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Anatahan (film)

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Title: Anatahan (film)  
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Subject: Japanese war films, 1950s war films, Japanese holdout, Josef von Sternberg, Eiji Tsuburaya
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Anatahan (film)

Directed by Josef von Sternberg
Produced by Daiwa Production Inc.
Kazuo Takimura (producer)
Written by Michiro Maruyama (novel)
Younghill Kang (novel translation)
Josef von Sternberg (screenplay as Joseph von Sternberg)
Music by Akira Ifukube
Cinematography Josef von Sternberg
Edited by Mitsuzō Miyata
Distributed by Toho
Release dates

June 28, 1953 (Japan)[1]

May 17, 1954 (USA)
Running time
92 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese, English

Anatahan (アナタハン), also known as The Saga of Anatahan, is a 1953 black-and-white Japanese film war drama directed by Josef von Sternberg.

It was the final work directed by noted Hollywood director Josef von Sternberg (although Jet Pilot was released later). Von Sternberg had an unusually high degree of control over the film, made outside the studio system, which allowed him to not only direct, but also write, photograph, and narrate the action. Although it opened modestly well in Japan, it did poorly in the US, where von Sternberg continued to recut the film for four more years. He subsequently abandoned the project and went on to teach film at UCLA for most of the remainder of his lifetime. The film was screened within the official selection during the 14th Venice film festival (1953).

Art director was Takashi Kono, special effects was made by Eiji Tsuburaya and camera operator was Kozo Okazaki.[2]


Twelve men of a shipwreck find themselves on a desert island, which is only inhabited by a farmer and a beautiful woman. A bloody struggle of power ensues, as also they find hand weapons from the crash of an American fighter. Josef von Sternberg directed, photographed, provides the voice-over narration and wrote the screenplay (from a based-on-actual event novel by Michiro Maruyana translated by Younghill Kang) about twelve Japanese seamen who, in June 1944, are stranded on an abandoned-and-forgotten island called An-ta-han for seven years. The island's only inhabitants are the overseer of the abandoned plantation and an attractive young Japanese woman. Discipline is represented by a former warrant officer but ends when he suffers a loss-of-face catastrophe. Soon, discipline and rationality are replaced by a struggle for power and the woman. Power is represented by a pair of pistols found in the wreckage of an American airplane, so important that five men pay for their lives in a bid for supremacy.



  1. ^ (Japanese) accessed 10 February 2009
  2. ^ Full cast and crew for Anatahan. IMDB, accessed 20 May 2009.

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