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Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo

Spencer Tracy , Van Johnson , Mervyn LeRoy    PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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There is no more ringing title among World War II movies than Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, and the mission it celebrates was unquestionably historic: a 400-mile bombing raid to carry the war to Japan itself mere months after that nation's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet the film is less memorable than many WWII pictures with less exalted factual basis. At the time, critic James Agee eloquently defined both its virtues and limitations as "a big-studio, big-scale film, free of artistic pretension ... transformed by its not very imaginative but very dogged sincerity into something forceful, simple, and thoroughly sympathetic in spite of all its big-studio, big-scale habits." That remains true today, but perhaps the movie--and its unimpeachably noble, admirably life-sized characters--wouldn't seem so stuck in the amber of a bygone era if Mervyn LeRoy and company had pumped a little "artistic pretension" into it.

Spencer Tracy--as James H. Doolittle, architect of the raid--rates the most towering screen credit, and he's superb. But his role's an extended cameo; the emotional core of the film is B-25 pilot Ted Lawson (Van Johnson) and his wife, Ellen (the glowing Phyllis Thaxter). Lawson's bestselling memoir (with Bob Considine) of his training for the secret mission, his group's launching from the aircraft carrier Hornet, and his crash landing and protracted ordeal in China--where he lost a leg--has been faithfully served. The film is long on homely detail and all-American decency (including a remarkably outspoken regret over the unavoidability of civilian casualties) but achieves its greatest impact in the raid itself. That sequence, in addition to boasting Oscar-winning special effects, is mostly shot in riveting silence. --Richard T. Jameson

