Based on the true story of Lord Louis Mountbatten's destroyer HMS Kelly, In Which We Serve
is one of the most memorable British films made during World War II. Unfolding in flashback as survivors cling to a dingy, constantly strafed by the Luftwaffe, the film recounts the history of HMS Torrin through various battles to her sinking off the coast of North Africa, interwoven with the onshore lives of her crew. The film was the inspiration of Noel Coward, who desperately wanted to do something for the war effort, and he produced, wrote the screenplay, composed the stirring musical score and starred as Captain Edward Kinross. Coward also officially co-directed, though in reality he soon handed the reigns over to David Lean, whose directorial debut this became. There is a fine performance from Celia Johnson, anticipating her character in Lean and Coward's Brief Encounter
(1946) and excellent support from John Mills, as well as a star-making debut from an uncredited Richard Attenborough. The use of real navy and army personal as extras, together with lavish studio production and authentic shipboard location footage lends the film a sense of realism unusual for the time. A landmark in the careers of many of the most important names in British film, this moving and occasionally harrowing classic has a vital place in the development of British cinema.
On the DVD: The image is presented in a close approximation of the original 1.37:1 Academy ratio using a print that is good for its age but which would benefit from some restoration, several scenes showing notable damage. The sound is robust mono, though the main title music is very distorted. Speech is very clear. Extras are the original trailer, a stills gallery set to music from the film and a 23-minute retrospective documentary. This last is excellent, containing information on how to simulate bullets hitting water using condoms, and interviews with surviving members of the production including Sir John Mills and cinematographer Ronald Neame. --Gary S Dalkin
Noel Coward co-directed, wrote and starred in this patriotic World War II drama about a destroyer, told through flashbacks and the reminiscences of the surviving crew after their beloved ship is torpedoed. Coward was awarded a Special Oscar for 'outstanding production achievement'.