Hell in the Pacific, 1968.
Directed by John Boorman.
Starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune.
Hell in the Pacific is a curiosity, a movie that stars just two people, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, who play opposing soldiers stranded on a deserted island during World War II. The ending in the theatrical release was not well-liked, but a much-better alternate version is included here, along with interviews with director John Boorman and art director Anthony Pratt, as well as an audio commentary with film historians Travis Crawford and Bill Ackerman.
“What the heck was that?” my 10-year-old son shouted at the end of Hell in the Pacific. I had to agree with his bewilderment, and I discovered that director John Boorman felt the same way when I watched the new 33-minute interview with him that’s found on this Kino Lorber Blu-ray release. “It was not entirely satisfactory,” Boorman notes in his very droll way. He also makes it clear that the ending was changed without his say-so.
Released in 1968, Hell in the Pacific brings together two major action stars of the mid-to-late 20th century, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune, for a story that strands two unnamed soldiers, one American and the other Japanese, on a deserted island during World War II. They progress from bitter enemies to wary friends who realize they must work together if they want to survive. Their ultimate attempt to find sanctuary results in that aforementioned “What the heck was that?” ending, although a much-better alternate ending is included here. You can watch the movie with Boorman’s preferred ending, so you don’t have to stop the theatrical version and load a deleted scene. (My rating is based on the version with the alternate ending.)
Fans of the two leading men can find plenty to appreciate in the 100 minutes leading up to that conclusion. Marvin is his typical hard-as-nails self, an American who’s willing to fight with his on-and-off friend over something as dumb as ownership of a log, and Mifune plays his role with the kind of precise behavior one would expect from a disciplined Japanese solder. The cinematography on the Pacific island location is also beautiful, with shots that likely influenced Steven Spielberg when he made Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
In addition to the 33-minute interview with Boorman and the alternate ending, this Blu-ray includes a 10-minute conversation with art director Anthony Pratt, who looks back on his involvement in the movie. The final bonus feature is an audio commentary by film historians Travis Crawford and Bill Ackerman, who prepared a discussion that covers the movie from its origin to its release, with plenty of information about Marvin, Mifune, Boorman, and others. It’s a solid track.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★