One of the best WWII productions made while the conflict was on-going, "Destination Tokyo" is available on DVD through Warner Home Entertainment. The film was released in December, 1943 when the war was in full throttle. Cary Grant is well-cast and in top form as Capt. Cassidy of the U.S.S. Copperfin, a submarine that is being deployed on a top secret and highly dangerous mission to infiltrate Tokyo Bay in order to scope out key logistical data for the first planned bombing raid of the city by U.S. forces, historically known as the Doolittle Raid. The film's ample running time of 135 minutes allows the story to unfold in a leisurely manner and for supporting characters to be fully developed as distinct personalities. John Garfield is the co-star but he spends most of the time regaling his shipmates with tales (or perhaps tall tales) about his sexual conquests. Alan Hale provides additional comic relief as the vessel's cook and there are any number of other character actors who would go on to be mainstays in the film industry: John Forsythe, Tom Tully, Whit Bissell, Dane Clark and William Prince among them. The film marked an impressive directorial debut for Delmar Daves, who also co-wrote the script with Albert Maltz. Grant's Captain Cassidy is very much a populist officer, concerned about his men and well-acquainted with each one individually. Consequently, they'll do anything for him. That includes Garfield's character, who volunteers along with two other sailors to undertake a dangerous mission to leave the sub and use a rubber raft to land on Japanese soil where they can record vital statistics for the pending raid on Tokyo. In order to enter the bay, the Copperfin must deftly avoid mines and a submarine net, then escape detection while the volunteers spend the night on land recording their findings. Director Daves milks a good deal of suspense from this scenario, which of course delivers the pay-off war time audiences expected: a depiction of the actual Doolittle Raid, which is shown here as doing devastating damage to Tokyo. In reality, the raid only did minor damage to the city but the psychological effect on the Japanese population of having their seemingly invincible homeland penetrated scored a major coup for the U.S.
Some of the best scenes in "Destination Tokyo" don't involve violence. They explore the relationship between Capt. Cassidy and his men. In the most dramatic scene, a sailor suffers appendicitis. While fathoms below in the submarine, without an on-board surgeon, Cassidy must assist a pharmacist's mate in performing the life-saving operation with crude instruments. It's a tense and moving scene that was apparently based on a real-life incident. Although there are plenty of references to killing "Japs" as one might expect in a WWII era film, the screenplay also presents a more nuanced point-of-view with a discussion about how the Japanese people were hoodwinked by their militaristic leaders. It's an unusual instance of humanizing the enemy in a film that was made for propaganda purposes.
The DVD has a good transfer and contains the trailer and a 1934 musical comedy short "Gem of the Ocean" with French starlet Jeanne Aubert. There is also a Cary Grant trailer gallery beginning with "Bringing Up Baby" and culminating with "North by Northwest". Recommended.