Saturday, February 3, 2007

ACROSS THE PACIFIC (Warner Bros. 1942) Warner Home Video

John Huston tries to revisit the success of The Maltese Falcon with Across The Pacific (1942) – a wartime action/adventure that reunites much of the Falcon’s cast but alas not much of the aforementioned film's mystique. The film stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Leland, a disgraced former military man and would-be adventurer who’s just looking for a bit of R&R aboard the Piper Maru, a ship bound for the Orient. Regrettably, neither is in the cards.

On his journey Rick meets and flirts with Alberta Marlow (Mary Astor – this time playing the good girl). He also comes in contact with cordial Japanese American Joe Totsuiko (Victor Sen Yung), and the seemingly benevolent Dr. Lorenz (Sidney Greenstreet) a sociologist of spurious means who makes no apologies for the pride he feels for Japanese culture. To sweeten their association, Rick tells Lorenz that he has no affinity for the U.S. after his dishonorable discharge. After Rick botches an assassination attempt on the good doctor’s life he partners up with Lorenz under an agreement to see him and his cargo safely through the Panama Canal. 

Unfortunately, Rick is betting on the wrong horse. Very shortly he learns that Lorenz is working for the Japanese on the eve of Pearl Harbor. To test Rick's loyalties, Lorenz asks him to obtain a copy of the plane schedules patrolling the canal. Rick contacts A.V. Smith (Charles Halton) with his request, but is later ambushed by Lorenz who knocks him unconscious, steals the schedules, then kills Smith before he can alert the proper authorities and change the schedules to avert an invasion.

Eventually, Rick learns that Alberta has also been duped into participating in Lorenz's diabolical scheme, to save her father who is being held captive on his own plantation. Totsuiko and Lorenz plan to bomb the canal. But Rick intervenes, takes over a machine gun and downs the twin engine flyer who was supposed to carry out the mission. In the resulting hailstorm of bullets Alberta's father is killed and Totsuiko and Lorenz captured. 

Across the Pacific is timely Warner war fluff, magnificently staged but without much staying power. Huston makes valiant attempts to rekindle the danger, thrills and excitement of The Maltese Falcon but is severely hampered by a screenplay from Richard Macaulay that dabbles in almost every facet of the Falcon’s success without ever getting its talons wet. Alberta and Rick sort of make it in a love affair that gets more hinted than tainted. Rick sort of becomes our hero when he thwarts plan-after-diabolical-plan to kill him off. 

In short, Across the Pacific has everything going for it except magic. That isn’t to suggest that it’s a wash out all together. Bogart is as Bogart was - a brooding loner of a leading man. He does this so well we can almost forgive his character's awkward bumbling through the rest of the plot. Mary Astor as the good girl doesn't do it for me, perhaps because her performance as the femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon is so iconic and diabolical. If you have never seen The Maltese Falcon you may want to see this film first to dilute your expectations.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is adequately rendered. The B&W image is, for the most part, quite clean with a nicely contrasted gray scale, bright whites and very solid blacks. Occasionally, edge enhancement crops up. There’s also a hint of age related artifacts, but these will not distract. The audio is mono but very well represented. Extras include a short featurette, short subjects and the film’s theatrical trailer. Overall, recommended.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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