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San Demetrio, London [DVD]
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Set in 1940 during the battle of the Atlantic, this is the true story of how the crew of the petrol tanker 'San Demetrio' was left with a near impossible task when she was torpedoed by the Germans. After the ship was torpedoed, the crew abandoned ship in three lifeboats. Two are picked up by other ships in the convoy, but the third drifts for days until its crew spies the burning 'San Demetrio' on the horizon. Do they board the ship, try to put out its fires and get it back to English shores or do they stay in the drifting lifeboat in the hope of being rescued?
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HMS "Jervis Bay" engaged German ship even if she stood no chance in this fight - her 152 mm (6 inch) guns couldn't inflict any significant damage to powerfully armored "Admiral Scheer". German ship was also faster and her 280 mm (11 inch) guns had a much greater range, so "Jervis Bay" couldn't even get close enough to hit her enemy. Still, she kept the raider away from the convoy for half an hour, before sinking with 190 men, including her courageous skipper, Captain Edward S.F. Fegen (who was later awarded Victoria Cross). Only 65 men survived.
When "Jervis Bay" was desperately fighting "Admiral Scheer", the convoy scattered, with ships escaping in all directions at maximum speed. The raider managed to hit six ships from the convoy before the sunset - the remaining 31 escaped. Five from the ships hit by "Admiral Scheer" went fast to the bottom. The sixth was a big modern tanker, "San Demetrio". She was badly hurt and taking water, with fires raging on board - so with the oil cargo threatening to explode, the captain ordered "Abandon ship!". The crew evacuated in two lifeboats, with the captain leaving the ship last. By extraordinary luck nobody was killed at that stage.
If you do not know the rest of the story, I do not want to provide spoilers, so I will stop there - but it is an incredible tale, which nobody would think believable if it didn't REALLY happen.
This old film, made in 1943, is still a very, very pleasant watch. It is well interpreted, very faithful to the reality, with an excellent use of a relatively modest budget. Many scenes were of course turned in a studio rather than on the ocean and small models are used to show the fight between "Jervis Bay" and "Admiral Scheer" - but it doesn't hurt this film to the least, to the contrary, it gives it a unique charm, impossible to find in modern movies. Dialogs are good, there are some really moving scenes and the ending is very uplifting.
I loved this film, I am very happy that I bought it and I am so keeping my DVD. Enjoy!
The film was based on a true storey and in real life the ship was restored and went back into service but was later torpedoed and sunk. While there is obviously an element of propaganda in the film, it is a good (true) story told in a straightforward and rather downbeat way. Well worth watching.
The video is of excellent black and white quality. Sadly it has not had subtitles added for elderly people like my mother who also remember it with affection.
The film simply tells a fascinating story in straightforward manner, putting some of today's overblown films to shame.
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