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Blood on the Sun

American journalist Nick Condon (James Cagney) is no fan of the Japanese. Working as a journalist in Tokyo during the 1930s, he's willing to run with a story that will do nothing but antagonize the Imperial government — which only gets him in trouble with his boss at the same time. But when Nick's buddy Ollie Miller (Wallace Ford) comes into a lot of money and then winds up murdered, Nick learns that he was involved in smuggling the secret "Tanaka Plan" out of the country — and when Nick winds up in possession of the purloined document, he soon discovers a lot of nasty Japanese folks are out to get him. In fact, Nick only has two things on his side: seductive secret agent Iris Hilliard (Sylvia Sidney), and one hell of a Judo chop. Produced by Cagney's brother William Cagney and directed by Frank Lloyd (who helmed 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty), Blood on the Sun (1945) is most noteworthy by current standards for its stereotypical portrayal of the Japanese — indeed, the boilerplate villains, with their lilting voices and sinister, tenuous mannerisms, are bound to make more politically correct viewers flinch. However, in the film's defense, it is primarily a piece of wartime propaganda, and it's far more anti-Japanese (of the Imperial sort) than outwardly racist. Cagney's leading man, after all, has a love affair with Sylvia Sidney's mixed-race Chinese spy (and while Sidney does not look entirely convincing, she is nonetheless radiant in every moment of screen-time.) Unfortunately, while the film takes a notable interest in the art of Judo — and Cagney reportedly trained with a master for his action scenes — when our hero decides to unload a few haymakers on the bad guys it looks a bit silly, like the sort of staged fighting best found (and left) at your local high school theater department. Blood on the Sun is a public domain film, which means there are quite a few editions available on videotape and DVD from various vendors, but Image's DVD release offers an acceptable presentation. The transfer is solid (in the original 1.33:1), and most of the black-and-white print is nearly flawless, with strong low-contrast details and only noticeable wear in a few places, mostly near reel changes. Audio is in the original mono, and while there is some ambient noise under the soundtrack, the dialogue is enjoyable and free of distractions. Chapter selection, snap-case.
—JJB



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