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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diplomatic maneuvering and naval gunpowder make a fine Powell and Pressburger movie
If you'd like to see how talk and diplomatic maneuvering in the hands of two masterful filmmakers can turn what could have been a routine action movie into something special, try Powell and Pressburger's The Battle of the River Plate. It's late 1939 and WWII has started. The German pocket battleship Graf Spee is wreaking havoc with British shipping. Three British cruisers...
Published on 2 Mar. 2008 by C. O. DeRiemer

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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars VistaVision Movie In A 4:3 Letterbox
I like the movie but what ruins it for me is the presentation.
Film was shot in VistaVision like classics such as "The Searchers" with John Wayne.
Then ITV Video ruin it but making the DVD in a 4:3 Letterbox presentation.

So yes it is in widescreen but to fill up your 16:9 TV you need to apply a manual zoom mode.

This sort of issue with DVD...
Published on 11 July 2008 by Mike Nelson


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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Famous Heroic World War 2 Naval Battle, 16 April 2001
By 
Trevor D. Gooding "hainault2" (Bexhill On Sea East Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
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The true story of a German Pocket Battleship loose on the high seas at the outbreak of World War 2. Having sunk several merchant ships off Africa she seeks even greater spoils off the South American coast. Three British cruisers although outgunned engage her and a heroic naval battle takes place. Great cast includes John Gregson, Peter Finch and Anthony Quale.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Last Old-Fashioned Naval Engagements, 4 Dec. 2009
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This review is from: The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
This movie is a very enjoyable re-enactment of one of the last of the old-fashioned types of naval engagements in history. In this type of battle, both sides are essentially groping around in the dark, feeling around for the presence of the enemy and then, in the event of contact which had to be made visually, blasting away at each other, hoping for a hit, and then praying that the enemy can't bring reinforcements before disengaging and slipping away into the vast wilderness in the ocean.
World War II and new technology was quickly bringing an end to that type of warfare. The development of radar, the airplane and the aircraft carrier was making this obsolete. In 1942, at the Battle of the Coral Sea, a major naval battle was fought without the ships on each side ever coming into visual contact with each other. This was the beginning of the future.

Although one major plus for this film, as compared to others like "Sink the Bismarck!" is the use of actual warships rather than models, a major flaw of the film is that it basically only shows the battle from the side of the British. In fact, the Admiral Graf Spee's commander, Capt Langsdorff, before disappearing for most of the rest of the film, says he is planning to have the ship return home to Germany, whereas, Admiral Harwood, commander of the British Force G which is searching for him guesses that Langsdorff would head for South America where there was heavy maritime traffic of ships taking grain and meat to Britain. Indeed this is what happens but no explanation is given by Langsdorff for the change. We do not see the Germans in the battle, no explanation is given for their decision to head for Montevideo, nor what they expected to happen there. There are silly scenes showing the night-life of Montevideo, but only a little of the maneuvering of the German and British diplomats and agents trying to get the Uruguayan government (which was basically pro-British) to do what they want.

Finally, no mention is made of Capt Langsdorff's suicide. In the beginning of the film we see that his widow is mentioned in the credits as assisting in the preparation of the film, but we really don't get a good idea of what he was like, nor what his attitude was to the Nazi regime, other than that he was an old-fashioned "officer and gentleman" of the sea.

In spite of these short-comings, the film is worth watching because this enagement was the first British success in the war and it gave a shot of adrenalin to the British war effort at a time that it badly needed one, and we get a good view of how the old-fashioned Royal Navy operated.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Post-WW2 flag-waver, loads of action, 15 Sept. 2010
By 
A. J. W. Daglish (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
When this has been on TV I've always managed to miss part of it, so getting an excellent quality DVD was a good move.
It's a bit short of convincing character acting. Seeing this (and 'Ice Cold in Alex') makes you realise what a dear old ham Anthony Quayle was. But Peter Finch is far more convincing as Kapitän Langsdorff than is Karel Stepanek as Admiral Lutjens in the similar film 'Sink the Bismarck'. He is believable when compared to the cardboard cutout Nazi glory-hunter.
The scenes in the harbour-side bar in Montevideo are unnecessary and corny, and the American radio reporter seems surplus to requirements -- perhaps he's a device to stir up tension and drama during the possibly static phase of the stand-off. But the diplomatic frenzy could have stood on its own if the Archers had had a bit more confidence in their script.

The ships, the sea and the special effects are the overall winners in this film.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heroic Wartime Drama, 7 Nov. 2003
Set initially in wartime Portsmouth this film charts the selection, training and eventual success of one of the Second World War's most famous and daring raids. The brainchild of Major 'Blondie' Haslar Royal Marines, the plan was to penetrate German defences on a French river to destroy enemy shipping in the basin at the far end. This plan was to be accomplished using only simple two man canoes, and was ultimately successful despite the fact that only 2 of the ten man team survived to return to the UK.
The film has a wonderful performance from Jose Ferrer as Major 'Stringer' and Trevor Howard of 'Brief Encounter' fame as his Second in Command.
As to be expected in a film of this age (1954) the special effects are somewhat crude and the scene involving the destruction of the ships is laughable, however the film is gripping if only as a testament to the bravery of the team involved! Several members of the raid were shot without trial by the German military as spies.
The other surviving member apparently rode a brief wave of notoriety following the films release and although he died last year Marine Bill Sparks will be remembered fondly by all serving and ex Royal Marines.
Buy a little history today and you won't be disapointed!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remember Them..., 14 Oct. 2013
By 
This review is from: The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
Glad to see a British classic from the 1950's restored and digitally remastered. The image and sound is clean and crisp. Bonus features thin on the ground, but given the price I'm not complaining.

