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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disgracefully overlooked Naval classic
Quite why "Yangtse Incident" has taken so long to come to DVD in an age where classics are routinely knocked out at knock down prices is beyond me. That said, this excellent film has always unfairly played second fiddle to "Cruel Sea", "In Which We Serve", "Sink the Bismark", "Above Us the Waves" et al.

The story of HMS AMETHYST's detention by communist forces...
Published on 6 Mar 2009 by D. Burns

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong Wartime Drama
Strong drama about the 1949 incident involving HMS Amethyst. Quite real looking for a 1957 film, even the acting isn't as stilted as most films from that era. The battle scenes are excellently done using real ships.

Well worth watching for some history about an incident which seems to have been forgotten about.
Published on 22 Oct 2012 by Lord Anon


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60 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Disgracefully overlooked Naval classic, 6 Mar 2009
By 
D. Burns - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
Quite why "Yangtse Incident" has taken so long to come to DVD in an age where classics are routinely knocked out at knock down prices is beyond me. That said, this excellent film has always unfairly played second fiddle to "Cruel Sea", "In Which We Serve", "Sink the Bismark", "Above Us the Waves" et al.

The story of HMS AMETHYST's detention by communist forces during the Chinese civil war, and her subsequent escape, may not be well known by modern generations but this film does a sound job of dramatising events and an outstanding job of bringing to life the violence and danger of being in a warship pounded by shells. It misses a trick or two in portraying Lt Cdr Kerans, who assumes command during the incident, as a little too crisp and stiff upper-lipped, when the man himself was a far more complex and flawed character. That said, Richard Todd (drawing as he so often did on his personal wartime experiences) excels in his portrayal of an inspirational leader. His strong supporting cast deliver a pitch perfect rendition of Royal Navy sailors of the time, even allowing for a little toning down and poetic licence. Bernard Cribbins and Ian Bannen both make early outings in film as junior sailors and William Hartnell is particularly strong as the experienced Leading Hand who has what it takes when the chips are down; the courage and determination in his backened face as he struggles to his feet and takes the wheel after all others in the wheelhouse are killed make this one of the finer moments in cinema's portrayal of naval warfare.

Indeed, it is the brilliant depicition of the smoke, flame, shrapnel and carnage that occur when shells rip into armoured metal boxes that marks this film out. As AMETHYST's guns return fire the scenes descend into a cacophony of defeaning, shattering gunfire and confusion. There was obviously no CGI when this film was made, but there was an abundance of laid-up warships. As a result, AMETHYST began production starring as herself but fell victim to one of the substantial and numerous underwater explosions used to simulate shell splashes, opening up her hull plates and forcing the use of a stand in for the remainder of filming.

The film is not perfect, and in portraying some of the monotony of AMETHYST's days and weeks as a hostage it loses as little pace in the middle section. You might also have wished for a slightly more convincing Communist Chinese colonel than the Georgian actor Akim Tamiroff, his particularly un-chinese face and accent highlighted even more by the presence of Cantonese actor Keye Luke as his subaltern.

Richard Todd and Co, real warships, real explosions, a rip roaringly patriotic score - well you can't go wrong really....God Save the King.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's only taken half a century, 15 Jan 2009
This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
In April 1949, the British frigate HMS Amethyst was making her way upthe Yangtse to take supplies to the British consulate at Shanghai when she was illegally fired on by Mao's shore batteries. She sustained 50 hits, knocking out much of her electronics and power systems and 22 fatalities among her company, including her Captain, Lieutenant Commander Skinner. She had to be beached on mud flats and there she stayed under Communist guns for four months. Enter the Assistant Naval Attache in Shanghai, Lieutenant Commander Kerans (Richard Todd) to take over command. After four months of apparent deadlock when the Communist demand for allowing the ship to leave was the propaganda coup of a false admission that the Amethyst had fired first, it was decided to break out and sail downriver to rejoin the fleet.

