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"Tora, Tora, Tora Props" Topic

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4,544 hits since 16 Jul 2006
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GrossKaliefornja16 Jul 2006 7:07 p.m. PST

Just bought the new DVD edition & checked out some extra features.

1) They built a 1:1 scale Nagato from the waterline up! 2) 1/2 of a 1:1 scale Kaga & Arizona waterline up 3) the other model BB ships were 40' long! 4) They built Zero's from US training planes by cutting their tails off & extending them 6', and they were capable of carrier tailhook landings!, 5) the famous shot of the P40 bursting into flames & the propeller coming off was not planned…sounded like it caused a fatality too.

Ditto Tango 2 116 Jul 2006 7:39 p.m. PST

the famous shot of the P40 bursting into flames & the propeller coming off was not planned

It's been a long time since I saw the movie, but I always thought that was wartime footage. I guess it was not, then?

Saginaw16 Jul 2006 8:27 p.m. PST

I remember purchasing a softcover magazine about the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and there was an amazing pic of the 1:1 scale Nagato. Only the port side of the ship was built, the starboard side being exposed scaffolding. A quarter of the bow of the ship was built over the water, to give an illusion of it being at sea for certain shots.

I've heard about a fatality or two during filming, but some sources (like the Internet Movie Database) says that nothing like that happened.

Saginaw16 Jul 2006 8:28 p.m. PST

Tim, as far as I know and can tell there was no archival footage in 'Tora! Tora! Tora!', but some specific battle footage from the movie was used in other subsequent war movies and tv series.

GrossKaliefornja16 Jul 2006 9:32 p.m. PST

The B-17 crash landing on Ford Island might have been archival, but that's all I can tell.

Did you guys know that the movie was shot 50% in the US & 50% in Japan? And then woven together. The Japanese director used industrial CEO's for the lead parts rather than professional actors.

Saginaw16 Jul 2006 9:53 p.m. PST

GrossKaliefornja, I did know about the film being shot by both a Japanese and an American director, but I didn't know about industrial CEO's being used as actors. Fascinating.

You're right about the B-17 when it scrapes onto the tarmac, but the shot where it's about to land was shot for the movie.

I'm wondering, is there any commentary or other "backstage info" on the DVD release? Without hijacking the thread, this was by far THE BEST film about the attack on Pearl Harbor ever made, and there should be a comprehensive documentary or something about it.

Tom Bryant16 Jul 2006 10:59 p.m. PST

On The History Channel's old "Reel or Real" or whatever their historical movie program was called they talked a lot about the different aspects of filming. Originally 20th Century Fox had contracted the famed Akira Kirasawa to direct the Japanese portions of the moive. He was canned however when it was discovered that rather than use actors, he had chosen to use industrialsts who also happended to be financiers of his movies in key roles on the Japamese side.

As to the prop ships, I knew about Nagato and Arizona, but IIRC they also did a 1/2 scale Nevada for her run to the sea (a scene which got botched in production so we didn't get to see what the director wanted to show). Someone on one fo the Yahoo naval wargames list had a link posted to a Florida antiques dealer who had some of the prop ships for sale.

Finally, on the aircraft. From what I recall of teh program the scene with the P-40 scend did NOT result inany fatalities. It came bloody close mind you, but no fatalities. The B-17 crash was piloted by the famous film pilot Paul Mann, IIRC. It is still one of the most evocative scenes in all of Hollywood.
The aircraft that were modified were all AT-6 Texans, which IIRC were related to the Northrop V-156. If you are ever curious as to how it was possible to get the Zeros, Kates and Vals to look so much like the originals based off a US trainer look up the history of the V-156 sometime and who purchased some of them before WWII.

Saginaw17 Jul 2006 3:19 a.m. PST

With all the fantastic prop-building and "fakery" to make a very convincing and effective movie, it's a shame that, on a particular long shot during the launching of the Japanese planes, you can STILL tell that the old U.S.S. Lexington (CV-16) was used as a Japanese carrier.

I dunno, but maybe just that part of the movie could be "Lucasized", that is, CGI in a Japanese carrier?

Yes. Forgive me for even bringing that up!

The G Dog Fezian17 Jul 2006 3:52 a.m. PST

The 40' foot model of the Arizona was on display at the USS Intrepid museum back in the early 90's. Don't know if its still there or not, but man that is one big model.

phililphall17 Jul 2006 4:22 a.m. PST

As I recall the B-17 was an accident. It was flying in for the film and they couldn't get the gear down. The director had them circle the field until he could get set up to get the shot. The P-40 was a plexiglass copy that was supposed to go down the runway on a wire and explode into flames. The wire broke, the prop came off and it veered into some parked aircraft in the foreground shot, sending the "mechanics" who were supposed to be readying the planes running. It was a near run thing but no one got hurt, but those guys running like heck weren't acting, they really were running for their lives.

