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Tora! Tora! Tora! video sleeve graphicTora! Tora! Tora!

Starring Martin Balsam and Jason Robards

Tora! Tora! Tora! is a docudrama (it uses actors to play historical figures and reconstructs the events rather than relying upon newsreel footage and still photos, but strives to maintan historical accuracy) about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It was actually filmed on location with considerable attention to detail, and the actors playing the Japanese participants are actually Japanese nationals and spoke real Japanese (with English subtitles for those not so fortunate as to be able to understand the language).

The American cast was fairly good, and Admiral Kimmel was treated sympathetically. Martin Balsam makes a recognizable, although not perfect, HEK. He's got the build and the manner, but his hair is a little too dark and his eyebrows are too thick (I have a sizeable collection of photographs of the Admiral, so I have a strong image of what he looked like). However his acting is quite convincing, and the look on his face while he's actually observing the attack, first from the lawn of the Admiral's residence on Makalapa Hill and later just outside CinCPac headquarters, is absolutely heartrending. One really gets a sense of the tragedy, the way HEK was screwed over.

And the Washington sequences are absolutely damning of the Administration and the sheer level of SNAFU that it tolerated. Not a one of the top commanders were available for consultation during the critical hours. Gen. George C. Marshall (Army Chief of Staff) was out riding, Adm. Harold Raynsford Stark (Chief of Naval Operations) had gone to the theater, and Adm. Richmond Kelly Turner (another senior Navy officer in Washington) was out walking his dogs. Now tell me that these men should be expected to shoulder not one iota of the blame and even go on to other responsible posts during and after the War while HEK, who did his damndest before and during the attack to defend his command with inadequate information and materiel, should be shuttled off to an ignomous retirement. Something is seriously wrong with this situation.

If you like seeing Martin Balsam and Jason Robards as the commanders in Hawaii, you may also enjoy seeing them as senior editors of the Washington Post in All The President's Men, a historical drama about how two young reporters uncovered the scandal behind the Watergate break-in.

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Review posted March 30, 2001

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