Know Your Enemy - Japan (available for viewing in the WWII section of Movieflix. Also, film #2 on disc #1 of Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941 DVD (Madacy Entertainment, 2001). Also, film #1 on Side B of Disc #1 of WWII: The Ultimate Collection DVD Boxed Set (Brentwood Home Video, 2004)).

Frank Capra directed this film designed to stir hatred of the Japs in American GIs. Don't get me wrong––there's a fair amount of truth here about the militaristic, fanatical Japanese society that came up with the Tanaka Memorial plan for world conquest and committed horrible atrocities against the Chinese, the Filipinos, and American POWs. But the film goes overboard in trying to get us to believe that every single solitary Japanese citizen is a total warmongering fanatic willing to die rather than experience the disgrace of surrender. They all look alike and think alike, according to this film. Of course, war always seems to require that kind of thinking––otherwise it's hard to go out and kill 'em. The worst part, for my money, though, is the part about Japanese spies. Yeah, Japan did send out spies to countries they planned to conquer, but this film makes it look like every Japanese-American barber or gardener or fisherman had a direct line to the warlords in Tokyo, a way of thinking that created the internment camps, I'm sure. (Capra does pay very minor lip service to the highly-decorated Nisei regiment of the U.S. Army during the opening credits, calling them loyal Americans, which he deserves a little credit for, since most people weren't even giving them that much. But his assertion that their exploits "are documented in plenty of other films" makes me say "Oh really? Like what other films?") Like Kamikaze, the film has lots of fascinating footage taken from Japanese cinema. The first part of the film, which tells the history of the social and political structure of Japan, is told visually almost totally by footage from Japanese historical films. There's also lots of interesting Japanese newsreel footage. This film is part propaganda and part interesting historical information, and it's hard to tell which is which. Still, it's a great piece of ephemera. Warning: The scenes of Japanese atrocities are fairly grisly.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: N/A. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: *****.

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