My father was a sailor aboard the HMS Achilles in 1939. She left the South Pacific at the end of August 1939 with orders to show herself in South American waters; partly to protect British shipping; partly to make sure that German merchant ships reported her presence; partly to act as goodwill ambassadors with the various South American nations they would visit.

Their first port of call was Valparaiso, Chile and over the next six weeks they visited sixteen ports along the South American west coast from Buenaventura, Colombia in the north to Puerto Montt, Chile in the south. Rounding the Horn of South America the Achilles called in at the Falkland Islands before sailing to Rio del Plata to join Commodore Harwood's Force G task force. The Achilles then went on to patrol the east coast of South America from Brazil down to Argentina making many ports of call.

My father always told me as a boy that he was impressed with many of the South American cities they called on. When he visited them in 1939 he described them as modern, clean and beautiful. In many respects they were even model cities of the time. It was certainly everything a young man in his 20's from New Zealand who had joined the Royal Navy to see the world wanted.

He was aboard the Achilles when they went up against the Graf Spee (I have my father's military records which confirm this fact) but it was the beauty of the cities and the friendliness of the people that he spoke of. Even the German sailors they encountered were friendly and respectful.

This movie was one of the first inklings I had as a child that my father had seen battle during WWII and been part of something that had made a world-wide impact at the time. Even now, some 74-years later, scholars are still writing books about it. I'm grateful to the movie for preserving colour footage of the cruiser my father served on during 1939-41.

Found this bit of trivia with an NZ connection on the movie from the IMDB website notable: "filming started on 13 December 1955, the 16th anniversary of the battle. The River Plate Association in Auckland sent a good-luck message to the crew. "Congratulations on choice of day. Hope your shooting will be as successful as ours!"."

Having just re-watched the movie last night I noticed an error in the sequence of events during the battle. The movie shows Ajax opening fire before Achilles. This is incorrect. The actual order of events during initial exchange of fire is: Graf Spee sighted at 6:14am. Graf Spee opens fire at 6:18am. Exeter replies at 6:20am. Achilles opens fire at 6:21am. A full two minutes later at 6:23am Ajax get off their first salvo.

As the son of a member of Achilles' gun crews I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out this divergence from the actual facts of history. :)

For those with either family or close connections to the crew of the HMS Achilles or those otherwise interested in this action I have posted a crew list of the Achilles from December 1939 that I inherited from my father. The HMS Ajax and River Plate Veteran's Association have very kindly made it available from their website here : [...]

Next year (2014) marks the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the River Plate. There are now literally only a handful of survivors who were there and witnessed first-hand what this movie portrays. In the excitement to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War don't forget these brave men who stepped up and did their duty even though the odds were stacked against them and achieved great things at a time when it was sorely needed. Though few they are still with us.

This movie is a worthy time capsule of the ships and the actions of the men from both sides.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Sure Treat!, 24 Jan. 2011
Few of us realize that probably the first battle of World War II was fought in South America. Here, "The Battle of the River Plate" is brilliantly performed by some of Britains formost screen actors. Michael Poewll's direction is superb as always. A sure treat for anyone interested in this period.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice to see a classic film treated with care, 25 April 2011
By 
R. James "39000" (Princeville, HI, USA) - See all my reviews
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I bought this disk despite the internet whinings about the sound quality. I am very pleased with my purchase. The picture quality is very good with correct aspect ratio and a high quality clean image which exploits the vistavision format. I did not experience any problmes with the english soundtrack but then I just use the TV stereo speakers with dialog enhancement up as I have hard of hearing relatives. My only gripe is the habit of putting trailers (in German obviously) up front which are hard to spin through when your German is only schoolboy level. That said once I got to menu I select English and no subtitles and it played perfectly on my Region B Panasonic BD 60. There was a warning my player might need a software upgrade but mine did not. I would thoroughly recommend this as another Powell Pressburger epic in a good quality release. I am not an extras guy so I have not looked at other parts of disk. Although my collection of Blu Ray is Region A from USA, I have now 3 Region B exclusive titles and 2 of these are German (El Cid and Battle of the River Plate). I find it regrettable that the German market is much better served than the UK one(ironic as this is an ITV disk).
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An excellent representation of a true story, 13 Sept. 2000
By 
tompkins@icon.co.za (Johannesburg, South Africa) - See all my reviews
A German 12000ton pocket-battleship, that broke the WW1 Allies rules in being built in the first-place, creates havoc in the southern oceans in the days of the "phoney war" Good colour transfer from the film although, as I seem to recall, truncated from the original by not showing the suicide of Capt. Langsdorf in the Buenos Aires hotel. The anchor of the Graf Spee can be seen in Montevideo harbour - the rest was removed from the rocks by the scrap-merchants!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, educational, interesting, 16 May 2004
By 
UK Filmbuff "filmbuff1382" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
A powerful drama, about a powerful battle and powerful ships. Well worth watching.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great film that captures the tension and atmosphere wonderfully, 10 April 2014
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This review is from: The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] (DVD)
This isa really great film. The film captures the tension and atmosphere of this great sea battle. Also emphasises the stupidity of war.

Would have rated 5* if the picture quality was higher.
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The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956]
The Battle Of The River Plate [DVD] [1956] by Michael Powell (DVD - 2007)
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