Review: Films Set In Japan – Tokyo Joe (1949)

If you thoughtThe Barbarian And The Geisha‘ (1958) was old then this film is absolutely ancient and apart from the movies opening glimpse of Mount Fuji this is a very different Japan compared to its modern day incarnation. In black and white, this is a Humphrey Bogart film you don’t often hear about and though it desperately tries to recapture the winning formula of ‘Casablanca‘ (1942) it really is weary in comparison.

The story finds ex-soldier Joe Barrett (Bogart) returning to Ginza san-chome just after WWII to the nightclub which he once owned alongside his old Japanese partner Ito (Teru Shimada) who 007 fans may remember for his later role as Mr. Osato in ‘You Only Live Twice‘ (1967). Ito informs Joe that Trina (Florence Marly), the wife he left behind, who he believed to be dead, is alive and living nearby. On top of that, she has remarried an American diplomat and has a seven year old daughter of whom Joe is the father. Furthermore, Trina did propaganda broadcasts during the war for the Imperial Japanese government making her a traitor to America leaving her libel to prosecution from the US Military Government in Japan who were in charge of Japan at that time. This all makes Joe want to stay for longer than the 60 days he’s given by the authorities.

What happens next amid the ensuing complications is a tale of blackmail, threats, smuggling, kidnapping with the inevitable rescue attempt in a gloomy albeit brief exciting finale littered with a few randomly placed Japanese words. It sounds better than it actually was and ultimately I was fairly disappointed with this film.

Of course I am watching these ‘films set in Japan’ for the locations and that is about the only thing which kept me interested in this slow moving movie as its far more interesting than the plot. Japan is being rebuilt following WWII and the place is far off the Japan we see featured in flicks today. If you think the economy is bad at present then thats nothing compared to one particular point where Joe flicks his cigarette butt onto the street and several people go after it. I’m not sure if Bogart actually even came to Japan as whenever we see his face it appears that rear projection is being used but when you see a guy in a trench coat wearing a hat (and thereby don’t see his face) its obviously someone else who did visit Japan where the production crew must have come to get the location shots needed. It is pretty noticeable and does make the film seem a bit cheap but hey this was shot over 60 years ago! There is even one moment where Joe is practicing his Judo but its so clearly a stunt double as it looks nothing like him!


Tokyo Fox Rating 3/10

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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2 Responses to Review: Films Set In Japan – Tokyo Joe (1949)

  1. Pingback: Review: Films Set In Japan – Joe Butterfly (1957) | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

  2. Pingback: TF Top 10……Films Set In Japan From The 1940s &1950s | Tokyo Fox (東京狐)

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