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138 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST portrayal of the war at sea
"Gift Horse", a movie from the early 1950s loosely based on the exploits of HMS Campbeltown, is, quite simply, the most accurate, true-to-reality portrayal of the Royal Navy in the Second World War. It ranks far above any other film in the genre. Here's why:

"Gift Horse" is authentic and free from anachronisms. There are no post-war ships appearing in a wartime...
Published on 23 Dec 2008 by Friendlycard

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As I Remembered
`Gift Horse' is a movie I saw many, many years ago and thoroughtly enjoyed. But for my memories, at least, time hasn't been kind.

Most will be aware of the background, that it was an American `lend-lease' vessel. The original `Campbletown', upon which this movie is based, was pressed into desperate service as convoy escort at the time of the so-called `Battle...
Published on 2 Oct 2011 by Seatinthestalls


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138 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST portrayal of the war at sea, 23 Dec 2008
By 
Friendlycard (Norfolk, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
"Gift Horse", a movie from the early 1950s loosely based on the exploits of HMS Campbeltown, is, quite simply, the most accurate, true-to-reality portrayal of the Royal Navy in the Second World War. It ranks far above any other film in the genre. Here's why:

"Gift Horse" is authentic and free from anachronisms. There are no post-war ships appearing in a wartime setting, no German battleships portrayed by American cruisers, no Colony class cruisers representing Leanders, no Vanguard portraying KGV, no post-war aircraft carriers in the background. Interiors are just as authentic - no studio sets acting as palatial-scale flats or mess-decks. The at-sea footage is superlative and true to life. My impression is that the Royal Navy must have lent the film-makers a Town Class destroyer and let them play with it.

Life aboard is portrayed with equal accuracy. This is no band of cheerful cockneys who are all friends and all potentially heroic - there are tensions, fights, conflicts, domestic setbacks and all of the atmosphere to be expected in a crew of 100 of whom most are conscripts from Civvy Street and only a handful have ever been to sea before. Uniforms, routines, drills, language, slang, nicknames - everything is accurate and nothing is played in a heroic or nostalgic glow.

Things go wrong, as they so often did - we see collisions, fouled propellers, scrapes, frequent engine break-downs, errors of navigation and other setbacks.

Well before the mid-point of the film, the viewer is completely immersed in what it was really like for a crew of (predominantly) civilians, led by previously-retired or reservist officers, to fight a worn-out ship in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The St Nazaire raid, though an epic story, forms only a small proportion of the film - war, the film tells us, was far more a matter of boredom and endurance than of heroism and action. The use of a model of the ship to ram a model dockyard looks a bit dated - special effects were in their infancy at this time - but does not materially detract from the quality of the movie.

The cast are marvellous, the filming superb, the atmosphere authentic - this is a beautifully crafted portrayal of the war at sea.

Forget the others - "Gift Horse" IS the Royal Navy in World War Two.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fictionalised version of a true wartime event, 24 April 2012
By 
Andy_atGC (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
One of the classic post-war War films of the early and mid-50s. this movie surrounds two truths of WW2; that Britain acquired a great many ships from the US under a Lease-Lend agreement and that the St Nazarre Raid was intended to deny the use of its deep dry dock (the only one on the Atlantic coastline of Western Europe) to the Germans and its larger battleships.

Some of the ships were war ships either of WW1 or early 1920s vintages and merchant ships of similar age all of which had been 'mothballed' or laid up unused for some years. They were not necessarily in impeccable condition and a lot of work was needed by both parties to make the vessels sea-worthy and to ensure that their engines were usable and then, in some instances, modified to accommodate additional equipment. With the rate of losses Britain was suffering in the first two years of the war being beyond the capabilities of British shipyards to maintain, something needed to be done.

