Thursday, April 21, 2016


It's November, 1941 in the Philippines where, even as Japanese ambassadors claim to be pressing for peace in the region, spies are sending messages about a coming attack on Pearl Harbor. On an American army base in Manila, we meet Bruce Gordon (Alan Curtis), a young and handsome soldier; Lucky Smith (Don Barry), a cocky, rowdy rule-breaker; and their chubby buddy 'Portly' Porter. We're also introduced to Portly's sister Marcia (Fay McKenzie), and when a local businessman named Littlefield (whom we have seen as one of the spies) bothers her at a bar, Lucky starts a fight that demolishes the place. He is disciplined and the three are sent on a mission to find the source of a mysterious radio transmission—musical notes that are coded Japanese messages. Restless Lucky splits to get a beer and while he's gone, the other two get ambushed by the spies and Portly gets killed. Lucky, imprisoned and facing a court-martial, escapes and, when he trips across a whole nest of spies who are smuggling oil, weapons and supplies for a coming Japanese invasion, tries to redeem himself by smashing the ring.

The title of this film is a little misleading. I suspect it was intended as a routine B-spy thriller in an exotic setting—and it even had a bit of a GUNGA DIN vibe starting when it seemed like the three rowdy buddies would be going off on an adventure—but when Pearl Harbor happened, it must have been retrofitted to be sold as the first Hollywood film with ties to the bombing. It's not really about Pearl Harbor, though we do see a minute or so of Pearl Harbor newsreel footage late in the film. Our heroes, needless to say, don't break the spy ring until December 7th when it's too late. But the final battle, between a small group of Americans and a larger group of invading Japanese, is rousing enough, and Lucky does indeed sacrifice himself to save the others. I wasn't crazy about the colorless Barry who had a long career in B-westerns, but I liked Alan Curtis (pictured to the left of Barry) as the straight arrow, and Sig Ruman is fun as a Nazi posing as a Dutchman (!). As a wartime spy film, this is passable, but don't expect any real Pearl Harbor content. [Paramount Vault on YouTube]

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