Tora! Tora! Tora!
|Tora! Tora! Tora!|
Original movie poster
|Directed by||Richard Fleischer
|Produced by||Elmo Williams
|Screenplay by||Larry Forrester
|Based on||Tora! Tora! Tora! by
Gordon W. Prange
and The Broken Seal by
E. G. Marshall
|Music by||Jerry Goldsmith|
|Cinematography||Charles F. Wheeler
|Edited by||James E. Newcom
Pembroke J. Herring
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$29,548,291 (domestic)|
Tora! Tora! Tora! (Japanese: トラ・トラ・トラ) is a 1970 American–Japanese war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer and stars an ensemble cast, including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E. G. Marshall, James Whitmore and Jason Robards.
The title is the Japanese codeword used to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved. Tora (虎, pronounced [tòɽá]) literally means "tiger", but in this case was an acronym for totsugeki raigeki (突撃雷撃, "lightning attack").
In August 1939, the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Sō Yamamura) and his predecessor, Zengo Yoshida (Junya Usami), discuss America's embargo that starves Japan of raw materials. While both agree that a war with the United States would be a complete disaster, army hotheads and politicians push through an alliance with Germany and Italy in September 1940 and start planning for war. With the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Yamamoto orders the planning of a preventive strike, believing Japan's only hope is to annihilate the American Pacific fleet at the outset of hostilities.
When planning the attack, the Japanese commanders modify their torpedoes to dive to only 35 ft, negating Pearl Harbor's shallow waters, which the Americans feel is a natural defense against torpedoes. In a major intelligence victory, American intelligence in Washington manages to break the Japanese Purple Code, allowing the United States to intercept secret Japanese radio transmissions. Monitoring the transmissions are U.S. Army Col. Bratton (E. G. Marshall) and U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Kramer (Wesley Addy).
Japanese commanders call on the famous Air Staff Officer Minoru Genda (Tatsuya Mihashi) to mastermind the attack. Genda's Japanese Naval Academy classmate, Mitsuo Fuchida (Takahiro Tamura), is chosen to be the leader of the attack. At Pearl Harbor, although hampered by a late-arriving critical intelligence report about the attack fleet, Admiral Kimmel (Martin Balsam) and General Short (Jason Robards) do their best to enhance defenses. Short orders his aircraft to be concentrated in the middle of their airfields to prevent sabotage, though leaving them vulnerable to an air raid. Kimmel calls for more B-17 bombers to patrol offshore to provide early warning of any enemy vessels or airplanes, and increases patrols off the harbor entrance.
Diplomatic tensions increase between the U.S. and Japan as the Japanese ambassador continues negotiations to avoid war. Army General Hideki Tojo (Asao Uchida) is adamantly opposed to any last minute attempts at peace. The Japanese commence a series of 14 radio messages from Tokyo to the Japanese embassy in Washington that will conclude with a declaration of war. The final message will be received precisely at 1:00 pm on December 7, 1941 after which the Japanese embassy is to destroy the code machines, an ominous point. Attempts to convey this message to American commanders fail because it is Sunday and they have the day off. Finally, Chief of Naval Operations Harold R. Stark (Edward Andrews) is informed of the increased threat, but decides not to inform Hawaii until after calling the President, although it is not clear if he takes any action at all.
Finally, at 11:30 am, Colonel Bratton convinces the Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall (Keith Andes), that a greater threat exists, and Marshall orders that Pearl Harbor be notified of an impending attack. An American destroyer, USS Ward, spots a Japanese midget submarine trying to slip through the defensive net and enter Pearl Harbor, sinks it, and notifies the base. Although the receiving officer, Lieutenant Kaminsky (Neville Brand), takes the report of an attempted foreign incursion seriously, Captain John Earle (Richard Anderson) at Pearl Harbor demands confirmation before calling an alert. Admiral Kimmel later learns of this and is furious he was not told of this foreign action immediately. Meanwhile, the two privates posted at the remote radar station spot the incoming Japanese aircraft and inform the Hickham Field Information Center, but the Army Air Forces Lieutenant on duty, Kermit Tyler (Jerry Cox), dismisses the report, assuming it is a group of American B-17 Flying Fortresses inbound from the mainland.
The Japanese intend to break off negotiations at 1:00 pm, 30 minutes before the attack. However, the typist for the Japanese ambassador is slow, and cannot translate and transcribe the 14th message quickly enough to meet the deadline. A final attempt to warn Pearl Harbor is stymied by poor atmospherics that prevent radio transmission, and bungling when a warning sent by telegram is not marked urgent; it will be received by Pearl Harbor after the attack. Apparently no one thought of contacting Hawaii via telephone.
The incoming Japanese fighter pilots receive no anti-aircraft fire as they approach the base, encountering only a civilian biplane on their way in. As a result, strike commander Fuchida, riding in a Nakajima B5N "Kate," radios in the code phrase marking that complete surprise has been achieved: "Tora! Tora! Tora!"
Once the attack begins, the Americans are not even aware that the planes overhead are not American until the first bomb drops. The resultant hasty response is desperate and only partially effective. General Short's anti-sabotage precautions prove a disastrous mistake that allows the Japanese aerial forces to destroy the U.S. aircraft on the ground with ease, thereby preventing an effective aerial counter-attack; most of the aircraft on the major airfields are destroyed either as they attempted to take off or while they were still parked. Two American fighter pilots (portrayals of Second Lieutenants Ken Taylor and George Welch) race to remote Haleiwa Field and manage to take off in their P-40s to engage the attacking aircraft, as the Japanese have not hit the satellite airfields.
The damage to the naval base is catastrophic, with sailors fighting as long as they can before abandoning sinking ships and jumping into the water with oil burning on the surface, while sailors and Marines on Ford Island fight back as best they can with the few machine guns available. When the attacks are over, with the Pearl Harbor naval base in flames, Admiral Kimmel finally receives the Pentagon's telegram warning of impending danger. In Washington, the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull (George Macready), is stunned on learning of the attack and urgently requests confirmation of it before receiving the Japanese ambassador, who is waiting outside his office. The distraught Japanese ambassador (Shōgo Shimada), helpless to explain the late ultimatum and the unprovoked sneak attack, is bluntly rebuffed by Hull with the words, "In all my fifty years of public service, I have never seen a document so crowded with infamous falsehoods and distortions, on a scale so huge, that I never imagined until today that any government on this planet was capable of uttering them."
The Japanese fleet commander, Admiral Chuichi Nagumo (Eijiro Tono), refuses to launch a third air strike out of fear of exposing his six carriers to the increased risk of detection and destruction by the still-unaccounted for U.S. carriers, especially as the element of surprise is gone. In Japan, Admiral Yamamoto laments the fact that the Americans did not receive the declaration of war until after the attack began, noting that nothing would infuriate the Americans more. He says: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."[Note 1]
The film was deliberately cast with actors who were not true box-office stars, in order to place the emphasis on the story rather than the actors who were in it. The original cast list had included many Japanese amateurs. Cast in credits order:
- Martin Balsam as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
- Sō Yamamura as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Commander-in-Chief, Combined Fleet
- Joseph Cotten as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson
- Tatsuya Mihashi as Commander Minoru Genda, Air Staff, 1st Air Fleet
- E. G. Marshall as Colonel Rufus S. Bratton, Chief, Far Eastern Section, Military Intelligence Division, War Department
- James Whitmore as Vice Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
- Takahiro Tamura as Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, Commander, Air Group, Akagi
- Eijiro Tono as Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, Commander-in-Chief, 1st Air Fleet