However, most of the movie surrounds the acquisition of the vessel, its commission into the Royal Navy and the training of its crew. Rather little covers the Raid itself. Several of the British seamen were killed, many injured and the vast majority interred for the duration. Although first thought to be a failure due to damage to the timers needed to safely explode the bow cargo of tons of high explosive, the explosion did occur but hours late and destroyed the dock gates and some of its structure. The wreck of the ship also blocked the dock until about 2 years after the war's end.

Well acted and with a solid cast including several familiar names and a reasonable if not completely accurate representation of events.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trevor Howard changes an "underdog" old destroyer into an enraged she-wolf and rides her right into the jaws of the Beast..., 3 Jan 2013
By 
Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
This is an excellent old war film, inspired by real events. I liked it very much and I am very glad that I bought it.

The story begins with a British crew assembling in USA in 1940 to take charge of an old American destroyer, USS "Whittier", which will become then HMS "Ballantrae". This transfer is the consequence of "Destroyers for Bases Agreement", a real-life event (signed on 2 September 1940). At 23 years of age USS "Whittier" is already an old and used ship, but as they say "you don't look a gift horse in the mouth" and in fact the British crew will nick name their new ship "Gift Horse"...

What follows is the story of a hastily assembled group of very different people slowly overcoming all kind of difficulties under the leadership of a harsh and for a long time very disliked skipper, Lieutenant Commander Hugh A. Fraser (Trevor Howard) - before becoming finally a well integrated crew in charge of an efficient war machine. Then finally HMS "Ballantrae" will be ordered to participate in an extremely dangerous mission - the raid on Saint-Nazaire on 28 March 1942. And whatever the issue of the raid, she is not meant to return...

The story described in the first part of the film is inspired by real experiences of British crews which were hastily assembled in 1940 to man the 50 old American destroyers. One of them, HMS "Campbeltown" (ex-USS "Buchanan") was indeed used during the raid on Saint-Nazaire and those events are described in the second part of the film.

This black and white movie was not a superproduction, there is virtually no special effects and fighting scenes are not very spectacular - but it doesn't really hurt the film. The great strength of "Gift Horse" is the excellent scenario, very strong dialogs and very good acting of every person present on the screen. There is lots of humor in this film, particularly about the troubles which affect the "Gift Horse" during her shakedown and first war missions - at one moment HMS "Ballantrae" earns the dubious honor of being greeted by the message "Welcome Swiss Navy"...

Four actors are particularly important. Trevor Howard is simply amazing as the skipper of "Gift Horse". James Donald plays very well Lieutenant Jennings, the executive officer of HMS "Ballantrae", an ambitious dandy and a redoutable Don Juan, who will meet his "fate" before this film ends...))) Richard Attenborough is even better as "Dripper" Daniels, a simple sailor with big mouth who before war was an union organiser and who therefore will be the principal trouble maker on board (Donald and Attenborough later also played together in the "Great Escape"). Finally Bernard Lee, who much later was to become very famous as "M" in James Bond movies, plays a very likeable sailor, Able Seaman "Stripey" Wood

