War at Sea: From Hawaii to Malaya Kajiro Yamamoto 1942
American Occupation Authorities confiscated all prints convinced the realistic special effects were actual Pearl Harbor Footage!
In 1942 the Japanese Imperial Navy ordered Toho, Japan's top studio, to make a "national policy film" commemorating the first year of the war against America. Chosen to direct The War at Sea from Hawaii to Malaya (Hawai-maree oki kaisen) was Kajiro Yamamoto, mentor of the great Akira Kurosawa. When Yoshi Tomoda enters the Navy Air Corps Pilot Training Group, Yamamoto deftly recreates his years of training. Japan goes to war with China and the European war begins. Yoshi, now a pilot, sets off in a powerful air armada. The date: December 8th, 1941 (still December 7th in America). The destination: Hawaii. Pearl Harbor. Japanese bombers sink the American ships in a firestorm of destruction that combines superb aerial sequences with detection-defying models and miniatures.
The War at Sea is an astonishing spectacle. It exceeded its budget of $380,000 at a time when most major Japanese pictures cost a mere $40,000. Toho released the film amidst unprecedented ballyhoo on December 8th, 1942, the first anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It later claimed that the picture had been seen by more than a hundred million people by the end of the war. Eiji Tsuburaya's special effects and miniature work were heralded as one of Japanese cinema's landmark achievements. A huge model of Pearl Harbor stretched across the Toho lot, and scale models of American ships floated in its pond. After the war, American occupying forces confiscated all prints of the film, convinced that what they'd seen was genuine battle footage. Special-effects wizard Tsuburaya gained international fame in the 1950s with his miniature cities that were destroyed by Godzilla in 1954.
The War at Sea, a notorious piece of war propaganda, was nevertheless the greatest big-budget spectacle ever seen on Japanese screens. Directed by Kajiro Yamamoto. Starring Denjiro Okochi, Yataro Kurokawa, Setsuko Hara, Kaoru Ito. Japan, 1942, B&W, 116 mins. Japanese dialogue, English subtitles.
Historical Background Factoids
Original Promotional Material Slideshows:
- Photo Gallery
- Film Kurier TAGESZEITUNG with English Translation
NTSC Region 0 encoding (Entire World)