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Although this 1943 film has seldom been seen in its entirety, over the years December 7th achieved the status of a primary source, with its footage excerpted in both dramas and documentaries. Ironically, the film is not truly a documentary. Credited to director John Ford but supervised principally by Citizen Kane cinematographer Gregg Toland, the film combines some of the sparse available footage of the Japanese attack with simulated battle sequences, shot with scale models, uniformed actors, and U.S. planes posing as Japanese dive bombers. Given the period—and the lack of a Jerry Bruckheimer–sized budget—the action scenes are pretty convincing, which explains why they’ve been recycled by other filmmakers. But the 30-minute movie that won a Best Documentary Oscar is barely a third of the 85-minute product that was first submitted to the Office of Strategic Services. The full film, which gets a rare screening today on the attack’s 63rd anniversary, opens with Uncle Sam (Walter Huston) and a Japanese-American (actually a man of Korean descent), who note that most Japanese-rooted Americans are loyal to their adopted land. (This couldn’t be shown in a country that was sending such citizens to concentration camps.) The movie also reveals the accurate, but unpalatable at the time, information that the Navy would have been better prepared for the onslaught if a radar operator’s warning hadn’t been ignored. Years later, the smoke has cleared and the censorship has been lifted, but the ideas in this film are still controversial. The film screens at noon Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the National Archives and Records Administration’s William G. McGowan Theater, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. (202) 501-5000. (Mark Jenkins)