The Texan conversions were really well done. A local pilot owns one of them and used to fly it in mock dogfights with his FM-2 Wildcat on the days he opened his field up for a fly-in day.

phililphall17 Jul 2006 4:23 a.m. PST

Sorry, I meant to say it was fiberglass, not plexiglass.

GrossKaliefornja17 Jul 2006 9:26 a.m. PST

Saginaw, the 2nd disk of the set has the better commentary of making the movie. The commentary on the first disc (the one that goes along with the movie) is really boring.

Tom, Kirasawa was fired because he had a nervous breakdown. The execs were suspicious of his use of CEO's, and there were 2 schools of thought: 1) the cynics thought he was greasing the path for future funding of his projects 2) the admirers thought he was trying to use the 'stiff' attitude of the CEO's to get across the rigidness of the officer corps.

You are right, no fatality in that scene. It's the scene where the P40 is about to take off, goes out of control, crashes into planes & fiery debris almost takes out some tarmac guys who find refuge behind a truck. That wasn't planned & was the real thing.

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP17 Jul 2006 10:15 a.m. PST

It's still an amazing piece of film even after all this time. The sad thing is that, apparently, the live scenes that survive are the poorist ones. The really good ones were ruined in some sort of developing mistake.

DaleWill Supporting Member of TMP03 Aug 2006 5:03 p.m. PST

I've got an old "Scale Modeler" magazine from the early 1970's with a story about the models of T3. If I remember correctly, most of the props were auctioned off by the studio soon after the movie was released because the movie was a box-office bomb and they wanted to get some of there money back.


Detailed Casting Products03 Sep 2006 8:56 p.m. PST

Regardless of what might be said within the DVD commentaries, I have a remembrance of that B-17 landing gear-up in the movie and I'll venture a guess that it wasn't a real B-17, but just maybe an R/C model. That's what I'll go with, because it looks like an RC model. Now it may be a large model, but I'll bet it wasn't a 1:1 scale. I've just got one of those feelings, guys *evil smile*

woogish03 Sep 2007 11:09 p.m. PST

Actually the famous Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz died while making the flm "The Flight of the Phoenix" in the mid sixties

grywolf101 Jun 2008 2:11 p.m. PST

I've seen the 40 foot model of the Arizona the past couple of years at the History of Heroes event in Bakersfield. It's run by the Kern County Living History Museum and is a weekend long event featuring reenactors from every period from AWI through the present. My group didnt erform there this year so I dont know if it was there this year

DaleWill Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2018 1:37 p.m. PST

Update on this old thread. Just read on Fine scale about a group that has the 36' long USS Nevada prop from the movie and is currently restoring it. Guess it's in pretty bad shape after being left outside for decades.

hindsTMP Supporting Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 7:16 a.m. PST

Here's the correct Fine Scale Modeler link:


ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP26 Oct 2018 9:41 a.m. PST

Phililphall is correct: the B-17 crash was a real accident that was filmed by the movie crew when they couldn't get the gear down. The initial part, where you get the close up of the single wheel touching down, was filmed later and then spliced into the (somewhat grainier) image of the belly crash.

The incident with the careening P-40 crash with people scrambling out of the way was also an accident. The P-40 (mock-up) was supposed to follow a guide wire down the runway before exploding, but the guide wire broke and it veered off course. As far as I know, no one was killed, but it resulted in one spectacular scene.

carne6808 Nov 2018 7:24 a.m. PST

I had an issue of Scale Ship Modeler from the 1980's that showed the USS Nevada on a trailer. I believe they said it was used by the Naval Recruiting district in Las Vegas.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP18 May 2019 7:28 a.m. PST

That link to the Nevada restoration is superb.

The film is of course now out in BluRay and adds two sequences, both used in the Japanese version, but dropped in US. One is Yamamoto at the Imperial Palace and one is just baffling to any western audience. It is two cooks fooling around in the Akagi…that is it…

Like Waterloo, one wonders about lost unused film footage. Maybe like Capa's Omaha Beach much was indeed accidentally destroyed. But what we do have is superb. Real planes, that fly at sensible speeds, and convincing enough. Midway re-used some of the film, but was nothing like as well done.

As for Disney's version of Pearl Harbour…..actually the trapped crew on the Oklahoma was profoundly shocking…..but that was it

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP20 May 2019 9:53 a.m. PST

I've seen the two deleted scenes. The one at the Imperial Palace was really cool, but as deadhead notes the other one with the cooks is just plain weird.

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