This is a 1945 film released produced by William Cagney Productions, James’s brother (who looked a lot like his famous bro).
The story was about an American journalist (Cagney) working in pre-war Japan. He got a document called “The Tanaka Plan” which outlines Japan’s plans to conquer the world, and the government spends most of he film trying to get it back.James has to smuggle them out, aided by the beautiful Iris who is a Chinese American (played by Sylvia Sidney, who is not Chinese at all), and at first he thinks is an assassin.
Other characters in the film include Premier Tanaka, Colonel Tojo, and Captain Oshima, all played by American actors.
James obviously did a lot of preparation for this film, including brushing up on his judo skills, and he did all of his own stunts. He also spoke some Japanese, and Chinese. The most impressive scene was the fight to the death with Captain Oshima, who was considerably bigger than him, and was a real life policeman and judo instructor. The fight went on for a couple of minutes, and James was really getting flung around, as well as flinging Oshima around. They were landing on wooden floors, and crashing into various props, real rough and tumble stuff.
Cagney after defeating two dudes, and about to be karate-chopped by Oshima
This was released a few months before the end of the war, but it was not an anti-Japanese propaganda film. The Japanese were not portrayed as evil, in fact the film makers were quite respectful to Japanese culture. It was an anti-fascist film though.
This won the Academy Award for Best Art Direction for a Black & White in 1945, but unfortunately the copy I watched on YouTube was not a good one so I could not appreciate that.
Like any other Cagney film, James was in hyperactive acting mode, and with his impressive judo skills in this film I would now rank him as one of my top five all-time great actors.
The film itself was nothing special, but it was still interesting and entertaining.
Date watched: January 28th
Score: 7/10 (mostly Cagney)
Film count 2017: 21