This is the true story of that illegal imprisonment and escape. Indeed the American title when it was released over in the States was "Escape of the Amethyst". With such stellar names in the cast as Todd, William Hartnell (soon to find fame as the first Doctor Who) and Donald Houston, this 1957 re-enactment hits all the right buttons, but is typical of British war films from this period (Roughly contemporary with Reach for the Sky, Stalag 17 and The Dam Busters). It's all understated Britishness, of the genre that Todd did so well at that time (he also played the lead in The Dam Busters).

Interesting bit of trivia here, in the film the ship itself was played by .... well, HMS Amethyst, by then retired from Navy service and due to be scrapped although they could not, of course, use the Yangtse, they had to make do with the Orwell in Suffolk.

Altogether a worthy film, similar to many of the same period, but I'm happy to see it out for its first release on DVD. As stated in the headline, it's only taken half a century (52 years to be exact, 1957 - 2009)
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yangtse Incident, 3 Dec 2009
By 
MC (Herefordshire UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
You've read the storyline of this 'incident' elsewhere - I cannot add to it.
Contrary to reports, this DVD IS in widescreen format (check your settings if it shows as 4:3). This is the original full length version of the film in original unblemished condition, and not the hacked to pieces, 19 minutes missing version shown on TV and VHS. It has taken a long time coming, but worth the wait.
This is how things were done 60 years ago - when PC was followed by 49 (ask your Gran), we stood up for ourselves and took no intimidation - so if you are British and proud of it, this is the film for you.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Yangtse incident, 9 Nov 2009
By 
Robin Mortiboys (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
This film is based on a true story of HMS Amethyst which was held captive in the Yangtse River for over 100 days in 1949. The ship was damaged by fire from Communist Chineese during the revolution and despite rescue attempts by HMS Concord, which did manage to reach Amethyst, HMS London along with HMS Black Swan, which did not, the ship was held.

This film gives a reasonably accurate account of the yangtse Incident and is one of the better examples of war film produced around this time. To paraphrase the credits in many films: HMS Amethyst played herself. If you like war and/or naval films this is good value for the price.

The story does hold a personal interest for me as my father served on the Black Swan, although not until after this incident.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Todd - not in Green..., 30 Nov 2009
By 
Sandra Gerlach "sandrastyles" (Germany, Gotha) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
... but in Royal Navy- Uniform, which make not really a difference in his case. Beside of the fact that he is a good looking actor, he IS a good one too. But in my humble opinion, the real heroine in this movie are HMS Amethyst. Because she is playing herself - with all the damages and the White Ensign on her stern, tear to pieces. Even Simon the ships cat had a short part in the film, and the crew is well portrayed. Whereas watching the last minutes I was nailbiting and near to tears in the end. Sounds melodramatic? Well, see for yourself !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great film, 8 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
I have only seen this film once back in around 1960. I have never seen it on TV despite it being a part of our militry history. I feel the sacrifice those men were made to endure due to the political situation in China in 1949 has not been give full due, but this film goes a long way to do this.

It is a great film and tells a real story, by actors and men who had served in real life in WW2 and gives it a real feeling of conflict.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The story of HMS "Amethyst" is true and this reconstruction of it was shot with accuracy in and aboard "Amethyst" herself...", 20 Sep 2014
By 
Darth Maciek "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
I liked this little known 1957 British war movie, which describes in a quite realistic way a very real event. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

1. The real story (SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING - don't read further the point 1 if you want to discover the story of HMS "Amethyst" by watching this film)

On 20 April 1949, during Chinese Civil War, frigate HMS "Amethyst" was on her way from Shanghai to Nanking to replace destroyer HMS "Consort", which was standing as guard ship for the British Embassy. Even if she displayed very prominently the Union Jack, at 9.30 AM she was attacked by communist artillery and machine guns on the north bank of Yangtse. The ship suffered serious damage and was grounded. 22 men were killed and 31 wounded. HMS "Consort" came soon to help and tried to tow her, but was also damaged by communist artillery and forced to retreat, with 10 crew members killed.

After a huge effort of her crew, HMS "Amethyst" was refloated but every attempt of escaping was stopped by communist artillery. A second attempt to assist her, this time by heavy cruiser HMS "London" and her sister ship, frigate HMS "Black Swan", also didn't succeed.

