Based on a true story, BLOOD ON THE SUN is an entertaining little stewpot of a movie.
James Cagney plays Nick Condon, managing editor of the Tokyo Chronicle. It's 1920-something and the United States and Japan share an uneasy peace. That peace threatens to be broken violently when the "Tanaka Plan," a Japanese government document outlining a blueprint for world domination, falls into Condon's possession. Condon has to get the document out of Japan and announce its contents to the world, the Japanese have to stop him.
When I first saw BLOOD ON THE SUN I shrugged it off as a piece of late-war propaganda. There ARE a lot of stereotypical portrayals and attitudes coursing through this one- the Japanese are portrayed for the most part as buck toothed, diabolical schemers. Cagney is attacked from behind twice in this movie. The officials present trumped up charges in their attempt to stop his muck-raking ways. The outrageousness of a foreign correspondent stealing and threatening to publish a secret state paper seems lost on this movie. Then I did a computer search of "Tanaka Memorial" and had a chance to read the document in question. If it's not a forgery (the Japanese government claimed it was), it dwarfs the movie's presumptions. As a side note, the web site I visited informs us that the Chinese, and not a crusading American editor, originally released the document.
As usual, Cagney is a bundle of energy and is great fun to watch. I've read that he took judo classes in preparation for this part, and it seems he's doing a lot of his own stunt work. Sylvia Sydney plays Iris Hilliard, Cagney's love interest and someone interested in the document as well. Soon after her character is introduced we learn she is half-Chinese, which should alert us to the fact that she isn't quite as sinister as she appears. The Chinese were our allies during to the war. They were the good Asians. Another fun character in this one is Capt. Oshima (John Halloran), one of many Caucasian actors partially hidden behind false teeth and taped eyelids. Oshima is a menacing, murderous, towering brute of a cop. Symbolically he's the first to attack the American Cagney with a karate chop from behind, a blow that knocks Cagney out. Later, when the gloves are off and the two square off against each other in a fair fight the results are decidedly different.
Wiard Ihnen & A. Roland Fields won a little statuette for Best Art Direction for their work on BLOOD ON THE SUN. The sets do look pretty good.
BLOOD ON THE SUN is in the public domain, so anyone can copy and sell it. If you get the Delta version be warned that their logo will appear periodically in the lower-right hand corner. They've included a short documentary (still photos with a voice over narration- yawn) and an intro and outro by Tony Curtis. Unforgivably, Curtis tells us in the intro that Cagney plays a newspaperman "right after World War Two." It may seem a minor point, but couldn't somebody on the set have reminded him that the movie took place after World War One?