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This is the story of the crew of a downed bomber, captured after a run over Tokyo, early in the war. Relates the hardships the men endure while in captivity, and their final humiliation: being tried and convicted as war criminals. Written by
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According to the book 'The Films of World War II' by Joe Morella, Edward Z. Epstein and John Griggs (1973), this film was "released shortly after the [US] government's publication of reports of Japanese torture of American prisoners of war" and as such the film's original cinema release "was extremely timely and moving." See more »
There should be a solid red circle inside the white star on the insignia on the fuselage of the B-25 "Mrs. Murphy". The insignia shown was not adopted until June, 1942, two months after the Doolittle Raid. See more »
"Let it be known that he who wears the military order of the purple heart has given of his blood in the defense of his homeland and shall forever be revered by his fellow countrymen." - Geo. Washington, General and Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Aug. 7 1782
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Worth seeing for WWII and film history fans, this occasionally sappy film buys into the Hollywood anti-Japanese jingo-ism of the war while throwing in a few interesting curve balls.
The story hangs on a show-trial of a captured American bomber crew for the charge of murder for killing civilians during the bombing of Tokyo in 1942. Anticipating the Nuremburg trials, the plot is a daring concept for a time (1943) when the U.S. still had no clear idea how the war would end!
While the main characters adhere to the standard PR depiction of the Japanese as evil, cruel and hate-filled, there are interesting exceptions in the margins, particularly a kameo by Key Luke as a sailor who survives a shipwreck. He has to provide testimony that will either embarrass the army General prosecuting the case or his own Navy superiors. Tangential to be sure, but even this much sympathy for the Yellow Devil is almost unique for the period.
It also goes to great pains to show that not all orientals are evil, with an extended subplot involving a Chinese soldier who dies a hero's death.
Certainly, all the characters are highly emblematic - the Chinese soldier and his collaborationist father represent the divided China of the war, the foreign diplomats for whose benefit the show-trial is being conducted are all straight from central casting (note the conflicted Russian, not yet at war with Japan, who is driven finally to reject his own government!), and the crew are the typical rah-rah war movie accumulation of types and accents. But there are several extremely intelligent debates on war and responsibility to duty scattered through the film, along with a grudging admiration for the Japanese people as strong-willed and able to suffer deprivation for the sake of their ideals.
Ultimately, the movie is carried mostly by the charm of the American crew, who manage to get through the most appallingly sentimental parts of the film with their dignity intact.
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