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Western Approaches (1944)

A wartime documentary, made under the auspices of the Crown Film Unit, made as a tribute to the Merchant Navy. During WWII they kept the lifeline to America and the Commonwealth open so ... See full summary »




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Cast overview:
Eric Fullerton ...
Convoy Commodore
Duncan MacKenzie ...
Convoy Naval Captain (as Captain Duncan MacKenzie)
W. Kerr ...
Convoy Naval Captain (as Captain W. Kerr)
Eric Baskeyfield ...
Chief Officer on Leander
Dick Longford ...
Wireless Officer on Leander
Bart Wadham ...
Wireless Officer on Leander
H.S. Hills ...
Gunner on Leander (as Chief Petty Officer Hills)
Pat Jackson ...
Gun Crew Officer on Leander
P.J. Pyecraft ...
Lifeboat Captain (as Captain P.J. Pyecraft)
Chief Engineer Russell ...
Lifeboat Chief Engineer
Fred Armistead ...
Lifeboat Steward
Jim Redmond ...


A wartime documentary, made under the auspices of the Crown Film Unit, made as a tribute to the Merchant Navy. During WWII they kept the lifeline to America and the Commonwealth open so that this little island could fight on. Even as late as 1943/4 when this was made the convoys still provided vital essential supplies as well as the materiel necessary to take the fight into Europe. This film dramatises the experiences of many merchant seamen. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | Drama | War


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Release Date:

December 1944 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Raider  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film received its earliest documented telecast in USA in New York City Sunday 2 January 1949 on Film Theater of the Air on WCBS (Channel 2); in Los Angeles it was first seen by television viewers Thursday 8 September 1949 on KNBH (Channel 4). See more »


Featured in Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010) See more »


Composed by Clifton Parker
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User Reviews

WESTERN APPROACHES (Pat Jackson, 1944) ***1/2
6 January 2014 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

This was yet another classic British wartime 'documentary', one I was wary of in view of its feature-length (80 minutes) – especially, at this juncture, having been somewhat let down by a few of its contemporaneous ilk – but which would prove a surprisingly positive experience. Like the recently-viewed THE SILENT VILLAGE (1943), the documentary epithet (not to mention its title!) is misleading here, since it is actually a narrative film – albeit a re-enactment of a true WWII episode – that just happens to feature non-professional actors.

Indeed, it can be said that such wartime efforts were "neo-realist" before the term was even coined or the style had actually taken off in Italy! Still, it is debatable whether the end result would have been this noteworthy had professional performers been employed rather than real naval servicemen – since it tells a standard (albeit undeniably gripping) tale of a rescue at sea and the ensuing scuttling of a U-Boat!

Apart from Clifton Parker's evocative score, two novelty aspects are employed here that make the whole show all the more appealing to the casual viewer: the fact that it was shot in Technicolor (by the great Jack Cardiff, no less); the documentary pedigree itself allowed for (or, I should say, excused) the copious use of language that would otherwise not have been permissible for the era – such as "bastards", "bloody", "damn" and "hell"...not to mention sketches of naked women adorning the walls of the radio operators' quarters! For what it is worth, director Jackson would eventually break into commercial film-making but never again approached the reasonable level of excellence achieved in this case!

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