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Film / Across the Pacific

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Across the Pacific is a 1942 film directed by John Huston and an uncredited Vincent Sherman.

The movie opens on November 17, 1941. Captain Rick Leland (Humphrey Bogart), an artillery officer in the U.S. Army, receives a dishonorable discharge for embezzling funds. He goes to Canada, because Canada's at war, but they know about his past and reject him. Resolving to offer his services to Nationalist China, also at war, he boards a ship in Halifax, bound for the Panama Canal and thence to China.

As it happens, it's a Japanese ship with a Japanese crew. On that ship, he meets some interesting people. There's Alberta Marlow (Mary Astor), a lovely Canadian woman who immediately hits it off with Rick. Also on the ship is one Dr. Lorenz (Sydney Greenstreet), a businessman who is going back to East Asia, where he's spent most of his life. Dr. Lorenz is an aficionado of Japanese culture, speaks fluent Japanese, and has a Japanese servant. Lorenz starts asking Rick questions about his grudge against the Army, then more pointed questions about his service in the Panama Canal Zone, and the American defenses there. It eventually becomes clear that Lorenz is a spy for the Japanese, part of a plot to make an attack on the Panama Canal, should war break out—but surely it won't?

What Lorenz doesn't know is that Leland's court-martial and dishonorable discharge were a ruse. In fact, he is part of a counter-intelligence operation meant to ferret out just what Lorenz and his ring of Japanese spies are up to. What Leland doesn't know is just why Alberta Marlow is on the boat, and whether or not she is connected to Lorenz's plot.

John Huston left the production after he joined the Army with the breakout of war. Huston spent the war making Army documentaries and wouldn't make a Hollywood feature again until The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in 1948. Richard Loo plays Miyama, one of the Japanese bad guys.


  • The Alcoholic: It turns out that Alberta's father is the owner of the plantation which the Japanese have commandeered and made into a secret base. Her father is a "dipsomaniac" who, when he finally shows up, is so drunk he can barely stand.
  • Artifact Title: When this film first entered production, the story was about a Japanese plot to attack the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. When the Japanese actually did attack Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, production was shut down and the story was rewritten to be about a Japanese attack on the Panama Canal. However the title was not changed, which is why it's still called Across the Pacific when Rick and the boat never even get to the Pacific; they sail down the Atlantic coast to the Caribbean and then to the Panama Canal where the story reaches a climax.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: "Totsuiko" isn't a real Japanese name. It's an amalgam of the family name "Totsuka" (like Saika Totsuka in My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected) and the royal given name "Suiko" (the name of Japan's 33rd monarch).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: On board the boat, Dr. Lorenz produces his gun. Rick whips out his gun, a rather intimidating one, and says "Mine's bigger than yours."
  • Embarrassingly Painful Sunburn: A bit of comic relief has Alberta get a painful sunburn on the boat after ignoring Rick's warning about putting on sunscreen.
  • Faux Fluency: The Japanese characters are actually speaking Japanese (which is more than can be said for a lot of other World War II-era films), but the mostly Chinese-American actors diction and pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired.
  • Funny Foreigner: There's a lot of racist humor regarding the Japanese, who say "Excuse, please" all the time and are excessively polite. When one of the stewards on the boat introduces himself as "Sugi", Rick decides that he will call him "Should-a-be".
  • Insignia Ripoff Ritual: One of Rick's old Army friends, who is not in on the scheme, angrily rips off Rick's shoulder boards after Rick is dishonorably discharged.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Smith says that whatever Lorenz wants the flight patrol schedules for, it can't be for something imminent. He points to a newspaper headline about two Japanese peace envoys in Washington and says "We hardly think they'd keep those two men in Washington if they were intending to pull a fast one." The camera then zooms in to show that the newspaper is dated December 6, 1941.
  • Japanese Ranguage: A little last dollop of racism has the pilot of the torpedo plane—an Imperial prince!—address Rick as "Rerand".
  • Made of Iron: Rick is bashed over the head by Totsuiko and then beaten with a cane by Lorenz. When Rick shows up at the plantation Lorenz is astonished, saying that most people who had taken a beating like that would have been in bed for at least a week.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Alberta suns herself on the ship's deck in a pretty daring for the 1940s swimsuit.
  • Racial Face Blindness: Some amazingly racist dialogue when Alberta notices that Oki, Lorenz's manservant, has been replaced by a different man who is also calling himself Oki.
    Rick: The heat's getting to you, angel. They all look alike.
    Alberta: No they don't either, not if you look at them closely.
  • The Reveal: About a third of the way through the film it's revealed that Rick's dishonorable discharge was fake, that he has known all along that Lorenz is a Japanese spy, and that he is on a mission to infiltrate the spy ring.
  • Roof Hopping: Rick finds himself shooting it out with Japanese spies in a movie theater. He climbs out a second-story window to a roof, where he jumps across a narrow alley to a balcony across the street, making his escape.
  • Seppuku: Averted at the last moment. Lorenz is such a fan of Japanese culture that, when the game is up after Rick has shot down the plane, he kneels on a ceremonial mat and pulls out a knife to perform seppuku. But he can't do it, and instead surrenders to Rick.
  • Spy Fiction: A Japanese plot to assemble and launch a torpedo plane, which will fire torpedoes at the locks of the Panama Canal and destroy it. Rick is tasked with finding out the patrol schedules of the American flight squadrons defending the canal.note 
  • Title Drop: Rick tells Lorenz that he is headed "across the Pacific" to China to join Chiang Kai-Shek's war.
  • Trust Password: Smith, Rick's spy contact in Panama is a bank officer. Rick confirms his identity to Smith by asking to start an account and saying he will deposit the specific amount of $1241.