The Cruel Sea 1953

director: Charles Frend  


Genre

Country

Great Britain

Cast

Synopsis

From the novel by NICHOLAS MONSARRAT
The Cruel Sea was highly praised in 1953 for its 'ruthless realism'. Even though the years since have shocked us far more ruthlessly by showing what war does to men, its impact is dramatically undiminished. Everything in the film seemed to go against the usual British wartime cinema of stiff upper lips, fought-back emotions, relentless cheerfulness and conscious patriotism. In this story - based on Nicholas Monsarrat's story of a Royal Navy corvette on convoy duty in the Atlantic - sailors swimming for their lives retch on the oil in their lungs; shocked engine-room men scramble up from below like black faced monkeys; the dying groans of the wounded are heard up the speaking-tubes by appalled officers on the bridge. The film, to use a later phrase, 'lays it on the line'. It shows how the power of command becomes, in wartime, the duty to be ruthless and in Jack Hawkins it has an actor who knew (none better at the time) how to convince us of this. No one ever forgets the shattering moment when his Captain Ericson, instead of picking up shipwrecked British sailors, gives orders to steam through the struggling bodies and then to depth-charge the U-Boat skulking beneath them. Hawkins never did anything better. Ealing Studios produced The Cruel Sea from Eric Ambler's script and it was the sort of film, about a tight-knit band of men in a crisis, which they did well. The director, Charles Frend, had already made Scott of the Antarctic; he knew how to get tough performances from a cast that includes Donald Sinden, Stanley Baker, Denholm Elliot and Bruce Seton. It remains one of the best endorsements of wartime professionalism - a better word in this context than heroism. People are equal to the crisis, it says. And if we have since been made horrifyingly aware that the cost of doing what needs to be done may not be all that equally distributed, The Cruel Sea is one of those films that brought the lesson home first. ALEXANDER WALKER

Other Releases

Formats

Available on VHSAvailable on Betamax

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Distributor EMI
Catalogue Number EVH 20041
Release Series
Release Date 1980
Duration:
Printed Classification
Notes First release, carton
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