Thursday, October 2, 2008


The "Across the Pacific" (**1/2 out of ****) protagonist, career U.S. Army Artillery officer, Captain Rick Leland, receives a court-marshal for allegedly stealing company funds. He leaves the military with a bad taste in his mouth and tries to enlist in the Canadian Army, but the recruiter knows about Leland's court-marshal and turns him down. Not long afterward, the Japanese contact Rick (Humphrey Bogart of "The Maltese Falcon") and arrange his passage to Panama on Nipponese freighter Genoa Maru. Rick meets a Canadian lady Alberta Marlow. In the novel, Alberta is bound for the Hawaii Islands to visit a rich uncle, while in the screen version, she says she is going to visit her wealthy uncle, Dan Marlow, who owns a plantation in Panama. In the Saturday Evening Post story, an obese Filipino, Doctor Barca, serves as the villain, while in the story treatment, he is Japanese man named Dr. Yomoto. At the end of the story treatment, a notation indicates that, "Yomoto has been changed to Dr. Lorenz." Dr. Lorenz (Sidney Greenstreetof "The Maltese Falcon") greatly admires the Japanese way of life and Lorenz, Alberta, and Rick spend a great deal of time together discussing a variety of topics, until Lorenz gets Rick to himself, pours enough liquor into the ex-artilleryman to loosen his tongue, and learns that he has information about the artillery batteries guarding the Panama Canal. About half way through the action, the film reveals what many had expected that the dishonored hero is really an undercover agent whose court-marshal was a sham to elicit Dr. Lorenz to approach Rick. Complications occur just as Rick gives Lorenz his first report on the air traffic around the Canal. Dr. Lorenz has Rick's only contact murdered and leaves Rick for dead after a severe beating with his cane. Rick survives the torture and finds Lorenz has set up a make-shift air field where a Japanese officer plans to fly a bomb-laden plane to the Panama Canal and destroy it. Incredibly, even with the change of locales, "Across the Pacific" anticipates a later Warner Brothers film "Northern Pursuit," of no relation than coincidence to the former film, where Nazi aviators plan to bomb an unnamed but obvious canal in northeastern America. Naturally, Rick guns down the plane before it can take off, the arrests Dr. Lorenz hours later when the fifth columnist lacks the intestinal fortitude to commit hara-kiri.

This fast-moving, World War II thriller is not as good as "All Through the Night," but it is nevertheless fun to watch.

No comments: