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We might be sunk by our own shells!
on 16 October 2015
One of Powell and Pressburgers' last films. What could have been a stiff-upper-lip "jolly good show chaps" picture instead turns, for 1956 with the war still a very painful memory for many, into a tale of men doing their duty, It is a film of two halves, the shoot out followed by the protracted diplomatic moves afterwards; but none the worse for that. For this picture they employed a lot of unusual camera angles; through portholes, pictures of the guns only, the men in silhouette. Nice touch.
Peter Finch is brilliant playing Hans Langsdorff, the thinking captain of one of the world's most powerful ships and yet simultaneously projecting the force of a dictatorship he has no taste for. Hence his gentlemanly treament of Captain Dove of the sunken merchant ship Africa Shell (played wonderfully here by Bernard Lee, later to find fame in the early Bond films), as they are sailors, bound by the mutual seaman's code of respect. The scenes below deck with the captured sailors adds to that, as they are first cheered by being sighted by Allied vessels then realise they might also be sunk by the same Allied vessels.
The radio man at the end Lionel Murton, plays the American sports commentator to a T, even more a great role as he was of course English! Why not 5 stars? They had to admit that the Graf Spee in the film was a US Navy cruiser. Don't let it put you off though, This is a timeless classic and one of THE great war films.