Negotiations began in order to secure the release of the ship, but communist negotiators asked as the first condition that the British recognise that they opened fire first and also that the British government excuses itself for this "aggression". This exorbitant and in fact quite outrageous demand locked all negotiations in an impasse and HMS "Amethyst" remained blocked in position for the next 10 weeks.

Soon after the sunset on 30 July HMS "Amethyst", profitting of a moonless night and of the passage of a Chinese steamer, departed and dashed downriver. Communist artillery opened fire but mistakenly focused first on the civilian steamer - this mistake allowed HMS "Amethyst" to escape. The ship sailed 167 km passing under the nose of numerous other communist batteries - but ultimately made it to the sea without further damage or loss of life. Ship's commanding officer, Lt Commander John Kerans send at that moment the signal "Have rejoined the fleet south of Woosung ... No damage... No casualties....God save the King!".

2. The film (this point is spoiler free).

This film was made with a maximum effort to show events as faithfully as possible, with drama and "licentia poetica" kept to the minimum, and indeed it has a strong feeling of realism. HMS "Amethyst" still existed in 1957 and most scenes occur actually in the same places real events happened. However, as she was no more seaworthy at that moment, in the scenes in which the ship moves and fights she was replaced by her sister ship HMS "Magpie". An authentic, fully operational destroyer, HMS "Teazer", was also used to play HMS "Consort". John Kerans himself (at that time promoted to Commander) served as technical advisor.

Actors did very well, beginning with Richard Todd, who plays Kerans. Some slightly lighter moments are provided by Akim Tamiroff who plays wonderfully communist colonel Peng, a man who gives a whole new meaning to the expression "pigheaded"...))) William Hartnell, who was later to become the "First Doctor" in Doctor Who series, is excellent as Leading Seaman Leslie Frank.

This is a good film, but the realism and the low key/low drama approach took their toll on it - in some moments it takes a little effort to stay interested (this is the reason for four stars only). Still, I am very happy that I bought and saw it and I will keep my DVD for a possible future viewing. Enjoy!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking film, 27 Dec 2009
By 
John T. M. Thompson "The Briefcase" (Cradley Heath, West Midlands, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
This is an excellent dramatisation of an actual event. Richard Todd is just one member of an excellent cast who portrayed the crew of HMS Amethyst and the beligerant communist rebels who actually took part in the Yangtse Incident. This movie is well worth watching, even allowing for dramatic licence it is accurate to the truth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fifties Classic, 20 Oct 2010
By 
Johnny D (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
I saw this film on TV for the first time a few years ago and am delighted to now own it on DVD. It is a great, true story and all the more interesting for me as I had the privilege of knowing and working with Geoffrey Weston in Hong Kong during the 1970s. He was a wonderful, larger-than-life man with a keen sense of humour who excelled at chess and squash. He rarely, if ever, spoke about the Yangtse incident so this film, which according to other reviews is an accurate portrayal of what happened, provides an historic insight for me as to what took place in that far-flung corner of the world in 1949.

I would recommend this film to anyone who has enjoyed British war films made in the Fifties, or indeed anyone who can appreciate a spirit-lifting, true story of genuine British heroism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last the great film on DVD., 15 Sep 2010
This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
April 1949 the Modified Black Swan class sloop (later frigate) HMS Amethyst was on her way up the Yangtze river to relieve the guard ship HMS Consort at Nanking when she came under heavy fire from communist shore batteries, heavily damaged she ran aground near Rose island.

So starts one of, if not the best, post war navy movies. Having studied the whole incident I can say that over all this is a very good portrayal of the action. A lot of the minor action had to be left out due to the limited time frame for the movie and several characters have either been amalgamated or omitted. It's nice to see that Simon the ships cat is there but it's still a good movie and long over due on DVD

The quality of the DVD release is far superior to the older VHS edition, mine was so dark that the final battle between Amethyst and the fort at Woosung as to be unwatchable. The DVD is much better.

"Have rejoined the fleet off Woosung...God save the King."
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Yangtse Incident [DVD]
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