John Huston enjoys a good jest, the fact that a story titled Across the Pacific unfolds in the Atlantic is but the first gag in this mock-patriotic pulp. (It took ten years and Beat the Devil for the send-up style to become clear.) Out of New York and off to Canada for the disgraced Army captain (Humphrey Bogart), even there the only place for a corruptible artillerist is on the Japanese freighter heading down to Panama. The smoky introduction of the Genoa Maru is a sight not forgotten by Fellini, the camera descends three levels from the bridge to the crates on the wharf and then cranes back up as the soldier of fortune comes aboard. Among the passengers is the lass from Medicine Hat (Mary Astor), ready for romance but defeated by the combination of bread pudding and swaying prow; Bogart chuckles at her seasickness, she returns the favor after he's laid flat by one too many gulp of whiskey. "You give your lovemaking an assault-and-battery twist," purrs Sydney Greenstreet in white linen and matching fan, further pointing up the jocular Maltese Falcon link. (As the "Jap gunsel" armed with a judo throw and hepcat slang, Victor Sen Yung blithely avenges Elisha Cook Jr.) It's all repartee and pistol-measuring winks until a zoom onto a newspaper headline reveals the date to be December 6th, 1941, then the masks drop and the canal becomes an imperial bullseye. "Some joke, huh?" The beginning of war and the beginning of war propaganda, the knife-throwing scuffle behind the flickering theater screen dilates into a machine-gun skirmish. (Kurosawa in Sanshiro Sugata Part Two has the other side of the coin.) Lieutenant Huston was off to Europe and left Vincent Sherman to wrap the gung-ho pamphlet, squadrons fill the sky at the close: "Any of your friends in Tokyo have trouble committing hara-kiri, those boys will be glad to help them out." With Charles Halton, Lee Tung Foo, Richard Loo, Keye Luke, and Monte Blue. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce