action.
Instead, what you get here , at least in the first hour which is all I remember nodding off, is talk, talk and more talk. We get characterizations of every major figure on the ship.
Combine that with horrible special-effects (this WAS made almost 65 years ago) and you have a bad movie. Looking at an obvious scale model of submarine takes away from the story. I mean when you are laughing and recalling the days of playing with toys like this in your bathtub as a kid, it's hard to take the movie seriously.
I don't mean to sound this harsh but after viewing "Master and Commander: Far Side Of The World" and "Das Boat" and a several other films involving ships and submarines, It's tough to go back and watch something that looks this unrealistic, despite a good cast and decent script.
I will defend this film - and others of the period, however, for its patriotism. What a sad day it is when an American film made during WWII is now derisively insultingly called "propaganda" by a number of critics here. What do they want, a pro-Japanese or a pro- Nazi movie? Probably.
By the time of its release of Warner Brothers DESTINATION TOKYO (1943), it was coming across crystal clear; The Allies were in for a long, drawn out war. False notion of a an early end to War, simply because the United States was now involved were certainly cast into the figurative "circular file" of life.
The underlying circumstances, although basically the same is in the First World War, were complicated by both the political and geographical situations of World War II. The combatants in the First Conflict were made up of nations that were ruled by a group of cousins, better known as the Royal Families of Europe. The Theatre of War were limited to The Western Front in Europe (France, 1914-1918), the Italian & Austro-Hungarian Front (1914-18) and the Middle East Consisting of the fighting against the Ottoman Turkish Empire by the British and the Arab Militias in Arabia and Palestine (the Holy Land, Israel). By contrast, World War II had military engagement of a truly Global Magnitude. Hence we had major Fronts in Europe (Both Eastern and Western), North Africa, the whole Atlantic via combat from the U Boats, Iran, the China-Burma-India Theatre of War, Southeast Asia in Viet-Nam and Burma, Indonesia and the Australian-New Zealand Theatre, The Island Warfare in Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian Island Groups; as well as the whole Pacific.
With such an overwhelmingly immense a job to be done (literally do or die, no ifs ands or butts about it), the full and whole hearted support was needed from the entire Nation; and it's obvious that everyone did. From the Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen on the fronts to the industrial sector with its hard working corps of men and women; all pitched in and in going the extra mile, won the war.
Hollywood sure did its part, as no one can deny. And with that, we are brought down to our subject at hand today.
OUR STORY………In DESTINATION TOKYO we have a feature film which is at once a fine example of top Movie Entertainment, a concise statement of U.S. Policy, a stirring statement of the underlying, unique reasons of our being involved in European and Asian conflicts and an inspirational fictional version of events that have transpired previously. In short, it was at least in part, a propaganda piece par excellence.
The ship has a super secret mission, which proves difficult to the veteran submarine crew. Being experienced fighting men, they fail to understand. Passing up the opportunity to sink some of the enemy Japanese shipping is an unthinkable deed to the crew, both officers and enlisted men. The thought surely though silently, must pass through their collective minds; could this Captain Cassidy (Cary Grant) be afraid of combat? Is he filled with cowardice or could it be those unknown orders that are behind his reserved behaviour.
Finally the big moment comes and the cat gets let out of the bag. The crew finds out the news that they are on a special mission of reconnaissance; rather than combat. They were to get in close to the Japanese coastline, within Tokyo's port city of Yokohama harbor itself. From there, a landing party of two would go in to the beach property in order to check local topography of the land, weather conditions, tides, local conditions of all types.
This seemingly insignificant mission, it turns out, is a necessary step in carrying out the later air raids over the Japanese home islands. This is the very same raid that we have come to know as "the Doolittle Raid." Once the mission has been completed with and the landing party has successfully returned to the sub, they begin their tedious, nerve wracking business of sneaking back out of the chain-link fence protected Tokyo harbor, the Captain proclaims; "The Job's done! Nothing says we can't fight now!" (Or some such) They did and must have sunk half of the Imperial Fleet, in a sort of reverse Pearl Harbor. We can just see the moviegoers rising to their feet and cheering at this scene.
The ship returns safely to San Francisco, from which it had come. Cary's wife (Miss Faye Emerson) and family stand waiting on the pier! THE END.
The journey across the wide Pacific gave the crew to interact and tell us all about themselves. As was the usual practice, Warner Brothers made sure that the crew was a mixture, sort of like a pound assortment of chocolates. Hence, we have guys from all over: New York, the South, Texas, the Dakotas and California. The excellent work of cast members like John Garfield, Alan Hale, Dane Clark, John Forsythe and Bill Kennedy sparkled.
WE must concentrate on Tom Tully's work as the career man Petty Officer, Joe. Through his dialogues with others, as contrasted with the way he eventually pays the ultimate price, makes for an excellent back-drop for expressing what was the difference between our way of life in the U.S.A. and the life of those brought up under a Militarist Totalitarian System. At times, the speeches delivered by the Captain and others may seem to be have been a little much in the post World War II era.
But once that one considers the events of 9/11, well………………..
* The operation of the submarine as shown in this movie was so accurate that the Navy used it as a training film during World War II.
* Raymond's call to the USS Hornet in Japanese is "Dinki hokuku." The pronunciation is poor but it has been identified as meaning: "electronic communications".
* The appendectomy done in this film actually happened. It was performed on the USS Silversides SS236. Pharmacist's mate Thomas Mooere removed George Platter's appendix 150 feet below the oceans surface. Photographs of the surgery are on display where this submarine is docked, in Muskegon, Michigan at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum.
* Aspects of the appendectomy used in the scene in this movie were taken from the events outboard the Seadragon. An appendectomy performed by a 22-year-old pharmacist's mate named Wheeler Lipes and an assistant. They used bent spoons as retractors, alcohol taken from torpedoes, and sterilized pajamas as surgical gowns. It took place 120 feet below the surface of the South China Sea in 1942. Lipes' actions were criticized by Navy doctors, and the US surgeon general even considered a court-martial. Lipes finally received the Navy Commendation Medal two months before his death in April 2005.
* Film debut of Whit Bissell.
* Tom Tully and Warner Anderson who appear in this movie would also appear together in The Caine Mutiny (1954) and the police drama series "The Lineup" (1954) (a.k.a. San Francisco Beat).