Published May 25, 2001
NEW YORK – There have been several other movies focusing on Pearl Harbor over the past six decades - and the pick of the litter remains From Here to Eternity, winner of the 1954 Academy Award for Best Picture.
The Japanese attack takes up only about five minutes of running time - roughly one-eighth that of Pearl Harbor.
But it packs far more of an emotional wallop because Fred Zinnemann and screenwriter Daniel Taradash, adapting James Jones' best seller, have already introduced such memorable characters.
There are classic performances by Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr as illicit lovers; Montgomery Clift as a defiant bugler; and Frank Sinatra, who won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, as a cocky recruit.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), a Japanese-American co-production that was recently reissued on DVD, also remains very impressive.
Co-directed by Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Musuda, the film offers a scrupulously accurate depiction of the events leading up to the attack, with a starless cast of American and Japanese actors (Jason Robards, who has a small part, is the biggest name).
The 20-minute attack sequence - including an unplanned crash that made it into the final film - was spectacular enough to win an Oscar for Special Effects.
The footage has been recycled in several other movies and TV shows, most notably The Final Countdown (1980), a sci-fi thriller wherein the crew of a modern aircraft carrier commanded by Kirk Douglas is transported back in time to December 1941.
A re-creation of the raid more contemporary to the real-life time period can be seen in John Ford and Gregg Toland's December 7, 1941 (1943), a film of considerable historical interest.
This was originally commissioned as an 82-minute feature by the War Department, which wasn't pleased with the implication that the U.S. was asleep at the switch when the Japanese attacked.
The film was edited down to 35 minutes and won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Both versions are available on video.
Somewhat harder to find is a rare Japanese feature on the subject, which was released in the United States in an English-dubbed version called I Bombed Pearl Harbor (1961).
Legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune stars in Shue Matsubayashi's war drama about a flight commander who participated in the raid.