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I lost my ship ! April 15 2004
Format:VHS Tape
My father was a B-25 flight instructor in WWII. Jimmy Doolittle is part of the Holy Trinity in our house. The Doolittle Raid is burned into all family members at an early age. One of the first times I ever remember my mother laughing at my father's humor was when he was imitating Van Johnson standing in the surf crying, "I lost my ship ! I lost my ship !"
What a great movie.
Each year the Doolittle survivors meet at a different part of the United States in the spring for a reunion. There's less than twenty still alive. Their reunion weekend is open to the public with fees going to charitable events. GO. If you think their heroism is exaggerated over the decades, keep this is mind: A bomber had NEVER taken off from a carrier; for all they knew, every single plane was going to crash into the ocean. And every single crew knew that they were taking off too far away from Japan and that they would NOT reach the Chinese airbases. No one backed out.
Amazing story. Great movie.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gut-wrenching book makes an EXCELLENT movie! April 21 2003
By kimiiii
Format:VHS Tape
After the massacre of the Doolittle Raid storyline in "Pearl Harbor", this movie hits home even harder. Made the year after the actual event, the trials that Ted Lawson and his crew endured are unbelievable. If made today, the film would be much more graphic by showing just how injured Lawson was when he had to make his escape through China after crash-landing. In the book, he describes it well enough to make me shudder to this day. True to the cinematic style of the 40's, Ellen Lawson is a sweet and enduring woman, true to her man and concerned about her appearance. Having met the real Ellen, I can tell you that she is full of fire, personality, and even sweeter than the movie portrays. This movie gives you a glimpse into a portion of the Doolittle Raid, America's first retaliatory strike on Japan after Pearl Harbor. If you love this film, I would also recommend that you read the book for an even deeper appreciation of these heroic men, along with their Chinese friends who risked their lives to save them. Read anything and everything that CV Glines (Carrol V. Glines) has written about Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders. Some of the men didn't make it out of China... that book is called "Four Came Home" and it shook me to the core. There are only 18 Raiders still living and it's important that we recognize these little old men for the heroes that they were/are. Much thanks to Ellen Lawson for re-releasing this book so that another generation can read about her amazing husband and his friends who did so much for us, 61 years ago.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story that Requires no Embellishment June 1 2002
Format:VHS Tape
It's simple. Many subjects for film stemming from WWII are so compelling that they need not be altered by Hollywood to be palatable to large audiences. Yet with a few exceptions, the film industry can't resist not letting a great story based in fact rest on its own merits. 30 Seconds over Tokyo is a rare and refreshing exception to this general rule. It is an extremely accurate and gripping tale of the April 1942 Doolittle raid. What a great opportunity was lost with the abysmal "Pearl Harbor" movie....was the true story not compelling enough? And to add insult to injury they turned the Doolittle raid into "Rambo 4"...2 injured bomber crewman slay 30 Japanese infantry with a .45! Please let me know when I can get "30 Seconds over Tokyo" on DVD. Why isn't it available on that format now???
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Movie About the Doolittle Raid April 22 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Sometimes when movies are made about historical events, many aspects are either left out completely or they are stated incorrectly. Neither is the case with this highly exciting movie. Starring Van Johnson, Spencer Tracy, and Phyllis Thaxter, this movie does an excellent job of accurately portraying the events of the Doolittle raid as it actually happened. Van Johnson stars as Ted Lawson, an actual pilot in the Doolittle raid. The story of the raid is told through his eyes. I've read several books about the raid, and I was pleased that the producers of the film were so correct in their filmmaking. The movie shows the entire process from beginning to end. From the training at Eglin base in Florida to the take-off from the deck of the USS Hornet, each minute detail is covered with historical correctness.
Lawson himself was an advisor to the film. This helped even more with the historical aspect. Van Johnson was an excellent choice to play Lawson. His performance throughout the film made it a pleasure to watch. Phyllis Thaxter does a wonderful job as Ellen Lawson. Top billing for this film went to Spencer Tracy as Jimmy Doolittle, but his role is really an extended cameo; Lawson and his crew are the real stars of the movie.
Perhaps the best part of the movie was the actual take-off from the Hornet, the bombing of Tokyo, and the crash landing in China. unable to parachute from their plane, the crew of Lawson's B-25 were forced to crash land. Lawson was thrown through the cockpit glass upon landing and suffered many broken teeth as well as a severely damaged leg which would later have to be amputated. Fortunately, the crew was aided by many Chinese who risked their lives to keep the flyers safe and eventually they are returned to safe ground. Lawson is concerned about how his wife will feel about him after his leg had been removed, but the ending tells it all. I highly recommend this excellent film. World War II movie fans will surely enjoy this one.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic piece of history
Very well researched, great acting and enlightening about an event that changed WWII. A classic to keep the memory of these heroes alive
Published 10 months ago by PabloC
5.0 out of 5 stars The flight of the Ruptured Duck
This is a real intriguing back story to the1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan. It even feels like the real thing. Read more
Published on Aug. 12 2011 by bernie
5.0 out of 5 stars An Historic Event
The Doolittle Raid was an historic event, not propaganda, as suggested in another review.
The raid carried out in 1942 conveyed two messages: one to the Japanese people, that... Read more
Published on Dec 24 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous Movie - An Outrage it's Not in DVD
Sorry, but I'm going to vent a little. Why is a movie as great as this not in DVD? It makes me wonder how it is that idiotic drivel like "American Idol", "The Real World" and "I... Read more
Published on Feb. 16 2003 by "boneyard3"
4.0 out of 5 stars Thirty Seconds over Tokyo
Probably one of the best propaganda movies of World War II. Produced in 1944 to increase morale, America's first bombing mission over the Japanese main islands was designated a... Read more
Published on Oct. 2 2002 by Jeff Henderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This movie is a refreshing respite from such current over-hyped and unrealistic war movies as Pearl Harbor. Read more
Published on July 18 2002 by magellan
4.0 out of 5 stars Actually, it's "138 Minutes over Tokyo".
On April 18 1942, sixteen B-25 Mitchell bombers roared off the deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S Hornet. Read more
Published on July 18 2002 by "weirdo_87"
5.0 out of 5 stars Why couldn't 'Pearl Harbor' Be This Good ?!! A Classic!
After watching the disastrous, multi-million-dollar hokum in 'Pearl Harbor' this weekend, I got therapy by going straight home to re-play this wonderful 1944 classic from Mervyn... Read more
Published on July 15 2002 by Great Movie Addict
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson in history and aviation. You're on board !
April 18, 1942 - April 2002. The Doolittle raid over Japan took place 60 years ago which gives me a reason to write a review of this movie really worth seeing. Read more
Published on April 18 2002 by M. Jean Marc Cerutti
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