Bottom line, this is an excellent, very well made and well interpreted "oldie but goldie" war film. I loved it and I am definitely keeping my DVD for another viewing on day. Enjoy!
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Synopsis, Random Reviews, Trivia & Cast Details, 25 July 2008
By 
G. Collins - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
Rare World War II Naval Film
Based upon the true story of H.M.S. Campbelltown
and the renowned raid on the Dock Gates at St. Nazaire
GIFT HORSE
". . . this fine piece of craftsmanship is in the tradition of
`In Which We Serve'"
TV Times Film & Video Guide
TREVOR HOWARD and RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH star in this powerful story of a Royal Navy destroyer and her officers and crew during the early years of the Second World War. HMS Ballantrea is an ex U.S. Navy destroyer - one of fifty lent by the Americans in 1940 to a desperate Royal Navy fighting to keep the Atlantic sea-lanes open. The ship was old and desperately in need of a major refit, but is almost immediately pressed into service on convoy escort duty. Her new captain, Lt. Commander Fraser (Trevor Howard) struggles to keep her operational, while dealing with problems arising from his own, chequered past. The crew are mostly new recruits, raw, inexperienced and unused to navy discipline. Somehow, Fraser must shape them into a formidable fighting unit as they run the lethal gauntlet of U-Boats and German bombers . . .
Just as HMS Ballantrea seems to have overcome her problems, she is selected to play a vital role in one of the most daring commando raids of the entire war - a mission from which the ship is intended never to return . . .
With a fine supporting cast including Bernard Lee, Dora Bryan, Sid James, Sonny Tufts, Joan Rice and James Donald, GIFT HORSE offers an authentic and moving portrayal of life on board a Royal Navy ship during World War Two. It was made with the full cooperation of both the Admiralty and the St. Nazaire Society, and is broadly based upon dramatic, real life events.
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DVD (Region 2) PAL ~ Certificate PG
Running Time Feature Approx. 95 minutes
1952 British Lion/Romulus Films - All rights Reserved
Licensed by Granada Ventures Limited
Packaging and Distribution DD Home Entertainment 2006
Catalogue Number: DD22838
MONOCHROME: Black & White
HALLIWELL'S REVIEW & RATING: ONE STAR
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In 1940 an old U.S. destroyer is given to Britain and an officer reluctantly takes charge of it. Conventional, popular seafaring war adventure . . . Halliwell's - A fine and very unromantic telling of the famous story of derring-do, the Raid on the dock gates at St. Nazaire. The film deals well with the hope, aspirations and human frailties of the officers and other ranks manning this old lend-lease destroyer - well worth watching.
Plot Summary for
Gift Horse (1952)
The captain of an old destroyer in 1940 struggles with his crew as well as the Nazis
This is the story of one of the old moth-balled American fourstack destroyers, left-overs from WW I, which were turned over to the British in the early, desperate days of WW II, as part of the "Lend-Lease" program before American was in the war. The crew is saddled with an overage "gift horse", prone to mechanical tantrums and even complete engine failure in moments of high crisis. The story follows the exploits of the ship, officers and sailors from the time they take command of this "lemon" in Halifax until the last, heart-breaking night when they scuttle the ship in German-held French harbour. Episodic and understated. - Summary written by Les Adams
--------------------------------------------------------
Never Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth, 30 July 2004
Viewer Comment by: Author: bkoganbing
This is the only film I know that dealt with Anglo-American destroyers for naval base leases trade that Roosevelt and Churchill made before America entered World War II. Monetary transactions were forbidden by the Neutrality Act so FDR came up with the idea to give up 50 aged American destroyers in turn for leases on naval bases the British had in the Western Hemisphere. This was the precursor of Lend Lease.
Trevor Howard plays the captain of a crew taking over one of these ships and remembers the ships are old. But as he said addressing his crew it was good to remember that old expression about never looking a gift horse in the mouth. He plays the part well in the best stiff upper lip tradition. Supporting Howard are James Donald, Richard Attenborough and over from America, Sonny Tufts.
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Good easy to take war film about a little remembered historical event
and the old gift horse does meet a gallant end.
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CAST & CREW INCLUDES
Trevor Howard as Lt. Cmdr Hugh Algernon Fraser - Richard Attenborough as Dripper Daniels - James Donald as Lt. Richard Jennings, No. 1 - Charles Lloyd Pack as Ship's Doctor - Bernard Lee as A. S. 'Stripey' Wood - Dora Bryan as Glad Flanagan - Meredith Edwards as Jones - Hugh Williams as Captain David G. Wilson, Division Commander - Robin Bailey as Lt. Michael Grant, Pilot - John Forrest as Appleby the Captain's Steward - Patric Doonan as Petty Officer Martin - Sid James as Ned Hardy, Owner Golden Bull - Tony Quinn as McConalog the Bartender - Peter Hobbes as Daniels - James Kenney as John A. Fraser, Hugh's Son - George Street as Court Member - Harold Ayer as Lt. Cmdr Carson - Sonny Tufts as Yank Flanagan - Peter Bathurst as Morgan, Ship's Engineer - Anthony Oliver as Works Manager - John Brooking as Crewman - Robert Moore as Crewman - Olaf Pooley as Crewman - Alan Rolfe as Crewman - Tim Turner as Crewman - David Oake as Crewman - John Clevedon as Crewman - William Russell as Crewman - Hugh Hastings as Crewman John Wynn - Joan Rice as June Mallory, WREN Cipher Clerk - James Carney as Bone - Michael Ashlin as Duncan - Harold Siddons as Adm. Bartlett - Ann Wheatley as WREN - Gwenda Wilson as Waitress - Cyril Conway - Lyn Evans - John Gabriel - Glyn Houston - Michael Mulcaster - Harry Towb - John Warren
~ et al . . . ~
Directed by Compton Bennett
Script by William Fairchild & Hugh Hastings adaptation by William Rose
from the story Ivan Goff & Ben Roberts
Director of Photography Harry Waxman - Music by Clifton Parker & Eric Rogers
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As I Remembered, 2 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
`Gift Horse' is a movie I saw many, many years ago and thoroughtly enjoyed. But for my memories, at least, time hasn't been kind.

