BATTLE OF THE CORAL SEA has squat to do with the important 1942 naval battle, which gets five minutes of mismatched stock footage at the end of the 86 minutes that comprise this 1959 wheeze. The rest of it has submariner Cliff Robertson captured by the Japanese, mildly interrogated (did they research the Japanese Army’s ‘mild’ interrogation methods?) and then making an escape with the proverbial Plans We Need To Beat ‘Em With. Second-tier director Paul Wendkos stages with little distinction, script is absurd, history gets the shaft.
Sexy Sicilian-Irish beauty Gia Scala (playing the proverbial French planter’s daughter) is also in the POW camp, run by humane (attn. Research Dept.) Teru Shimada. With Patricia Cutts, L.Q. Jones, Gordon Jones (shot in the back after beating a guard in a wrestling match—this was a bummer to witness as a kid), Tom Laughlin (a dozen wilderness years until Billy Jack) and a 22-year-old lad named George Takei, in his feature film debut. Since he’d done uncredited voice work for both Rodan and Gigantis, The Fire Monster George was prepped for the stark realism in this tinkertoy, which came in 126th place for the year with a gross amounting to $900,000.
Robertson had just pulled Pacific duty in The Naked And The Dead and would later re-enlist for Too Late The Hero and Midway. Shimada-san would later be tasked to “Kill Bond! NOW!” in You Only Live Twice: he would fail. Poor Gia Scala had a raft of personal problems and would die under mysterious circumstances in 1972, just 38.