- Jason Robards as Lieutenant General Walter C. Short, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii
- Wesley Addy as Lieutenant Commander Alwyn D. Kramer, Cryptographer, OP-20-G
- Shogo Shimada as Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
- Frank Aletter as Lieutenant Commander Francis J. Thomas, Command Duty Officer, USS Nevada
- Koreya Senda as Prime Minister Prince Fumimaro Konoe
- Leon Ames as Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox
- Junya Usami as Admiral Zengo Yoshida, Minister of the Navy
- Richard Anderson as Captain John B. Earle, Chief of Staff, 14th Naval District
- Kazuo Kitamura as Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka
- Keith Andes as General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army
- Susumu Fujita as Rear Admiral Tamon Yamaguchi, Commander, Second Carrier Division
- Edward Andrews as Admiral Harold R. Stark, Chief of Naval Operations
- Bontaro Miyake as Admiral Koshiro Oikawa, Minister of the Navy
- Neville Brand as Lieutenant Harold Kaminski, Duty Officer, 14th Naval District
- Ichiro Ryuzaki as Rear Admiral Ryunosuke Kusaka, Chief of Staff, 1st Air Fleet
- Leora Dana as Mrs. Kramer
- Asao Uchida as Rikugun Taishō (General) Hideki Tojo, Minister of War
- George Macready as Secretary of State Cordell Hull
- Norman Alden as Major Truman H. Landon, Commanding Officer, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron
- Kazuko Ichikawa as Geisha in Kagoshima
- Walter Brooke as Captain Theodore S. Wilkinson, Director of Naval Intelligence
- Hank Jones as Davey, civilian student pilot
- Rick Cooper as Second Lieutenant George Welch, pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
- Karl Lukas as Captain Harold C. Train, Chief of Staff, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet
- June Dayton as Ray Cave, secretary, OP-20-G
- Ron Masak as Lieutenant Lawrence E. Ruff, Communications Officer, USS Nevada
- Jeff Donnell as Cornelia Clark Fort, civilian flying instructor
- Shunichi Nakamura as Captain Kameto "Gandhi" Kuroshima, Senior Staff Officer, Combined Fleet
- Richard Erdman as Colonel Edward F. French, Chief, War Department Signal Center
- Hiroshi Nihonyanagi as Rear Admiral Chuichi Hara, Commander, 5th Carrier Division
- Jerry Fogel as Lieutenant Commander William W. Outerbridge, Commanding Officer, USS Ward
- Carl Reindel as Second Lieutenant Kenneth M. Taylor, pilot, 47th Pursuit Squadron
- Elven Havard as Mess Attendant 3rd Class Doris Miller, USS West Virginia
- Edmon Ryan as Rear Admiral Patrick N. L. Bellinger, Commander, Patrol Wing Two
- Toshio Hosokawa as Lieutenant Commander Shigeharu Murata, Commander, 1st Torpedo Attack Unit, Akagi
- Hisao Toake as Saburo Kurusu, Japanese Special Envoy to the United States
- Toru Abe as Rear Admiral Takijiro Onishi, Chief of Staff, 11th Air Fleet (uncredited)
- Hiroshi Akutagawa as Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal Marquis Koichi Kido (uncredited)
- Kiyoshi Atsumi as Japanese Cook #1 (uncredited)
- Harold Conway as Counselor Eugene Dooman, U.S. Embassy in Tokyo (uncredited)
- Dick Cook as Lieutenant Commander Logan C. Ramsey, Chief of Staff, Patrol Wing Two (uncredited)
- Jerry Cox as First Lieutenant Kermit A. Tyler, Executive Officer, 78th Pursuit Squadron and Officer in Charge, Pearl Harbor Intercept Center (uncredited)
- Mike Daneen as First Secretary Edward S. Crocker, U.S. Embassy in Tokyo (uncredited)
- Francis De Sales as Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, Head, Far East Asia Section, Office of Naval Intelligence (uncredited)
- Dave Donnelly as Major Gordon A. Blake, Operations Officer, Hickam Field (uncredited)
- Bill Edwards as Colonel Kendall J. Fielder, G-2 Intelligence Officer, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii (uncredited)
- Dick Fair as Lieutenant Colonel Carroll A. Powell, Chief Signal Officer, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii (uncredited)
- Charles Gilbert as Lieutenant Colonel William H. Murphy, Air Warning Development Officer, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii (uncredited)
- Hisashi Igawa as Lieutenant Mitsuo Matsuzaki, Fuchida's pilot, 1st Torpedo Attack Unit, Akagi (uncredited)
- Robert Karnes as Major John H. Dillon, Knox's aide (uncredited)
- Randall Duk Kim as Tadao, Japanese messenger boy (uncredited)
- Berry Kroeger as General (uncredited)
- Akira Kume as First Secretary Katsuzo Okumura, Japanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. (uncredited)
- Dan Leegant as George Street, RCA Honolulu District Manager (uncredited)
- Ken Lynch as Rear Admiral John H. Newton, Commander, Cruisers, Scouting Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander, Task Force 12 (uncredited)
- Mitch Mitchell as Colonel Walter C. Phillips, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Forces Hawaii (uncredited)
- Walter Reed as Vice Admiral William S. Pye, Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (uncredited)
- Robert Shayne as Commander William H. Buracker, Operations Officer, Aircraft Battle Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (uncredited)
- Edward Sheehan as Brigadier General Howard C. Davidson, Commander, 14th Pursuit Wing (uncredited)
- Tommy Splittgerber as Ed Klein, RCA telegraph operator (uncredited)
- G. D. Spradlin as Commander Maurice E. Curts, Communications Officer, U.S. Pacific Fleet (uncredited)
- Larry Thor as Major General Frederick L. Martin, Commander, Hawaiian Air Force (uncredited)
- George Tobias as Captain on Flight Line at Hickam Field (uncredited)
- Harlan Warde as Brigadier General Leonard T. Gerow, Chief, War Plans Division, War Department (uncredited)
- Meredith Weatherby as Joseph C. Grew, U.S. Ambassador to Japan (uncredited)
- David Westberg as Ensign Edgar M. Fair, USS California (uncredited)
- Bruce Wilson as Private Joseph L. Lockard, radar operator, Opana Point (uncredited)
- Bill Zuckert as Admiral James O. Richardson, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (uncredited)
Veteran 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who had earlier produced The Longest Day (1962), wanted to create an epic that depicted what "really happened on December 7, 1941", with a "revisionist's approach". He believed that the commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, provided adequate defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese. Despite a breakthrough in intelligence, they had received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack. Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting was necessary, Zanuck developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for "a point of view from both nations." He was helped out by his son, Richard D. Zanuck, who was chief executive at Fox during this time.
Production on Tora! Tora! Tora! took three years to plan and prepare for the eight months of principal photography. The film was created in two separate productions, one based in the United States, directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan. The Japanese side was initially to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, who worked on script development and pre-production for two years. But after two weeks of shooting, he was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, who directed the Japanese sections.
Richard Fleischer said of Akira Kurosawa's role in the project:
Well, I always thought that even though Kurosawa was a genius at film making and indeed he was, I sincerely believe that he was miscast for this film, this was not his type of film to make, he never made anything like it and it just wasn't his style. I felt he was not only uncomfortable directing this kind of movie but also he wasn't used to having somebody tell him how he should make his film. He always had complete autonomy, and nobody would dare make a suggestion to Kurosawa about the budget, or shooting schedule, or anything like that. And then here he was, with Darryl Zanuck on his deck and Richard Zanuck on him and Elmo Williams and the production managers, and it was all stuff that he never had run into before, because he was always untouchable. I think he was getting more and more nervous and more insecure about how he was going to work on this film. And of course, the press got a hold of a lot of this unrest on the set and they made a lot out of that in Japan, and it was more pressure on him, and he wasn't used to that kind of pressure.
