TOKYO JOE (director: Stuart Heisler; screenwriters: story by Steve Fisher/Cyril Hume/Walter Doniger/Bertram Millhauser; cinematographer: Charles Lawton; editor: Viola Lawrence; music: George Antheil; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Joe Barrett), Alexander Knox (Mark Landis), Florence Marly (Trina Pechinkov Landis), Sessue Hayakawa (Baron Kimura), Jerome Courtland (Danny), Gordon Jones (Idaho), Teru Shimada (Ito), Hideo Mori (Kanda), Lora Lee Michel (Anya), Rhys Williams (Col. Dahlgren); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert Lord; Columbia Pictures; 1949)
“Not much to take away from this world-weary melodrama except for a lot of gloom.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Downbeat thriller that has a documentary look capturing the grimness of rebuilding postwar Tokyo and that the Japanese are shamed by defeat. It also has some gripping moments of melodrama, but remains one of Bogart’s lesser films. Stuart Heisler (“The Glass Key”) adequately directs but without much flair; it’s based on a story by Steve Fisher. The usual suspects in a Bogart film, Lorre and Greenstreet, are missing, and their absence means a lot since no one else can pick up the slack.
A broke Joe Barrett (Humphrey Bogart) returns to Tokyo after the war to see if he can resurrect his life and his nightclub Tokyo Joe’s, with his Japanese partner Ito. The Japanese speaking Joe left Japan just before Pearl Harbor and served as an American flyboy during the war with the rank of colonel. His wife Trina (Florence Marly), a White Russian exile and singer in his club, stayed behind and was imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp. Joe thought she died, but learns she’s alive and divorced him to marry lawyer Mark Landis (Alexander Knox). He also learns she has a cute 7-year-old daughter named Anya, never realizing until now that he’s a father. He’s distressed to discover Trina stayed alive by working for the Japanese to broadcast anti-American propaganda, something she was forced to do or else the Japanese threatened to murder her child.
Joe is only allowed a visitor’s pass for 60 days and that’s not enough time to go through the red tape of owning the nightclub again, as the military stalls his application for a permit. Despite Joe telling Mark he’s determined to win Trina back, the lawyer uses his contact with a general to allow him to operate a small freight airline shipping frozen delicacy frogs. Baron Kimura (Sessue Hayakawa), the boss behind the airline Joe only fronts for, forces him into smuggling in from Korea wanted war criminals by threatening to out Trina for her treasonous wartime radio propaganda broadcasts.
As expected there’s a conventional action-packed climax where the Bogart character shows he’s heroic and a true patriot, as the occupiers are shown to be the good guys and those Japanese working against the occupation are the fanatics who were responsible for the war and still haven’t learned their lesson.
Not much to take away from this world-weary melodrama except for a lot of gloom.
REVIEWED ON 11/17/2005 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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