AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Samurai
Alternate Title: Orders from Tokyo
Director: Raymond Cannon (Dir)
Release Date:   1945
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 24 Aug 1945
Production Date:   early 1944
Duration (in mins):   62
Duration (in feet):   5,812
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Cast:   Paul Fung (Dr. Ken [Kenikitchi] Morrey)  
    Luke Chan (Priest)  
    David Chow (Secret Service man)  
    Barbara Wooddell (Mrs. Morrey)  
    Fred C. Bond (Mr. [John] Morrey)  
    Larry Moore (Frank Morrey)  
    Ronald Siu (Young Ken)  
    Beal Wong (Engineer)  
    Joseph Kim (Secret Service man)  
    Sung Lee (General [Sujiyama])  
    Frances Chan (Chinese prisoner)  
    Mary Ellen Butler (White prisoner)  

Summary: After the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, which kills over 300,000 persons, American evangelists Mr. and Mrs. John Morrey adopt a Japanese orphan, Kenikitchi, and bring him to their home in San Francisco. As he grows up, Ken becomes Americanized. One day while he is still a boy, he is painting by the seaside, when he is approached by a Japanese priest, who educates him about the doctrine of Bushido, a religion which follows the traditions of Japanese samurai warriors. Unknown to his parents, Ken becomes indoctrinated as a samurai. As a young adult, Ken travels to Europe, where he receives advanced degrees in medicine and art. However, he continues to lead a double life, and never writes his parents about his secret associations with the samurai worldwide. When Ken returns home, he is a changed man, and believes that the Japanese are destined to conquer the world. Ken meets with the priest and informs him of the political turmoil in Europe, and that he believes the Germans will ally themselves with the Japanese. At one of Ken's art exhibitions, he shows the priest how he has concealed maps of vital points in California in his artwork. The priest arranges for Ken to become the curator of a Japanese art exhibition for the Golden Gate Exposition. Ken is sent to Japan to buy artwork, but instead spreads the doctrine of Bushido. In Tokyo, Ken meets with military intelligence chief Namakura, and demonstrates his secret painting method. Ken's activities are watched closely by the Black Dragon Society of Japan, which distrusts anyone with close ties to the United States. In Shanghai, where the Japanese have begun to oppress the Chinese, Ken takes photographs of the populace, and later doctors the photographs so that Chinese missionaries and nurses are seen to be wearing emblems of the Rising Sun, thereby leading the viewer to believe that the Japanese are kind to the Chinese. In 1939, a member of the Black Dragons informs Ken that his former school chum, an English reporter, is printing stories about the Japanese atrocities against the Chinese. Ken murders the reporter, and then meets with Japanese General Sujiyama in Peking, who heads the invading Japanese army. After testing Ken's allegiance by forcing European and Chinese women prisoners to entertain him, Sujiyama commissions Ken to be the next governor of California. Ken is ordered to organize a military force of Japanese residents to prepare for a Japanese invasion of the state, after which he returns home and informs the priest of their orders. When his younger adopted brother Frank discovers Ken's secret while he is away, he takes their parents to Ken's studio and tells them that Ken is a spy. The Morreys are shocked and dismayed, but see the proof in Ken's paintings. While Frank goes to the police, Ken returns to the studio and convinces his parents that he is a double agent working for their country, then stabs his parents to death. Now wanted for murder, Ken goes to the temple after receiving word that the "zero hour" has been set for the invasion of California. Ken becomes hysterical and power hungry with the thought of the invasion, but is subdued after learning that most of his comrades have been arrested. As the samurai doctrine states that a man who fails his mission must take his own life, the priest prepares to commit suicide, and demands that Ken watch so that he will be prepared if he should ever meet the same fate. As the priest dies, police attack the temple, and Paul escapes to the beach. There, he is shot and killed by the police. 

Production Company: Cavalcade Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Cavalcade Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Raymond Cannon (Dir)
Producer: Ben Mindenburg (Prod)
  Frank Wong (Assoc prod)
Writer: Ben Mindenburg (Orig story)
  Frederick C. Bond (Orig story)
  Raymond Cannon (Scr)
  Frederick C. Bond (Narr by)
Photography: Marcel Le Picard (Cine)
Film Editor: Adrian Weiss (Ed)
  George Merrick (Ed)
Music: Lee Zahler (Mus)
Sound: Glen Glenn (Sd eng)
Special Effects: Ray Mercer (Montage eff)
Production Misc: Dick L'Estrange (Prod mgr)
  Prof. David Chow (Tech adv)
Country: United States

PCA NO: 9923

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Espionage
 
Subjects (Major): Bushido
  Espionage
  Japanese Americans
  Priests
  Treachery
 
Subjects (Minor): Adoption
  Americans in foreign countries
  Assimilation (Sociology)
  Attempted rape
  China
  Earthquakes
  Family relationships
  Hara-kiri
  Japan
  Japan. Army
  Loyalty
  Missionaries
  Murder
  Paintings
  Police
  Political prisoners
  Samurai
  San Francisco (CA)
  Secret societies
  Sino-Japanese Conflict, 1937-1945
  World War II

Note: The working title of this film was Orders from Tokyo . Although fictional, the film is narrated and presented in the style of a documentary. Onscreen credits include a 1944 copyright statement, but the film is not listed in copyright records. Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library provides the following information about the production: After reading an initial script, the PCA wrote to producer Ben Mindenburg on 10 Nov 1943 that the sequence in which "General [Sujiyama] and Ken indulge in sadism with the Chinese and White girl" was unacceptable, and that it was "imperative that it be omitted or changed....Furthermore, we recommend that you consult the War Department as to a recent directive they have issued prohibiting any scenes of Japanese atrocities and brutality." According to a plot synopsis in the file, the phone call "Ken" receives informing him of the "zero hour," just before he kills his parents, is a decoy by the "Secret Service" to trick Ken into action. This is not clear in the film, however. The synopsis also includes a scene after "Ken" murders his parents in which "Frank" returns to the studio, and "Ken innocently tells Frank that the folks left for home. Frank does not believe Ken...finds both dead. There is a fight between Ken and Frank, with Ken being the victor, as he tries to choke Frank...[who] is left for dead." This scene was not included in the viewed print.
       On 12 Jun 1944, the PCA wrote the following to Mindenburg after viewing an eight-reel rough cut of the film: "The principal objections to the material received by us were...[a] scene suggesting the rape of a White girl by the leading Japanese villain. It was explained to Mr. Mindenburg that this scene was completely unacceptable....There were numerous scenes, from newsreels, dealing with the bombing of Shanghai, etc., which contained unacceptably gruesome scenes of dead bodies. It was pointed out to Mr. Mindenburg that these should be deleted when the film is reedited." The PCA also viewed "a two-reel Technicolor film of the San Francisco Exposition, with Japanese narration, parts of which [Mindenburg] intends to cut into the picture." While a contemporary credits sheet lists the film's footage as 6,760 ft., the PCA listed the film's length as 5,812 ft., and included the following addendum: "[I]ssued with the understanding that the dialogue in connection with the prison scene, the scene and sounds of attempted rape, and also the scene of actual Hara Kiri, are eliminated from all release prints."
       This film includes what appears to be newsreel footage of the 1 Sep 1923 earthquake in Tokyo. The Exh reviewer commented that Samurai is "a very poor, dated film," but suggested using ad lines such as "The True Secret About Jap Fraternization with White Women" and "At Last! The True Story of Jap Activities in America" to promote the film. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
The Exhibitor   5 Sep 45   p. 1786.
New York Times   24 Aug 1945.   
New York Times   25 Aug 1945.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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