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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pearl was one of many lengthy mini-series made in the latter 1970s and early 1980s, and the passage of time has been good to this film. The cast is surprisingly good, the plot moves well, and the contrasts involved in the film are striking.
There are two main subplots which revolve around the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack - first is the relationships between MP Colonel Jason Forrest, his wife, and varied others under Forrest's command, notably his XO Captain Calvin Lanford (a particularly effective performance by Robert Wagner). The second is the relationship between Navy Junior Grade Lieutenant Douglas North (Gregg Henry in his most memorable performance) and his family, headed by his Navy Commander father (Richard Anderson, who plays about the only officer in the film whose head stays on straight throughout), along with a local Japanese news writer with whom Doug went to school in Oahu, Holly Nagata (Tiana Alexandra, who if I read her IMDb biography right, was all of 16 when this film was made).
The interaction between Doug and Holly is the best part of the film, as we see the less-than-enthusiastic reaction by Doug's father and mother Ellie (Marion Ross overdoing it at times) and the hostile reaction by Holly's tradition-minded mother and father to the presence of Doug in their daughter's life; Holly's plea to her father for tolerance is a strikingly effective speech showing a fact too often forgotten in PC circles - bigotry is a two-way street.
The greatest contrast in the film lies in its use of stock SFX/action footage from 1970's Tora! Tora! Tora! - the comparative decadence and ill-discipline of the American side contrasts sharply with the near-Cylon-esquire discipline of the Japanese First Air Fleet as it sails toward Hawaii. Chuichi Nagumo, commander of the First Air Fleet, is here portrayed by So Yamamura via footage from Tora! Tora! Tora!, with new dubbing in both Japanese and English; some of the English dubbing is unintentionally humorous over some post-attack scenes involving attack leader Mitsuo Fuchida and his crew chief, and officers aboard the carrier Soryu when the fleet's recall order goes out - given what these men actually say (via Tora Tora Tora's captions) the new dubbing mixes things up a little.
The film gets some details wrong - when Nagumo gets word that the first wave has sunk numerous US ships, he orders the launching of the second wave; in fact the second wave took off an hour before the first wave made contact with their targets. The film also gets wrong the exact time the first wave broke off its attack and also shows torpedo planes in the second wave, when only the first wave had such. Granted, this is nitpickery and doesn't really detract from anything.
The actual attack is presented in most of its entirety - some key scenes missing include early torpedo hits on Battleship Row and hits on the West Virginia before her skipper gives the order to counter-flood and stop her from capsizing. The film uses superior sound FX in presenting the attack - the sound FX used by 20th Century Fox are good, but Warner Brothers uses far better explosion, strafing, and piston airplane engine sounds here; the sound FX used here sound even better, despite being recorded in mono, than many stereo sounds used in later films.
The fate of Holly and Doug is by far the best character interplay throughout the film and is especially strong at the end; the film skips an important detail that Silliphant's subsequent novelization includes to great effect (some extra dialogue between Holly and Doug where Doug notes he "didn't use anything" from their date in her car), a detail that adds enormously to the relationship between Holly and the North family.
The North family also gets a great scenery-chomping scene between Commander North, Ellie, and their daughter Patricia at their hotel early in the attack amid rumors that President Roosevelt has surrendered Oahu to the enemy; Patricia and Ellie are hysterical as Michael struggles to keep them calm, and when Patricia asks her mother if she's ever been raped (wanting to know whether to resist should the Japanese invade the island) the stunned silence by Ellie and Commander North is strikingly effective.
The North soap opera ultimately is what really holds this film together and makes it as good as it is.
Though probably perceived as a cheesy mini series, this has a lot of good performances, notably Max Gail as a career NCO and Weaver as a negative stereotype of a career officer. It is also fairly faithful to history, something I found refreshing...
An interesting saga of trials and tribulations, passions and ambitions set in Hawaii around the time of the infamous attack on Pear Harbor on Dec 7, 1941. An all star cast provides the drama of relationships growing and waning in between some decent scenes of Japanese planes dropping bombs on the ships in the harbor. Notable cast members: Angie Dickinson, Robert Wagner, Brian Dennehy, Gregg Henry, Dennis Weaver, Tiana Alexandra, Richard Anderson and Lesley Ann Warren. Well worth your time.
This was a mega-TV miniseries in its time after the success of Roots and it generally is average Hollywood entertainment with a good cast. Dennis Weaver, Robert Wagner, Brian Dennehy all give good solid performances. The one to watch for is Angie Dickinson- she is "hot" in this..As historical fiction - its a fairly entertaining romp about the Navy in Pearl at the time of the Japanese attack. Any movie fan should notice that the Producers must have saved millions by editing an enormous amount of footage from Tora, Tora, Tora and cleverly working it into the story.
