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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 article "Hollywood's friends and foes" by Colin Shindler in the film history tome 'The Movie', "In 1943 20th Century-Fox made 'The Purple Heart', best of the anti-Japanese pictures. Written and produced by 'Darryl. F. Zanuck' . . . it was intended to strength public hatred of the Japanese at a time when it appeared as if the war in Europe were stealing all the headlines. The film was not finally released until 1944 when the [US] War Department was prepared to concede officially that the Japanese had indeed been torturing American POWS. Zanuck would have been quite prepared to wait until the end of the war to release his picture - so strongly did he feel about it." 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 »
Captain Harvey Ross:
No your excellency. It's true we Americans don't know very much about you Japanese. And we never did. And now I realize you know even less about us. You can kill us. All of us, or part of us. But if you think that's going to put the fear of god into the United States of America, and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you're wrong. Dead wrong. They'll come by night, they'll come by day. Thousands of them. They'll blacken your skies and burn your cities to the ground and make you ...
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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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