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The Cruel Sea [VHS] [1953]

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Product details

  • Actors: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratton, Denholm Elliott, John Warner
  • Directors: Charles Frend
  • Writers: Eric Ambler, Nicholas Monsarrat
  • Producers: Leslie Norman, Michael Balcon
  • Language: English
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Warner
  • VHS Release Date: 4 Jun 2001
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CILW
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 177,799 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

World War Two drama, based on the best-selling book by Nicholas Monsarrat, starring Jack Hawkins. Lt. Commander Ericson (Hawkins) has already lost one ship to an enemy attack when he is given command of the frigate Saltash Castle. A subsequent confrontation in the North Atlantic tests Ericson's leadership to the limit once again, as he risks sacrificing the lives of his crew for the greater good.

From Amazon.co.uk

Nicholas Monsarrat's novel is an unflinching, realistic and emotionally involving account of naval life during the Second World War in which the "heroes" are the men, the "heroines" the ships and the "villain" is not so much the German U-Boats lurking below as "the cruel sea" itself. This 1953 film has become a classic of British cinema largely because it is a straightforward, no-frills adaptation of the book and retain's much of the original's compelling yet almost understated dramatic focus. On convoy duty in the North Atlantic, the crew of HMS Compass Rose face as a matter of routine the threat of destruction from U-Boats as well as a constant struggle against the elements. The convoys themselves are Britain's only lifeline and their loss would lead to certain defeat, but in the early years of the war the ships sent to protect them can do almost nothing to prevent the U-Boat attacks. Jack Hawkins gives one of his finest performances as Captain Ericson, the commander who has to balance destroying the enemy against saving the lives of the men under his care. In one unforgettable scene--a crucial turning point for all the characters--he must decide whether to depth charge a suspected submarine despite the presence of British sailors in the water. As with the book, the individual officers and their lives are carefully delineated, helped by the strength of a cast of (then) young actors (notably Donald Sinden and Denholm Elliot). Ultimately what makes The Cruel Sea such an undeniable classic is that it has neither the flag-waving jingoism nor the war-is-hell melodrama so common to most war movies: instead it relates in an almost matter-of-fact way the bitterness of the conflict at sea fought by ordinary men placed in the most extraordinary of circumstances. --Mark Walker

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Kerslake on 21 Oct 2011
Format: Blu-ray
The Cruel Sea [Blu-ray] [1953] I have owned this masterpiece in all its formats, from Monsarrats book to VHS to DVD and have just taken delivery of, and test-run, the Blu-Ray version. I always thought that DVD was going to be as good as it gets, but Blu-Ray has moved the high-bar even higher on this wonderful, un-glamorous story of life(and death)of British sailors and ships at sea in WW2. After watching this story, it is easier to envisage what life was like in those terrible times at sea and on land. The soundtrack hasn't changed from mono 2.0, but picture clarity is greatly enhanced, and is another one of those black and white movies which has managed the transition to HD very well as a result of its re-mastering. Worth every penny! And being region B, it is now available to most of the English speaking world. It also comes with a couple of extras, but I have not explored these yet.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Odysseas on 14 Dec 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The story of a corvette and its crew on anti-submarine duty during the Second World War. The film is very thoughtful, and quite closely based on Nicholas Monsarrat's outstanding novel of the same name, and to a lesser extent his factual account of his own experiences as a corvette officer, Three Corvettes, which in any case provided the source material for the novel.

The film stands out because it is not the usual chain of explosions and overblown heroics aimed at younger audiences, but a contemplative look at "real" people dealing with the horrors of war in the North Atlantic. We see the ship's company as their corvette finishes its fitting out and then works up before being released for active duty escorting convoys across the ocean. We see their frustration at not being able to hit back successfully at the U-boats; their worries about loved ones on shore, and what war does to relationships; we watch them grow as people as they learn about death at sea and how deal with an unseen enemy; we see them learn "how to die without wasting anybody's time" - surely an insight into the reality of war that very few other films could match; and we feel the agony of a captain forced to make a decision that may kill his own countrymen - the men he is supposed to be fighting to protect.

The acting is superb throughout, and my copy at least is very sharp and clear. Somehow, black and white seems to suit the mood of this film perfectly, because of its North Atlantic and Arctic Ocean setting, in the same way that Battle of the River Plate, set off Uruguay, could only be in colour.

For those interested in the ships, the corvette Compass Rose was in fact the Greek navy's flower-class Coreopsis; and the second ship, Saltash Castle, was a Royal Navy castle-class corvette, even though it is referred to as a frigate in the film.

One could argue forever about the "best" war film ever made, but if I had to choose one, this would be it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hugo van Dantzig on 6 Jun 2009
Format: DVD
This movie shows in gritty detail the five year struggle for Britain"s supply lines that came to be known as the battle of the Atlantic. It comes as a breath of fresh air after so many World War 2 movies steeped in chauvinism and romantic, larger than life action-heroes. As in Monserrat"s excellent novel, the main heroes are the ships and the perfectly ordinary men who sailed in them. At times, it is almost like watching a documentary, much more powerful and convincing then some trumped-up, glorified version of this epic battle could ever be. Starting in 1939 with a Royal Navy and a massive influx of amateur sailors and officers that are completely unprepared for what lies ahead, we follow the increasingly bitter struggle with the U-boats in which the Navy and its crews become increasingly more professional and sophisticated as they slowly gain the upper hand, albeit at terrible cost in ships and lives.
The story does not include the all-important contribution of the Enigma codebreakers of Bletchley Park, since their work would still have been classified in the early 1950"s. The acting is sober and powerful, showing the fears, doubts and determination that must have been so familiar to everyone involved in the battle. Jack Hawkins is particularly good and completely believable as captain Ericson. In a way, this movie could stand for any group of people caught up in warfare. Unaware of the larger picture, they are just trying to do their duty and to cope with their doubts and fears as best they can.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paddington Bear on 23 May 2009
Format: DVD
Much more than the stereotypical war movie of the 50s, The Cruel Sea has tension, drama and an interesting examination of character. The cinematography is surprisingly good for the era: the sea itself has a strong visual impact. Jack Hawkins plays the role he always plays - the upright moral British officer but in this drama he shows more depth and nuance than usual. Overall, an engaging drama that holds the attention throughout as long as you're not expecting the hi tech special effects of today's movies.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By C. O. DeRiemer HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Jun 2007
Format: DVD
The Cruel Sea is, in my view, one of the best movies yet made dealing with naval men at war in WWII. It's the story of the Compass Rose, newly commissioned in 1940 as a convoy escort, and the officers and men who served on her. Her captain (Jack Hawkins) was fresh from the merchant marine; her new officers had seen almost no sea duty. They learned on the job as they protected convoys in the North Atlantic and then in the run to the Mediterranean.

What makes this movie so good is its matter-of-factness. There are no heroics, just men learning their jobs and doing their duty, with some who die and some who survive. The scene where Captain Ericson decides to use depth charges to destroy a suspected submarine hiding below a group of struggling survivors from a torpedoed freighter is harrowing. The DVD I saw has a good but by no means first-class image transfer.

The novel, The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, is largely forgotten now. It remains one of the most evocative books to come out of WWII. The movie is well worth seeing. The book is certainly well worth reading.
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