"Not a good film, but an interesting study of social attitudes."
This film is only worth remembering because it gives us insight into American attitudes toward the Japanese in World War II. If this film was made now it would certainly be racist and offensive. However, when the film was made the Japanese were the enemy, and the attitudes of the film reflect that fact.WARNING - In order to review this film and discuss its meaning, I have to reveal the ending. So . . . if you don't want to know what happens in the end, please don't read this until after you have seen the film.
In spite of certain problems with the film, I still found it entertaining, I just had to keep remembering the era in which the film was made. It was interesting to see how Steve was able to infiltrate the Japanese camp, and to watch his interactions with the real Japanese.
The director did get a few things wrong, one of them being the Japanese bow that Steve would do. It was not right. A real Japanese would not bow in the way Steve did. Also, the characterization of the villain did not seem consistent. When the villain was in America doing his studies, the Japanese man seemed a decent person. However, when he was a officer in Japan, he was totally different, fulfilling the stereotype held about Japanese military officers in 1945. One of the functions of this film was probably to be a morale booster. Thus, there are comments about the Japanese like, “You all should be put in cages”, a comment showing that the Japanese were being portrayed as less than human. (In times of war, the enemy is often characterized as less than human.)
One of the major problems was the totally fake-looking make-up that was supposed to make Tom Neal look Japanese. The make-up job was so bad it kept pulling me out of the movie. It would have been much better if they had used two different actors. (They could have had a not-so-famous actor play Steve before his surgery, then use a major Japanese-American actor for Steve as a Japanese person.)
The love interest was well done, and I was kept in suspense wondering how Steve's girlfriend would react would he finally revealed his identity to her.This flick fails as a film, but 59 years later, it succeeds as an interesting sociological piece.