Larry Forrester and frequent Kurosawa collaborators Hideo Oguni and Ryuzo Kikushima wrote the screenplay, based on books written by Ladislas Farago and Gordon Prange of the University of Maryland, who served as a technical consultant. Numerous technical advisors on both sides, some of whom had participated in the battle and/or planning, were crucial in maintaining the accuracy of the film. Minoru Genda, the man who largely planned and led the attack on Pearl Harbor was an uncredited technical advisor for the film.
Four cinematographers were involved in the main photography: Charles F. Wheeler, Sinsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh and Osami Furuya. They were jointly nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography. A number of well-known cameramen also worked on the second units without credit, including Thomas Del Ruth and Rexford Metz. The second unit doing miniature photography was directed by Ray Kellogg, while the second unit doing aerial sequences was directed by Robert Enrietto.
The carrier entering Pearl Harbor towards the end of the film was in fact the Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli, returning to port. The "Japanese" aircraft carrier was the anti-submarine carrier USS Yorktown. The Japanese A6M Zero fighters, and somewhat longer "Kate" torpedo bombers or "Val" dive bombers were heavily modified RCAF Harvard (T-6 Texan) and BT-13 Valiant pilot training aircraft. The large fleet of Japanese aircraft was created by Lynn Garrison, a well-known aerial action coordinator, who produced a number of conversions. Garrison and Jack Canary coordinated the actual engineering work at facilities in the Los Angeles area. These aircraft still make appearances at air shows.
In preparation for filming, USS Yorktown was berthed at North Island in San Diego to load all the aircraft, maintenance, and film crew prior to sailing to Hawaii. The night before filming the "Japanese" take-off scenes she sailed to a spot a few miles west of San Diego and at dawn the film crew filmed the launches of all the aircraft. Since these "Japanese" aircraft were not actual carrier based aircraft they did not have arresting gear with which to land back on the carrier, and continued on to land at North Island Naval Air Station. USS Yorktown sailed back to North Island and re-loaded the aircraft. She then sailed to Hawaii and the aircraft were off-loaded and used to film the attack scenes in and around Pearl Harbor. Aircraft Specialties of Mesa, Arizona performed maintenance on the aircraft while in Hawaii.
A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress's actual crash landing during filming, a result of a jammed landing gear, was filmed and used in the final cut. The film crew received word that one of the B-17s could not lower their starboard landing gear so they quickly set up to film the "single gear" landing. The aircraft stayed aloft to use up as much fuel as possible, which gave the film crew some time to prepare, prior to landing. After viewing the "single gear" landing footage they decided to include it in the movie. In the sequence depicting the crash, only the final crash was actual footage. For the scenes leading up to the crash they manually retracted the starboard landing gear on a functioning B-17 and filmed the scenes of its final approach. After touching down on one wheel the pilot simply applied power and took off again. In the movie, all the approach footage was of this aircraft, and then, right at the moment of touchdown, they switch to the actual crash footage. The difference in production values between the actual footage and the final approach footage is quite clear. The B-17 that actually landed with one gear up sustained only minor damage to the starboard wing and propellers and was repaired and returned to service. A total of five Boeing B-17s were obtained for filming. Other U.S. aircraft used are the Consolidated PBY Catalina and, especially, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (two flyable examples were used). Predominately, P-40 fighter aircraft are used to depict the U.S. defenders with a full-scale P-40 used as a template for fiberglass replicas (some with working engines and props) that were strafed and blown up during filming. Fleischer also said a scene involving a P-40 model crashing into the middle of a line of P-40s was unintended, as it was supposed to crash at the end of the line. The stuntmen involved in the scene were actually running for their lives.
With over 30 aircraft in the air, the flying scenes were complex to shoot, and can be compared to the 1969 film Battle of Britain where large formations of period specific aircraft were filmed in staged aerial battles. The 2001 film Pearl Harbor would use some of the same modified aircraft.
