Hell in the Pacific
(Review from A Tribute to Toshiro Mifune: 40 Films Starring Japan's Greatest Actor)
Director: John Boorman. Screenplay: Alexander Jacobs and Eric Bercovici. Photography: Conrad Hall. Music: Lalo Schifrin. Co-star: Lee Marvin.
During World War II a Japanese soldier and an American paratrooper find themselves occupying the same deserted island. They each try various means to make the other suffer, but eventually find it necessary to cooperate. Together they decide to build a raft and set out for an island the Japanese has determined is not far off. They find their way to the island and discover it has been occupied and abandoned by both their armies. They wash and shave and sit down to share the ample cache of cigarettes and liquor their predecessors have left behind. And then they begin to argue again.
The first part of the film suffers somewhat from some artsy fantasy sequences in which each man imagines having the other as his prisoner. But much to the film's credit, each man speaks only his native language. Mifune's Japanese dialogue is not subtitled. Co-scenarist Eric Bercovici later used a similar approach in his treatment of Shogun.
Mifune Productions contributed much of the manpower, equipment, and some funding for the location shooting in the Palau islands of Micronesia.
Mifune has said that deciding how to end the film was the most difficult part of making it. They had four choices: Mifune could die; Marvin could die; they could both die; or they could both survive but go separate ways. They opted for the last of these alternatives for the original release, but an alternative ending shows the island exploding, implying both men have been killed.