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The Sand Pebbles [DVD]

Steve McQueen , Richard Crenna , Robert Wise    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
Price: £9.78 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £10. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Steve McQueen, Richard Crenna, Richard Attenborough, Candice Bergen, Mako
  • Directors: Robert Wise
  • Producers: Robert Wise
  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 18 April 2005
  • Run Time: 174 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007RUSM6
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,889 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



Director Robert Wise chose to film Robert McKenna's award-winning novel The Sand Pebbles as his follow-up to the success of The Sound of Music. Shot in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the film combines historical sweep and intimate human drama in several parallel stories, all revolving around US Navy machinist's mate Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), a skilful but fiercely independent sailor who joins the "sand pebble" crew of the USS San Pablo, a Navy gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River on the eve of the Chinese revolution in 1926. The San Pablo's inexperienced captain (Richard Crenna) obsessively defends the Navy's mission-however unnecessary or unwanted--to protect American missionaries and businessmen, blind to the more dangerous implications of American involvement with China's opposing political factions.

Holman is a defiant voice of humanity in this clash between outmoded values and inevitable change; his final line of dialogue ("What the hell happened?") is a tragic summation of misguided policy, expressing the film's criticism of the Vietnam War. Rather than preach, however, Wise lets McKenna's potent drama emerge from finely drawn relationships: between Holman and a young American teacher (19-year-old Candice Bergen, in her second film); between Holman and the Chinese "coolie" (Mako), whose heart-breaking fate transcends all issues of racial or political difference; and between crewmate "Frenchy" Burgoyne (Richard Attenborough) and the Chinese woman he's sworn to love and protect at all costs. Combined with the film's colourful supporting cast, adventurous scope, and climactic battle scenes, these personal dynamics bring substance and spirit to a complex story of good intentions gone awry. --Jeff Shannon,

Product Description

In China, 1926, the US gunboat San Pablo cruises the Yangtze river on a peacekeeping mission. New crew member Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) causes friction when he insists upon looking after the San Pablo's engines himself, rather than leaving the hard labour to the Chinese helpers. Holman ruffles more feathers when he falls in love with an American missionary (Candice Bergen), and as the political climate becomes more and more volatile, he begins to question the validity of the American presence on the river.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
"The Sand Pebbles" has been one of my favourite films since I first saw it on television in 1976. It is set in 1926 in revolution-torn China, when the crew of an American gunboat, the San Pablo, is called upon to rescue some American missionaries working far up the Yang Tse river. This widescreen version does justice not just to the sweeping panoramas of the quite breathtaking Chinese scenery, but also to the sweeping events and themes of the story. It is in every way a "big" film, dealing with political and military intervention (clear parallels with Vietnam at the time of release), nationalism, racism, and the horrors of war. Yet for all its heavy themes, it is most successful in the depiction of its very human characters. These characters are not just the means of conveying the "messages" of the film, or fodder for the gripping and well-staged action scenes. They are individuals in their own right, involved in something far greater than their own destinies. Some are unpleasant and ignorant while others are honourable but lost in the sea of historic events surrounding them. Some, like Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), demand sympathy and respect as they struggle to come to terms with their personal challenges brought to the fore by these historically significant and politically dangerous events. Inevitably there are slow and confusing passages as the political implications are expounded, but these are more than compensated for by our emotional engagement as we become involved in the stories of the people caught up in the political fall-out. Robert Wise's direction is strong and emotionally charged, complemented perfectly by Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully haunting and ominous music. Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I ain't got no more enemies!" 27 Nov 2007
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
The Sand Pebbles, Robert Wise's epic tale of gunboat diplomacy in the turbulent China of the mid-Twenties is hugely ambitious and hugely expensive, yet, as with the best of his work, the focus is firmly on people, the momentous political events kept in the background until their consequences begin to overwhelm the principals. Even then, they are only drawn out of the small worlds they create for themselves (for Steve McQueen his engine room, for Candice Bergen her teaching in a remote mission) for purely personal reasons.

