Joe Barrett returns to Tokyo after World War II where he once owned a bar, Tokyo Joe's, and deserted his wife Trina. They have a seven-year-old daughter. Kimura forces Joe into piloting war criminals by revealing that during the war Trina made treasonous propaganda broadcasts.
Humphrey Bogart ... Joseph 'Joe' Barrett
Alexander Knox ... Mark Landis
Florence Marly ... Trina Pechinkov Landis
Sessue Hayakawa ... Baron Kimura
Jerome Courtland ... Danny
Gordon Jones ... Idaho
Teru Shimada ... Ito
Hideo Mori ... Kanda
Charles Meredith ... General Ireton
Rhys Williams ... Colonel Dahlgren
Lora Lee Michel ... Anya, Trina's daughter
"Tokyo Joe" is rightly called a "lesser Bogart effort." In fact, there is much in this film that obviously derives from earlier Bogart classics, especially "Casablanca." However, this Santana production/Columbia release is by no means without its interesting points. I would point to Alexander Knox's performance in a supporting role, for one. Sessue Hayakawa, as the old fascist surviver, is also good.
On the other hand, Florence Marly is pretty weak as the love interest and the plot is somewhat routine. The main plot problem is the Bogart/Marly relationship. There is just too much resemblance to the relationship between Rick and Ilsa in "Casablanca." When you add in Marly's unconvincing performance, the chances of a having a first-rate film are slim. I must also add, reluctantly, that Bogie seems to be walking through this role, much as he did in another Santana film, "Sirocco" (1951).
That brings me to my final point. Bogart had started Santana Productions in about 1948. "Knock On Any Door" was the company's first effort, and it was somewhat popular at the time. "Tokyo Joe" was the second Santana production. As a small start-up independent production company, Santana did not have a stable of outstanding actors to call upon. Perhaps that is why they had to make due with a Florence Marly instead of a top female lead to go opposite Bogart.
It's also true that "Chain Lightning," 1950, Bogie's next to last Warner Bros. release, wasn't so hot. Maybe the era of the tough but decent Bogart character had simply run its course.
I might add here that the third Santana production was "In a Lonely Place," 1950, one of Humphrey Bogart's best, though perhaps most under-appreciated, films.
Give "Tokyo Joe" a try. It's no world beater, but I have watched it several times, and still find it entertaining.
Picture Bogart's Richard Blaine character renamed Joe Barrett for this film. Instead of Casablanca, he's got a place in Tokyo just like Rick's named Tokyo Joe's. World War II interrupts things and he gets out of Japan and goes in the Army Air Corps where he spends a good deal of time bombing a lot of Japanese real estate. Including Tokyo which because of the wooden buildings pre World War II was particularly vulnerable to Curtis LeMay's incendiaries. It's a miracle, but his place survived intact and he'd like to resettle in Tokyo and pick up where he left off.
Bogey gets an even better piece of news. His Ingrid Bergman who he married before the war and thought dead is alive. He goes to her and finds out she divorced him for reasons the plot really doesn't go into and is now married to a high civilian official with the American occupying authority, read MacArthur. That would be Alexander Knox in the Paul Henreid part and Ingrid, in this case Florence Marly has a daughter now.
Still Bogey who would now like to make money as a civilian flier as well is being used at cross purposes by the American Army Intelligence and by some Japanese led by Sessue Hayakawa who haven't adjusted to losing the war.
Tokyo Joe follows in plot lines laid out by Casablanca, but it sure treads softly in those giant footsteps. It was nice to see Sessue Hayakawa appear for the first time in an American film since silent days. He became a star in the early silent era in Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat and left for Japan with the coming of sound where he stayed a popular film star right through World War II.
Hayakawa came here for Tokyo Joe. Other than establishing newsreel shots, this whole production was done on Columbia's back lot. Humphrey Bogart gives it the old Casablanca try, but he must have been wondering why he left Warner Brothers he was certainly doing a lot of the same stuff over at his home studio.
Humphrey Bogart's lesser watched films are so often passed by because the standard for Bogart films is so incredibly high. Is this film as great as "To Have and Have Not"? No it isn't. On the other hand I guarantee you it is more sophisticated and interesting to watch than 90% of the films that came out last year.
People often seem to over look the unique virtues of this film as an interesting film in history. Coming so shortly on the heels of World War 2 one would expect to find a certain amount of racism towards the Japanese and yet (unlike slightly later films like Sayonara) it is almost devoid of any remarks of that kind.
Humphrey Bogart is a superb actor as always as is the rest of the cast. The plot is well written and the direction style suited well to the film. Over all I highly recommend that anyone who wants a sharp and fun movie check this one out just don't expect it to be the classic that "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" or that one of the many other "classic" films he made was. It is nonetheless worth watching and, to my mind at least, quite a bit better than the cookie cutter system they use for suspense films now.