Most will be aware of the background, that it was an American `lend-lease' vessel. The original `Campbletown', upon which this movie is based, was pressed into desperate service as convoy escort at the time of the so-called `Battle of the Atlantic'.

Here we encounter an old ship prone to breakdowns and crewed by an inexperienced complement of men who need battle-hardening. It's sturdy, if formulaic 1950's fare. A decent character ensemble of the day features Trevor Howard, Bernard Lee & Richard Attenborough. Various crew members also have personal issues shore-side. However; what really cemented Campbletown's particular place in history was an almost suicidal assault on the dry-dock gates of St Nazaire. The ship was re-fitted to pass for a German destroyer, crammed with a couple of tons of explosive and escorted by a small flotilla of MTB's upon which escape was planned. the dock gates were duly rammed and destroyed. The mission was a success - though a somewhat pyrrhic one.

For me; it just doesn't hit the spot. The movie bears a close resemblance to `The Cruel Sea', but for my measure isn't a patch on it. It's a little too formulaic, a litle too stagy. And, like I say; the real big thing was the do-or-die mission, but that features only as a detail towards conclusion. The meticuluous planning as well as the destruction and slaughter are largely glossed-over or omitted. As indeed is the courage and sacrifice - which is reprehensible.

The makers should've spent less time on the `getting crew & vessel shipshape' routine - which has been done before - and more time with the epic attack on the French docks. That's where the real drama lay.

Worth a watch, but not exactly collectible. The DVD supplied by Amazon was suitably clear and clean. Run-time is given as 95mins, Aspect ratio 4:3, Mono sound, PG rating. And, of course, in good ol' black & white. Over-priced.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pride in the Royal Navy, 24 Nov 2011
By 
This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
Just watched the film again on TV; first time for a while. Yes,the special effects are dated but the acting and the 'feel' of Service life at the time are first class and a credit to those who served. Howard is exemplary as the Captain but so are the rest of the cast. Not a duff one amongst them.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gift horse, 23 Jun 2010
By 
Mr. Steven Powell (north west UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
Typical British stiff upper lip film...a little slow but gets there in the end. Dont watch this for action as the tempo is quite slow and the action spasmodic...worth a look!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 7 July 2014
By 
R. Childs - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
Great film
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5.0 out of 5 stars Typical British war film, 1 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
For those of a certain age, who probably saw this at the cinema first time, it was great seeing it again. The Royal Navy to the rescue so to speak. Great little film. Trevor Howard , good as usual stiff upper lip and all that
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Statement, 1 May 2014
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This review is from: Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] (DVD)
If you don't know how good it is, why doi you bother to sell it?

This -----. I am buying a movie not attending an English class.
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Gift Horse [DVD] [1952]
Gift Horse [DVD] [1952] by Compton Bennett (DVD - 2010)
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