More than any epic of the Sixties, The Sand Pebbles seems to draw heavily on the chaos and the confusion of the then ongoing Vietnam War, so it's a real surprise that Wise seemed genuinely unaware of any parallels. Yet, perhaps because of history's tendency to repeat itself, they're all too apparent in the finished film. The enemy is unclear: one minute it is the communists who are trying to incite an incident, the next Chang Kai Shek's Nationalists (although filmed in Taiwan with his approval, it is surprisingly critical of his actions). The only constant is "Yankee go home."

McQueen's engineer Holman is pointedly referred to as a symbol of his country by his ineffectual commanding officer, but what kind? He holds no opinions, preferring to put his faith in machinery rather than people or politics, yet his mere presence is divisive. Even his own countrymen and crewmates turn against him and join in with their nominal enemies in an angry demonstration against his alleged crimes.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By Spike Owen TOP 500 REVIEWER
China 1926...

Ravaged from within by corrupt warlords...oppressed from without by the great world powers who had beaten China to her knees a century before...

China...a country of factions trying to unite to become a nation...through revolution.....

The Sand Pebbles is a multi stranded panoramic story. It tells of China lifting itself off her knees, and of the Americans who were caught in the giant's bloody rousing. It tells of crewmen Frenchy {Richard Attenborough} & Jake Holman {Steve McQueen} from the U.S.S. San Pablo, two men whose lives are to be severely altered here on the banks of the Yangtze River. It tells of the San Pablo's Captain Collins {Richard Crenna} as he tries to negotiate tricky political waters. And also of the missionaries {Larry Gates & Candice Bergen} who in turn are resentful and bewildered by the US involvement in China. All molded together brilliantly by Robert Wise in this stirring drama that's flecked with romance and explosive action.

Tho the film has undertaken a number of edits since its original release {ranging from 170 minutes to 195}, in any form the piece proves to be a lesson in character involvement. Adapted by Robert Anderson from the novel written by Richard McKenna, the film unfolds precision like, its intensity bubbling away until we reach the highly emotive conclusion. The film has often been placed as a parallel to the Vietnam conflict, something that is in truth hard to ignore. The Sand Pebbles shows the Americans meddling in affairs they don't understand. They act arrogantly towards the Chinese, they dismiss them and call them derogatory names. To them, the Chinese are an inferior race.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A+
Published 15 days ago by Gordon Sherrard
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
One of the oldies but goodies !
Published 18 days ago by Lars Jönlid
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic McQueen
A classic. They don't make them like that anymore! McQueen plays himself and Candice Bergen is very good too. Never get bored of watching it.
Published 20 days ago by Angry of Morden
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 21 days ago by IAN DORAN
5.0 out of 5 stars Sand pebbles uk blu ray
I love this film Steve Mcqueens performance is brilliant.There is not a bad performance from Mako to simon oakland,Candice bergen is wooden but as it was her first film she can be... Read more
Published 23 days ago by nobladeofgrass
5.0 out of 5 stars Long acquaintance
From 1962 to 1965, as Portuguese Chargé d'Affaires in Bangkok I met and became a friend of Louis Jacques Rollet-Andrianne and his wife Marayat one of the many stars in this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by S. CASTELO-BRANCO
5.0 out of 5 stars classic movie
A really good quality movie and a great remaster into 1080 and Dolby sound. Steve McQueen at his best .A great movie to watch over and over again .
Published 3 months ago by Mr. Des Warburton
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
This is one film I always wanted for my classic collection, a great story. Buy it if you are a Steve mc queen fan
Published 3 months ago by Ptrick o'carroll
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary snapshot of China in the early 20th century
Just discovered this movie by accident. Incredible film about China, its history, the missionaries and gunboat diplomacy. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Max Zen
5.0 out of 5 stars Reccomended by a friend - excellent film
very long but you cannot tear yourself away from watching, the performances of the whole cast and the fact that this was filmed in real scenery with a purpose built gun boat makes... Read more
Published 5 months ago by john gordon
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