An American intelligence agent is sent to Tokyo to track down a Communist spy ring is the blurb but if I hadn’t read that beforehand then I probably wouldn’t have been aware of such a thing! For an espionage film, there is very little action throughout the entirety of this 100 minute film.
Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Mark Fannon (Robert Wagner) is supposedly on his way from San Francisco to Seoul when he is told that he has to stay in Tokyo because he has no Letter of Entry to go any further. There is a key word in that statement but I’m not going to say what it is. Robert Wagner is a fine actor but he and the other male lead actors, Edmond O’Brien and Ken Scott, really didn’t have much to work with given how dull Richard L. Breen’s screenplay was.
As someone who grew up watching ‘Dynasty‘ (1981-89) I was interested to see the iconic Joan Collins in action as I’m only aware of her from that series and TV interviews. In this she plays Welsh airport clerk Tina Llewellyn which seems a stretch as it’s only in the last few years that Japan has notably started to employ workers from overseas. Rumour has it that Collins was contractually obliged to make this film following the studio’s promise that she would work with filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. That ultimately fell through but she had already signed on for it.
Her character is far removed from her classic portrayal of the bitchy Alexis in the aforementioned TV show and does little more than answer the phone, pour tea and play babysitter. She becomes involved in a love triangle of sorts but there really isn’t much romance at all and Scott’s character Tony is under-used, and is more of a pawn to just help the story plod along and create a bit of animosity and tension between him and fellow agent Fannon.
This movie is actually based on the novel of the same name from 1955 which was the last in the ‘Mr. Moto‘ series. The funny thing here is that the middle-aged Moto from the book got completely edited out of this film adaptation which followed a couple of years later. The film is certainly of it’s time and the young kid Koko (Reiko Oyama) is even asked by Fannon to go and buy his cigarettes at the airport!
Despite easily understanding all the non-simplified English Fannon speaks to her, Koko struggles to get her lines out in a coherent way. Bless her, she had probably just learned her bits using katakana which often butchers the original language completely. “Japanese speaking?” is the question that Fannon is asked in English in another scene. I have rarely had a local ask me this in English as they tend to just assume you can’t speak their language.
The likes of ‘House Of Bamboo‘ (1955), ‘The Teahouse Of The August Moon‘ (1956), ‘Sayonara‘ (1957) and this one certainly set the precedent for what was to follow for many, many years with humour involving the difference in average heights of the Japanese and the westerners. In this one we have the American guy hitting his head on the wooden beams of the lower Japanese homes.
Admittedly, I’m not really a fan of such films set in Japan from the distant past but I approached this one with optimism as ever. The score promises some tension but there is then nothing too exciting at the end of it all other than perhaps the steam room attempt on Fannon’s life scene.
Maybe the problem is that for an espionage movie, there really is not that much shot at night. Instead, it’s all transmitted in bright colour which may have been nice to look at during that era but just doesn’t seem right for a noir film. Filming locations included Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture as well as in Kyoto, Kamakura and Tokyo. Quite frankly it serves as nothing more than a picture-postcard movie which is only really of interest to those who have an interest in seeing how different Japan was compared to it’s modern day identity.
Tokyo Fox Rating 3/10