Today is the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the US fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor. My intention today is not to talk about the attack but a cinematic depiction of it: the US-Japanese production Tora! Tora! Tora! directed by Richard Fleischer and released in 1970. I saw TTT with my father and brother at the Odeon Cinema in New Delhi; I do not remember the exact date (I was not even a teenager then), but I remember my viewing of TTT very clearly.
I had been brought up in a military pilot’s household, and was an enthusiastic consumer of war comics and books. The WWII movies I had seen till then were fairly simple morality plays; gallant English and Americans took on leering Nazis and Japanese and cut them down to size with a dazzling combination of weaponry, insouciance, and moral rectitude. The violence in the movies was reasonably sanitized. War appeared in these movies the way it appeared in the comics: the sort of thing a schoolboy could get behind.
TTT changed that, and quickly. It was the first cinematic description of an Allied defeat in the Second World War that I had seen; it was extraordinarily violent (and loud; the opening scene of the flyby over the Japanese Imperial Fleet shocked even this schoolboy, brought up on military bases); and it was the first time I had seen “the US”, “America”, “the USA”, come off second-best at anything. (Strictly speaking, that might not be true; it is possible that by then I had seen the US come third in the medals tally in the 1976 Olympics at Montreal).
When I emerged from the Odeon after that matinee show, blinking, into the glare of the hot Delhi sun, I was still stunned. I had known, dimly, of Pearl Harbor, but I had not realized the carnage associated with it; the shots of USN sailors on fire still haunted me.
In the years to come, a great deal of my original naivete about war would resurface in various forms. But if that sentiment ever had a competitor in my understanding of that most intense of all political conflicts, TTT had a great deal to do with it.
6 thoughts on “Pearl Harbor and Tora! Tora! Tora!”
I remember Tora Tora Tora for the trauma inflicted on me – what i thought was destruction of so many warbirds (must have been the early 90s).. especially the scene of the prop spinning cartwheeling across the airfield after a P-40 was blown up.. took many years and the dawn of the internet in India to find out that – phew.. they were only full scale taxiing models…
You should lump a review of Pearl Harbor as well while you are at it.. 🙂
Good to see you here. You are such a warbird nerd! Imagine being worried about that 🙂
As for _Pearl Harbor_, I’ve been told it’s a terrible movie, but I guess I should watch it sometime. Let me see if Netflix has it.
Pearl Harbor is a terrible movie, trust me!!
Good to see both you guys here. Take care,
Sree, if only Netflix had it on “Instant Play”, I could check it out quickly without having to get the DVD on loan..