Hell in the Pacific (1968)

103 mins | Drama | 18 December 1968

Director:

John Boorman

Producer:

Reuben Bercovitch

Cinematographer:

Conrad Hall

Production Designers:

Tony Pratt, Masao Yamazaki

Production Company:

Selmur Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

American Broadcasting Company (ABC) subsidiary Selmur Productions announced in the 25 May 1966 Var that it had entered a co-production deal with Benedict Pictures (a subsidiary of Henry G. Saperstein Enterprises), Mifune Productions, and Toho Film to make Japanese star Toshiro Mifune’s second American picture, Hell in the Pacific, later that year. Toho executive Tomoyuki Tanaka, Selmur vice president Leon I. Mirell, and Saperstein Enterprises’s Reuben Bercovitch, who wrote the story, were set to co-produce the film. Mirell and Selmur Productions president Selig J. Seligman flew to England to talk with Lee Marvin about joining the film, the 13 Jul 1966 Variety noted, but Mifune had a falling out with Toho the following month, halting the project indefinitely, according to the 24 Aug 1966 DV. Tanaka and Mirell were not credited in the eventual film.
       Hell in the Pacific was back in development a year later, the 16 Aug 1967 Var reported, as one of three films on ABC’s production schedule. John Boorman was slated to direct, Mifune and Marvin would star, and filming would begin in three months. The 25 Aug 1967 and 29 Aug 1967 editions of DV mentioned that Selmur Productions executive Art Stolnitz had gone location scouting in Hawaii with Reuben Bercovitch and unit production manager Lloyd Anderson. The 22 Aug 1967 LAT stated that William Ludwig wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Bercovitch and Tadashi Akiyama, but neither Ludwig or Akiyama was listed in final credits.
       Lee Marvin, who had won an Academy Award two years earlier for Cat Ballou (1965, see entry), was ... More Less