Parts of the film showing the takeoff of the Japanese aircraft utilize an Essex-class aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown, which was commissioned in 1943 and modernized after the war to have an angled flightdeck. The ship was leased by the film producers, who needed an aircraft carrier for the film; Yorktown was scheduled to be decommissioned shortly afterwards. It was used largely in the takeoff sequence of the Japanese attack aircraft. The sequence shows interchanging shots of models of the Japanese aircraft carriers and the Yorktown. It does not look like any of the Japanese carriers involved in the attack, due to its large bridge island and its angled landing deck. The Japanese carriers had small bridge islands, and angled flight decks were not invented until after the war. In addition, during the scene in which Admiral Halsey is watching bombing practice an aircraft carrier with the hull number 14 is shown. Admiral Halsey was on the USS Enterprise, not the Essex-class carrier USS Ticonderoga, which would not be commissioned until 1944. This is understandable, however, as both the Enterprise and all six of the Japanese carriers from the attack had been scrapped and sunk, respectively. Enterprise was scrapped in 1959, and four of the six, including Akagi, were sunk not six months after the attack at the Battle of Midway.
In Tora! Tora! Tora!, an error involves the model of the Japanese carrier Akagi. In the film, Akagi's bridge island is positioned on the starboard side of the ship, which is typical on most aircraft carriers. However, the aircraft carrier Akagi was an exception; its bridge island was on the port side of the ship. Despite this, the bridge section appeared accurately as a mirrored version of Akagi's real port-side bridge. Secondly, all the Japanese aircraft in the footage bear the markings of Akagi 's aircraft (a single vertical red stripe following the red sun symbol of Japan), even though five other aircraft carriers participated, each having its own markings. In addition, the markings do not display the aircraft's identification numbers as was the case in the actual battle. The white surround on the roundel on the Japanese aircraft was only used from 1942 onwards. Prior to this the roundel was red only.
The USS Ward was an old "4-piper" destroyer commissioned in 1918; the ship used in the movie, USS Savage, which portrays the Ward looked far different from the original destroyer. In addition, in the movie she fired two shots from her #1 turret. In reality, the Ward fired the first shot from the #1 4" un-turreted gunmount and the second shot from the #3 wing mount.
A stern section of the USS Nevada was built that was also used to portray the USS Arizona and other U.S. battleships. The lattice mast (or cage mast) section of the Tennessee-class/Maryland-class battleship was built beside the set of the USS Nevada stern section, but not built upon a set of a deck, but on the ground as the footage in the movie only showed the cage mast tower. The large scale model of the stern shows the two aft gun turrets with three gun barrels in each; in reality, Nevada had two heightened fore and aft turrets with two barrels each while the lower two turrets fore and aft had three barrels each. Another model of Nevada, used in the film to portray the whole ship, displays the turrets accurately. It should be noted that the reason for this anomaly is because the aft section model was used in the film to portray both USS Nevada and USS Arizona. The ships looked remarkably similar except that Arizona had four triple turrets and a slightly different stern section. Footage and photographs not used in the film show the cage mast as being built on the ground. The USS Nevada/USS Arizona stern section was shown exploding to represent the explosion that destroyed the Arizona, although in reality the explosion took place in #2 magazine, forward, and Arizona's stern section remains essentially intact to this day.
The film has a Japanese Zero fighter being damaged over a naval base and then deliberately crashing into a naval base hangar. This is actually a composite of three incidents at Pearl Harbor attack: in the first wave, a Japanese Zero crashed into Fort Kamehameha's ordnance building; in the second wave, a Japanese Zero did deliberately crash into a hillside after U.S. Navy CPO John William Finn at Naval Air Station at Kāneʻohe Bay had shot and damaged the aircraft; also during the second wave, a Japanese aircraft that was damaged crashed into the seaplane tender USS Curtiss.
During a number of shots of the attack squadrons traversing across Oahu, a small cross can be seen on one of the mountainsides. The cross was actually erected after the attack as a memorial to the victims of the attack.
At the time of its initial movie release, Tora! Tora! Tora! was thought to be a box office flop in North America, although its domestic box office of $29,548,291 made it the ninth highest-grossing film of 1970. It was a major hit in Japan and over the years, home media releases provided a larger overall profit.
Roger Ebert felt that Tora! Tora! Tora! was "one of the deadest, dullest blockbusters ever made" and suffered from not having "some characters to identify with." In addition, he criticized the film for poor acting and special effects in his 1970 review. Vincent Canby, reviewer for The New York Times, was similarly unimpressed, noting the film was "nothing less than a $25-million irrelevancy." Variety also found the film to be boring; however, the magazine praised the film's action sequences and production values. James Berardinelli, however, said it was "rare for a feature film to attain the trifecta of entertaining, informing, and educating." Charles Champlin in his review for the Los Angeles Times on September 23, 1970, considered the movie's chief virtues as a "spectacular", and the careful recreation of an historical event.
Despite the initial negative reviews, the film was critically acclaimed for its vivid action scenes, and found favor with aviation and history aficionados. However, even the team of Jack Hardwick and Ed Schnepf who have been involved in research on aviation films, had relegated Tora! Tora! Tora! to the "also-ran" status, due to its slow-moving plotline. The film holds a 59% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 27 critical reviews. In 1994, a survey at the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu determined that for Americans the film was the most common source of popular knowledge about the Pearl Harbor attack.
Several later films and TV series relating to World War II in the Pacific have used footage from Tora! Tora! Tora!. These productions include the films Midway (1976; in the Tora! Tora! Tora! DVD commentary, Fleischer is angry that Universal used the footage), All This and World War II (film 1976), Pearl (TV mini-series 1978), From Here to Eternity (TV mini-series 1979), The Final Countdown (1980), and Australia (2008) as well as the Magnum, P. I. television series episode titled "Lest We Forget" (first airdate February 12, 1981).
Tora! Tora! Tora! was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Visual Effects.
- Winner Best Special Effects (L.B. Abbott, A.D. Flowers)
- Nominee Best Art Direction (Jack Martin Smith, Yoshirō Muraki, Richard Day, Taizô Kawashima, Walter M. Scott, Norman Rockett, Carl Biddiscombe)
- Nominee Best Cinematography (Charles F. Wheeler, Osamu Furuya, Shinsaku Himeda, Masamichi Satoh)
- Nominee Best Film Editing (James E. Newcom, Pembroke J. Herring, Shinya Inoue as Inoue Chikaya)
- Nominee Best Sound (Murray Spivack, Herman Lewis).
In popular culture
The name of the film has been borrowed – and parodied – for various media productions, including the "Torah Torah Torah" episodes of the television shows Magnum, P.I. and NYPD Blue, the band Tora! Tora! Torrance!, the Toyah Willcox live album Toyah! Toyah! Toyah!, the Depeche Mode song "Tora! Tora! Tora!" from their first album Speak & Spell, and the Tory! Tory! Tory! documentary on Thatcherism.
- List of American films of 1970
- Attack on Pearl Harbor
- Isoroku Yamamoto's sleeping giant quote
- Pearl Harbor (film)
- List of historical drama films
- List of historical drama films of Asia
- The exact quote in context is believed to be a Hollywood invention. However, it is likely based on a later 1942 quote by Yamamoto: "A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack."
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- Thorsten, Marie and Geoffrey White. “Binational Pearl Harbor?: Tora! Tora! Tora! and the Fate of (Trans)national Memory.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, December 27, 2010.
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- Tora! Tora! Tora! at the Internet Movie Database
- Tora! Tora! Tora! at the TCM Movie Database
- Tora! Tora! Tora! at AllMovie
- Tora! Tora! Tora! at Rotten Tomatoes
- Prange, Gordon W.