Cary Grant may be best remembered as a leading man with a gift for comedy, but he could sell a straight face when necessary in fact, most critics consider his finest role to be his turn as the American agent Devlin in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1947), a character so shrouded in mystery that we never learn anything about him. This chameleon-like skill (one of Grant's most underrated talents) also can be seen in Destination Tokyo (1943), a wartime naval thriller with Grant's steady presence at the helm. Grant stars as U.S. Navy Capt. Cassidy, skipper of the Copperfin, one of the fleet's most advanced diesel-powered submarines. Recently promoted, Cassidy is aware that it's only a matter of time until he starts fighting the Japanese from behind a desk, making his latest assignment look to be his last at sea. With sealed orders, Cassidy and his crew depart under the Golden Gate Bridge for the open waters of the Pacific. Once clear, the captain's sealed orders are opened the Copperfin is to rendezvous with a seaplane off the Aleutian Islands, where they will collect a naval reserve officer, Raymond (John Ridgely), who's an aerology expert. From there, they are then to reach the Japanese mainland and put Raymond ashore.
Despite Cary Grant's top billing, Destination Tokyo is an ensemble piece, with a variety of actors (some well-known, some not) filling the submariners' bunks. Among them, a young John Garfield is most notable as "Wolf," Garfield plays the city guy who's always got an angle, particularly when it comes to women, and he fills dead time telling various risqué stories that the crew doubts are true but nonetheless find fascinating. Opposite Garfield, Robert Hutton plays Tommy, a 19-year-old hayseed who may lack Wolf's worldly experience, but is still given the opportunity to win the crew's respect and prove his valor in combat. Clocking in at 2:15, Tokyo isn't all action writer/director Delmer Daves (in his debut film) pads out his tale with several little vignettes below decks, most with a comic touch. And when there is action, it's notably impressive. Despite working with the miniatures of a bygone Hollywood, Daves achieves genuine tension in the combat sequences. He also details the workings of a WWII submarine with such accuracy that parts of this Hollywood product were adopted by the Navy for training purposes. Even without Cary Grant, who is absent from a lot of scenes, Destination Tokyo is a splendid genre piece and with Grant, particularly when he delivers a somber "why we fight" speech to his men, it becomes something all the better.
Warner's DVD release of Destination Tokyo features a solid full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a black-and-white source-print that's in good shape not of restoration quality, but pleasant with good granular detail. The audio is clear and intelligible on a DD 1.0 track. Supplements include "The Gem of the Ocean," a 1934 comic short starring Jeanne Aubert (21 min.), and a Cary Grant trailer gallery. Keep-case.
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