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He was there: Ex-USS Slater executive officer Harold Paulsen meets the Japanese media at the Palace.

Star Ship

‘David got more respect on the ship than I did,” joked Timothy Rizzuto, executive director of the USS Slater. Rizzuto was referring to actor David Winning, who plays a ship’s captain aboard the Slater in the World War II movie Battle Under Orion. The Japanese movie had its premiere at Albany’s Palace Theatre on Friday. Hosted by the film’s Tokyo-based producers, the private screening was held in recognition of the efforts of the Slater’s volunteers and veterans, dozens of local extras, and organizations that helped with the film’s production last August [“A New Tour of Duty,” Metroland, June 19, 2008].

A restored destroyer escort and museum moored on the Hudson River, the Slater served as a body double of sorts for the USS Percival, an anti- submarine ship that engages with a Japanese submarine during the final weeks of the war in the Pacific. The Orion filmmakers chose the Slater as a location because of the dedication of its staff as well as the authenticity of its restoration. The ship was paid the Hollywood industry standard for its star turn, putting the historic site “in the black for the year,” according to Rizzuto.

On stage to introduce the film to the invitation-only crowd, Rizzuto was joined by Mayor Jerry Jennings, who reported that the two-week film shoot brought about $500,000 in revenue to the city, proudly adding: “A piece of Albany will be shared with countless moviegoers in Japan.” Battle Under Orion opens in theaters in Japan on June 13.

Stars: (l-r) actor Winning and director Shunji Okada at the Palace

Also onstage were producers Shohei Kotaki and Kanji Sakura, who traveled from Tokyo for the premiere; Shunji Okada, director of the U.S. sequences; David Winning and co-star Joe Rayome; and William Krauss from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Krauss read a note from Gov. David Paterson that described the Slater as “an enduring reminder of the character, courage and dedication of our veterans, and of the great victories of the past.” Ten original World War II Slater crew members who were present received a standing ovation. “I’d say that was the most touching part of the night,” says Rizzuto.

Due to insurance restrictions, the Slater can’t be sailed; a Mexican-owned destroyer escort served as a stand-in (make that sail-in) for the film’s open-water shots. The Slater, however, gets the topside close-ups. At a crucial juncture, explosive cylinders are rolled overboard, which elicited an appreciative murmur of “depth charges!” from Friday’s audience.

Battle Under Orion is an unusually sensitive view of the deadly cat-and-mouse maneuvers between the Japanese and American ships; the story also loops into the present-day. After the screening, the Slater veterans were given gifts by the producers and swarmed by Japanese media. The film was received favorably: “It’s great,” enthused Robert Callender, a veteran of the USS Kyne (DE 744). “I watch a lot of sub movies, but this was different because it’s told from the Japanese perspective.”

—Ann Morrow

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