American Broadcasting Company (ABC) subsidiary Selmur Productions announced in the 25 May 1966 Var that it had entered a co-production deal with Benedict Pictures (a subsidiary of Henry G. Saperstein Enterprises), Mifune Productions, and Toho Film to make Japanese star Toshiro Mifune’s second American picture, Hell in the Pacific, later that year. Toho executive Tomoyuki Tanaka, Selmur vice president Leon I. Mirell, and Saperstein Enterprises’s Reuben Bercovitch, who wrote the story, were set to co-produce the film. Mirell and Selmur Productions president Selig J. Seligman flew to England to talk with Lee Marvin about joining the film, the 13 Jul 1966 Variety noted, but Mifune had a falling out with Toho the following month, halting the project indefinitely, according to the 24 Aug 1966 DV. Tanaka and Mirell were not credited in the eventual film.
       Hell in the Pacific was back in development a year later, the 16 Aug 1967 Var reported, as one of three films on ABC’s production schedule. John Boorman was slated to direct, Mifune and Marvin would star, and filming would begin in three months. The 25 Aug 1967 and 29 Aug 1967 editions of DV mentioned that Selmur Productions executive Art Stolnitz had gone location scouting in Hawaii with Reuben Bercovitch and unit production manager Lloyd Anderson. The 22 Aug 1967 LAT stated that William Ludwig wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Bercovitch and Tadashi Akiyama, but neither Ludwig or Akiyama was listed in final credits.
       Lee Marvin, who had won an Academy Award two years earlier for Cat Ballou (1965, see entry), was contracted to receive a $750,000 salary against ten percent of the gross for his role in Hell in the Pacific, according to the 11 Oct 1967 Var.
       Principal photography began 2 Jan 1968 in the Palau Islands of Micronesia in the South Pacific and ended four months later, 8 Apr 1968, on the island group’s Koror Island, as mentioned in the 5 Jan 1968 and 9 Apr 1968 editions of DV and in the 11 Feb 1969 NYT. In a 31 May 1968 LAT interview, Lee Marvin admitted that there was dissension during the cast and crew’s four-and-a-half months on the remote islands. Mifune and Marvin could not speak each other’s language and had to communicate off-screen in broken Spanish. Half the crew was American, and the other half Japanese from Mifune’s film company. Mifune often feuded with British director John Boorman, accusing him of being unprofessional, and Bercovitch had no previous production experience. Everyone lived on a Liberian freighter with a Chinese crew and a captain who mutinied against the production until the ship’s crew forced him to quit. What saved the movie, Marvin claimed, was that he and Mifune were the only actors, and got along despite their language differences. Also, according to the 16 Jan 1968 DV, Marvin’s friends, at his request, shipped him 100 frozen Mexican dinners to relieve the steady Chinese diet aboard ship.
       Working titles included Two Soldiers--East and West and The Enemy.
       The $5-million film premiered, for the purpose of Academy Award consideration, at the Picwood Theater in West Los Angeles, CA, for a week’s run, beginning 18 Dec 1968, according to the 30 Nov 1968 and 17 Dec 1968 editions of the LAT. A "world premiere" was set to take place in Tokyo, Japan, on 21 Dec 1968, with both stars attending. The Picwood would again host the film beginning on 6 Feb 1969. The 11 Feb 1969 NYT announced that Hell in the Pacific opened the previous day at Manhattan’s Penthouse Theatre. The film opened wide in thirty-three theaters around the New York City area in Apr 1969, according to the 16 Apr 1969 Var, and made $215,000 the first week. Reviews were mixed.
       In a 30 Dec 1968 LAT interview, Toshiro Mifune claimed the film “had nine endings to choose from,” but everyone finally agreed on the best one. However, the 28 Apr 1969 DV reported that executive producer Henry G. Saperstein changed the ending, and director John Boorman’s agency “registered a beef with ABC,” insisting that the new cut “damaged the picture.” In his original ending, the two characters “poignantly” made their goodbyes and went their separate ways, “each going back to his own world.” Saperstein reportedly added “stock footage of an explosion,” leaving the audience with the impression both men were killed. Boorman, who was home in London, England, awaiting the film’s 1 May 1969 European premiere there, was told his original ending would not be restored. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
24 Aug 1966
p. 2.
Daily Variety
25 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Aug 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1968
p. 12.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
9 Apr 1968
p 10.
Daily Variety
10 Dec 1968
p. 3.
Daily Variety
28 Apr 1969
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
22 Aug 1967
Section D, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
31 May 1968
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
30 Nov 1968
Section A, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
15 Dec 1968
Section Q, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
17 Dec 1968
Section J, p. 19.
Los Angeles Times
30 Dec 1968
Section E, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
30 Jan 1969
Section F, p. 15.
New York Times
16 Aug 1967
p. 36.
New York Times
11 Feb 1969
p. 25.
Variety
25 May 1966
p. 13.
Variety
15 Jun 1966
p. 3.
Variety
13 Jul 1966
p. 12.
Variety
16 Aug 1967
p. 4.
Variety
11 Oct 1967
p. 3.
Variety
16 Apr 1969
p. 9.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Lighting
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
SOUND
Sd eff
Music ed
Re-rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Prod asst
Tech adv
Prop master
Prop master
Key grip
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Two Soldiers--East and West
The Enemy
Release Date:
18 December 1968
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 December 1968
Tokyo premiere: 21 December 1968
New York opening: 10 February 1969
Production Date:
2 January--8 April 1968
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
103
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1944, a U. S. Marine pilot and a Japanese naval officer are simultaneously separated from their units on an uninhabited Pacific atoll. After becoming aware of each other's presence, the men stalk and threaten but do not take advantage of opportunities to kill each other. Eventually, the Japanese overpowers the American during a struggle in the jungle, brings him back to camp, and ties his arms in a yoke-like harness. Before long, however, the American escapes, captures the Japanese, and imprisons him in a similar fashion. Like the Japanese before him, the American derives no satisfaction from holding a prisoner; he releases his opponent, and an unspoken truce gradually develops. When the Japanese attempts to build a small raft, the American is initially derisive but eventually aids in the construction. In time they set sail for a distant group of small islands and manage to reach one of them after a harrowing voyage. The island is uninhabited, but remnants from a bombed Japanese installation enable them to bathe, shave, change clothes, and get drunk on saké. Their relatively happy mood is shattered, however, when the Japanese becomes enraged by illustrations in a discarded copy of Life magazine showing his slain people; reverting to their hostile state, the two men go their separate ways. [Executive Producer Saperstein substituted an alternative ending on some prints in which an explosion occurs, suggesting that the two men are killed. Both versions were shown in the U. ... +


In 1944, a U. S. Marine pilot and a Japanese naval officer are simultaneously separated from their units on an uninhabited Pacific atoll. After becoming aware of each other's presence, the men stalk and threaten but do not take advantage of opportunities to kill each other. Eventually, the Japanese overpowers the American during a struggle in the jungle, brings him back to camp, and ties his arms in a yoke-like harness. Before long, however, the American escapes, captures the Japanese, and imprisons him in a similar fashion. Like the Japanese before him, the American derives no satisfaction from holding a prisoner; he releases his opponent, and an unspoken truce gradually develops. When the Japanese attempts to build a small raft, the American is initially derisive but eventually aids in the construction. In time they set sail for a distant group of small islands and manage to reach one of them after a harrowing voyage. The island is uninhabited, but remnants from a bombed Japanese installation enable them to bathe, shave, change clothes, and get drunk on saké. Their relatively happy mood is shattered, however, when the Japanese becomes enraged by illustrations in a discarded copy of Life magazine showing his slain people; reverting to their hostile state, the two men go their separate ways. [Executive Producer Saperstein substituted an alternative ending on some prints in which an explosion occurs, suggesting that the two men are killed. Both versions were shown in the U. S.] +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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