Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Across the Pacific (1942)

One year after THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), three of that film's stars and its director John Huston reunited for the Warner Bros. WWII spy thriller ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942).

Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Leland, who's court-martialed and drummed out of the army prior to Pearl Harbor. He tries enlisting in Canada without luck and ends up on a Japanese boat headed south along the East Coast, destined for the Panama Canal.

The lone regular passengers, other than himself, are a Canadian woman, Alberta Marlow (Mary Astor), and a professor, Dr. Lorenz (Sydney Greenstreet), who seems to know a great deal about the Japanese.

It soon becomes apparent there's more to Rick than meets the eye, as during his travels he periodically meets with men in nondescript offices to exchange intelligence data. It evolves that Rick is up against operatives supporting Japanese plans to destroy the Panama Canal.

ACROSS THE PACIFIC is somewhat meandering in its 97 minutes, but I found it quite enjoyable. It's unexpectedly humorous, particularly in the first half, and the repartee between Bogart and Astor is great fun. The suspense builds nicely, ratcheting up in intensity as the action-packed climax approaches.

The movie looks terrific, with sharp, inky blacks, filmed by Arthur Edeson. I especially enjoyed the shipboard set. All in all, the movie's a great exemplar of the WB "house style."

Vincent Sherman completed directing the film when Huston's wartime service began.

The supporting cast includes Victor Sen Yung, Keye Luke, Charles Halton, Frank Wilcox, and Philip Ahn. William Hopper (PERRY MASON) can be spotted as a soldier early in the film.

Something curious: Despite the title, the movie's action doesn't take place in the Pacific. Perhaps the title refers to the pending Japanese invasion coming from "across the Pacific"?

ACROSS THE PACIFIC is available on DVD in the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection, Vol. 2. Two of the discs in my copy of this set developed playback problems roughly a decade after it was purchased so I also own this film as part of the TCM Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection.

ACROSS THE PACIFIC is available digitally from Amazon Instant Video. It also had a release on VHS.

This film may also be seen on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is available on the TCM website.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura, another good review. I agree that ACROSS THE PACIFIC was quite enjoyable and was a great exemplar of the WB "house style." That is why I have always liked this movie and others from WB. That wonderful style. I knew, even as a youngster, when the WB symbol came toward me, while watching our black and white TV, that I would be viewing hard-bitten realism, in style, tone, and technique with stories "torn from today's headlines." Talk about being torn from the headlines of 1941. In MY STORY: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY(1959) written by Mary Astor, she tells, "that the original script was about a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, but after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the location was hastily changed to Panama." The screenplay was written by Richard Macaulay taken from Robert Carson's "Aloha Means Goodbye", a serialized novella about a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, published in the June 28-July 26, 1941 issues of THE SATURDAY EVENING POST, five months before the actual attack occurred. So much for a surprise attack.

Forgive me for being long winded. One thing did disappoint me about the movie, Peter Lorre never showed up. Thank you for stirring my memories.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

I have that TCM set and have meant to watch ACROSS THE PACIFIC for some time. Thanks to your review, ttonight was the night, and I enjoyed it, too. As you said, it was surprisingly humorous throughout most of the film. It was also fun to see a couple of Charlie Chan’s sons. The trailer is quite interesting and very similar to that of THE MALTESE FALCON, certainly to capitalize on the latter’s success.

ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC is another excellent film in that same collection. The opening is particularly spectacular and powerful. And as for Peter Lorre, he and Greenstreet make for a great pair in THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you so much, Walter! It's really interesting how the studios, including WB, had very specific styles. I'll soon have a review up of a '40s 20th Century-Fox musical -- that lush Fox color is such a different look from the WB '40s look!

Thank you for sharing those interesting details. It's been a long time since I read one of Mary Astor's books. I recall especially liking A LIFE ON FILM.

Seth, I'm also delighted you gave this one a whirl and enjoyed it! Thanks for the recommendation of ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC, it's been mentioned positively by a couple people to me recently and now you have as well. My (working) copy is on loan-out and I plan to watch it a little later in the year when I have it on hand again. I also have THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS which I've never seen. (I confess I've held off hoping it would turn up at a film noir fest some year...) I really need to see that one. Zachary Scott is always interesting.

Thanks to you both!

Best wishes,

11:14 PM  

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