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  Across the Pacific Buy War Bonds
Year: 1942
Director: John Huston
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Charles Halton, Victor Sen Young, Roland Got, Lee Tung Foo, Frank Wilcox, Paul Stanton, Lester Matthews, John Hamilton, Tom Stevenson, Roland Drew, Monte Blue, Chester Gan, Richard Loo, Keye Luke
Genre: Thriller, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rick Leland (Humphrey Bogart) used to be a military hero... used to be. But now he has been dismissed from his officer post for financial irregularities, and despite at least one of his colleagues refusing to believe he could have sunk that low given how much integrity he appeared to have, he is not about to contest the result and decides to head up to Canada and join up there, for the rest of the world outside of the United States is at war. However, they don't want him either, so he opts to head for Panama on a Japanese ship called the Genoa Maru to see if he can be of an use in the South, and on the journey he meets some interesting people who may not be what they seem to be...

Across the Pacific was trumpeted at the time of its release as basically The Maltese Falcon Part 2, seeing as how it starred Bogart, Mary Astor and Sydney Greenstreet, and was directed by John Huston, all of whom had become very big names in the wake of the previous picture's success. Although it was well-received, there's a reason why we still discuss The Maltese Falcon to this day and this little item is somewhat swamped in the flood of ultra-patriotic World War II movies that Hollywood produced during the years of the conflict (and indeed afterwards), though it does have its fans, enough of whom are Bogart cultists to make this worth a look out of curiosity.

Curiosity to see if you can see in this film what the cultists do, and in a way even the sceptics would be won over by Bogart's charm if the subject matter did little for them. It's just that watching these propaganda efforts so far after the fact, and far past the point that Japan ceased to be the villainous power on the world stage that it had been during the Second World War, there can be a disconnect between the anti-Japanese sentiment (no token nice guy Japanese here, or not so you would notice) and the feelings you have about that nation's population now. If you've since embraced any part of their culture, from Godzilla to Pokemon, it can be jarring to see them portrayed as so evil.

Across the board too, and the fact was that the villains here were played by Chinese actors, not Japanese-Americans, basically because most of that subsection were stuck in internment camps as the U.S. Government simply didn't trust them, no matter many protests that they were not supporting Axis forces. Not a great chapter in that country's history from that perspective, but works like this demonstrate precisely how heightened the paranoia, not to say prejudice, was at that point, and little wonder when the planet was on the brink of self-destruction thanks to Nazi Germany, Japan and their sympathisers. On the other hand, if you can accept all this as purely a product of the times, and take Across the Pacific on the level of a romp that did not reflect how espionage was going in the real world, then it was perfectly acceptable.

Especially when Bogart was at his most laidback, obviously enjoying himself and creating sparks with Astor who is the lady he meets and tries to woo on board, then trading urbanities with Greenstreet who was also on the ship, sorry, boat, a Philippines resident and scholar of the Orient whose love of Japan (and ability to speak Japanese) mark him out as a figure of suspicion. But then, nobody is quite what they claim to be here - even Leland has his secrets, guessable if you thought Bogart would not be playing a character with a black mark on his record, and Huston was evidently amusing himself by allowing his players to interact, so much so that the thriller aspects came across as secondary. That Huston never got to finish the picture thanks to his war duty, and painted his successor Vincent Sherman into a corner leaving the studio to wrap up a tricky situation for the hero, says a lot about his sense of humour, and how seriously he was taking what amounted to a throwaway but diverting exercise. In light of its pedigree, we should be glad Peter Lorre didn't show up playing Japanese. Music by Adolph Deutsch.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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