Entertaining movie about an awful event. I Watched it again for the first time since I saw it on TV, and was impressed. It actually touched on the prejudices of the time quite well. The acting was good, and it was fun to go down memory lane with some familiar faces-most who were in the smaller parts (Brian Dennehy, Gregg Henry, Adam Arkin, Max Gail). I liked Dennis Weaver's performance better now than in the 70s when "McCloud" was fresh in my mind, because his character was not that likable. For Robert Wagner fans, I would say this is one of his better roles...Especially if you measure his performance by hotness, as well as acting and character likability.
The military as a source of soap opera-type stories had been little-mined in the 1970s, though it certainly was going to be in the future (at least on American network TV) with shows like "For Love and Honor", "Emerald Point N.A.S." (also starring Weaver), and, arguably, "Tour of Duty" (not to mention the champ of them all, "China Beach"). To take the sweeping course of events in 1941 Hawaii and use them as a source of stories more about personal lives and interactions than grand strategic plans was an interesting course of action; somehow it must have mostly succeeded or there likely never would have been the (far superior) "Winds of War" a few years later on the same network.
The cast list alone semaphores the message that this is an EBGAC
(everybody got a check) movie, the sort where all the available
character actors in the waiting room got a chance to do their shtick.
The script is the classic Hollywood "melodrama" diluted for
commercial-interrupted TV. Stirling and Hy start out slow with cut-out
characters and stock situations and then push them faster, through,
past, around and beyond the actual "historical" situation that is
supposed to be the excuse for this miniseries.
I don't know how many nights this thing originally ran, but I watched it on VHS in two installments. While I originally began to watch it to laugh, by the time it was over, I was thoroughly caught up. There are cartoon characterizations and a lot of odd anachronistic social comment, as well as some blatant emotional button pushing. All in all, everybody did their job well, earned their check, got another credit on their SAG CV, and by the time the final credits rolled, I felt that my time was not wasted.
I remember watching this on the Family Channel (yes, the family channel) a
long time ago when I was little. At the time I wasn't sure what I was
watching, but I did like the movie. I had time to waste, and this wasted
time while being entertaining. I've seen the miniseries at least five
since then, when it's be re-run on various cable channels.
Whichever TV channel broadcast this originally, put a lot of work into it. On location filming, many of the biggest stars of 70s, and good special effects. With all this money put into these parts of the movie, the plot is slightly thin and melodramatic, and they "borrow" many action scenes from 'Tora, Tora, Tora' (good movie, but much more boring than this miniseries).
Angie Dickinson plays the bitchy wife of a colonel (Dennis Weaver), who tries to have an affair with a southern captain (Robert Wagner), and ultimately is involved in an affair with a private. Lesley Ann Warren is a doctor who is saved from suicide by Wagner. A local journalist of Japanese origin (Tiana Alexandra) is involved with a private (Adam Arkin). There's also a load of notable B actors that you can recognize from other films. All of them find themselves under attack on their island paradise of Hawaii.
Angie Dickinson and Lesley Ann Warren are both really attractive, and contribute decent performances considering the thin plot. Wagner and Weaver are both okay too. A pre-ER Adam Arkin contributes a good performance. And Tiana Alexandra is really under-rated. Sadly she disappeared after this miniseries. The supporting cast are all good, also. The plot is thin, though. They send Angie off on a long taxi ride in the middle of the series. Most of the relationships are unrealistic. And some of the historical facts are skewed (for the most part, because we learned more about the occurrences at Pearl Harbor after this miniseries was made).
Overall, if you have six hours to waste, take a look at this. Over-dramatic, but entertaining. You want a more historically accurate movie, see 'Tora, Tora, Tora'. More interested in actors who are still making movies and computerized special effects, see the even sappier (and, in my opinion, horrible) 'Pearl Harbor'.
There are worse ways to waste one's time than watching this. It is well casted, particularly by Weaver as martinet career soldier. Anyone who has been in any branch of the military any length of time will recognize the type, also Dennehy and Gail do well as other types of career soldiers...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a typical 1970's soap-opera-style mini-series, it had everything it
needed: sex, scandal, numerous affairs, and oh yeah, we needed a hook
to get you to watch. Why not Pearl Harbor! The action sequences taken
from "Tora, Tora, Tora" were done well. You can keep all the rest of
the phony-baloney gossip-scandal type stuff. Good shots of Angie
Dickinson's chest. Leslie Ann Warren is by far the best looking. Robert
Wagner is a cad. He does the doctor and the colonel's wife. Imagine
Adam Arkin's face when he finds out his gay lover has gone straight.
Gays! In 1941! Weren't they still in the closet!
If you like the attack on Pearl Harbor, this is okay if you can get through the first few hours. otherwise stick with "Tora, Tora, Tora" and "Pearl Harbor". Even Affleck's movie is more believable!
Oh yeah,, in the end the Japs did it!
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