A US Marine pilot (Lee Marvin) and a Japanese Naval officer (Toshiro Mifune) find themselves marooned on the same island in the middle of World War II. The pair's first impulse is to continue the wartime struggle and engage each other in a battle to the death, but they soon realise that their chances for survival will be much stronger if they work together. Can they suspend their mutual hatred long enough to begin the struggle against the hostile island environment or will their wish to destroy each other win out? John Boorman directs.
Hell in the Pacific
is one of the most original and thoughtful war films of the 1960s. Fresh from Point Blank
(1967) Lee Marvin reunited with director John Boorman for this elemental story of a US pilot and a Japanese naval officer washed ashore on an otherwise uninhabited Pacific island. Lee Marvin speaks English; Toshiro Mifune (The Seven Samurai
) speaks Japanese; and the audience shares their frustrations as they attempt to communicate, as Boorman does not use subtitles. Once the men become aware of each other's presence they move from wary avoidance through conflict to an uneasy truce as they realise they will have to cooperate to survive. The naturalistic acting is key to the film's success, greatly aided by the fact that both stars served their respective countries in the Pacific theatre during the Second World War. Conrad Hall's cinematography is superb, using natural light to evoke the beauty of the island, and the wide Panavision frame to show the men's isolation and their reactions to each another. Boorman developed further his fascination with man against nature in Deliverance
(1974) and The Emerald Forest
(1985), and there wouldn't be another poetic war film until Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line
On the DVD: The stereo sound is fine, atmospherically reproducing both the natural sounds of the island and Lalo Schfrin's imaginative score. The picture quality likewise is very good, with the image well focused with strong colours and plenty of detail. Unfortunately the 2.35:1 image has been panned and scanned to 1.33:1 TV ratio, destroying the scale and beauty of the compositions and sometimes meaning the viewer sees only one side of the interactions between the two men. Extras are perfunctory, with production notes, biographies of the stars and a "slide show". Considering even BBC2 occasionally shows the film in near full Pavavision and with Boorman's preferred, TS Elliot inspired ending, this DVD is a lost opportunity to bring a modern classic into the digital age. --Gary S Dalkin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.