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Operation Disaster More at IMDbPro »Morning Departure (original title)

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17 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

"Pull yourself together Stokes" *slap* "Thankyou sir I needed that"

8/10
Author: shell-26 (barfoot@mailcity.com) from lancaster, uk
29 March 1999

John Mills is superb as the indomitable submarine captain who leaves his wife and baby for a routine patrol. Richard Attenborough excels as the young sailor who cracks under pressure.

A wonderful film which may have started as a play. Well formed with portrayals which are both intimate and skilful. The "character" actors are enjoyable and colourful as the submarine sets sail, all leading to heightened drama when tragedy strikes.

If you like British black and white films about stiff upper lips and devotion to duty, you cannot do better.

God save the King.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

One of the most compelling movies (in a good way) I've ever seen

10/10
Author: paulyboy from Australia
16 November 1999

Morning Departure had a somewhat slow beginning but it quickly immerses you in the characters and their relationships with one another and with their duty. Whereas a lot of movies these days really try and make you care about the characters by the end of this movie your wondering if there is anything you could do at home to help them out! I actually saw this movie for the first time about 3 years ago but seriously rate this as my favorite movie to date when not influenced by current blockbusters.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

I saw this in first run when I was about 7 years old. Scenes are still vivid in my memory.

Author: John ADRIAN (johnfadrian@earthlink.net) from Staten Island, New York
9 December 2003

I saw this in first run when I was about 7 years old. It was on a double bill with a Francis the Talking Mule film. My older sister made a deal with me: She'd sit through Francis if I'd sit through OPERATION DISASTER.

I remember nothing of the Francis film, but scenes from this film are still vivid in my memory. In the late 1950s John Mills was a guest on the JACK PAAR SHOW and spoke of how life imitated art in that a British submarine was lost in the North Sea under very similar circumstances to those portrayed in the film between the completion of shooting and release in the UK. He said there was criticism in the British press at the time for it's release.

I wish it was available on VHS or DVD in the Unites States, but I haven't been able to find it. I would love to see it again.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

An accurate portrayal of courageous men

10/10
Author: Anthony Mantle from United States
6 May 2009

I first saw this movie at the time of its original release, & it has remained in my memory quite indelibly. Particularly as one of your submissions referred to the sinking of an actual British submarine at the time of the release of "morning departure". HMS "Truculent" was the name of that submarine & the nation was very somber, but I believe the the movie realistically brought home to the public what these submariners went through. My father had served in the Royal Navy during WWII on Destoyers & had his ship sunk under him while in the Mediterranean. So I appreciated the fine acting & portrayal of the courage of the men in the Royal Navy. John Mills always epitomized the character of the rolls he took & this was one of his best for me, except for maybe Scott of the Antartic, but that's another story.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A Submarine Disaster Situation

10/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
18 March 2006

Every now and then we are reminded of the so-called "silent service" - the submarine arm of the navy. It is hard to believe nowadays but active use of submarines in warfare is barely over one century old. There had been three attempts at getting submarines into warfare before the 1880s: in the American Revolution, when Connecticut inventor David Bushnell designed the "Turtle" to attack Admiral Howe's flagship in New York Harbor; when Robert Fulton attempted to interest Napoleon Bonaparte in his submarine as a weapon against the British fleet in 1800; and when the Confederate (and Northern) navies experimented with torpedo boats and submarines - culminating in the success of the C.S.S. Hunley - in the American Civil War. But the real spur was anti-British animus in Irish-American circles in the 1880s, when they financed the researches of John P. Holland. It was his successful submarine that became the model adopted by most navies.

But that was after 1900, and the early submarines were small and unpleasant and smelly craft (due to the closed space and the gasoline fumes). Disasters occurred frequently enough. It was not until the sinking of three British cruisers on one day in 1914 by U-boat Captain Weddingen that their power became widely realized. The number of maritime fatalities (led by R.M.S. Lusitania) demonstrated how deadly these ships could become. So by the end of the war everyone was improving their submarine fleets.

But the ships still had major disasters in the 1920s and 1930s. 1939 was a banner year with major French, British, and American sub disasters. But the last one, the U.S.S. Squalus off Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was important for another reason. For one of the few times in modern history, the crew of a disabled submarine was mostly rescued. Diving bells and decompression chambers saved nearly two thirds of Squalus' crew (and the sub was raised, repaired, and recommissioned to be of use in World War II). But Squalus sank very close to land, and the depth was not an impossibly deep one as a result. Still it was quite a rarity to have survivors of a sub sinking. With a normal shipwreck (of a surface vessel) the crew has a chance to use lifeboats, life preservers, floating wreckage, rafts. You can't readily do that if you are underwater to begin with.

For some reason submarine disaster films have rarely appeared on screen. There were films about submarines (several versions of Jules Verne's TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, for instance), and even of the wartime subs. For instance RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, and DESTINATION, TOKYO were two. Some misfires also appeared. Charles Laughton appeared as an insanely jealous submarine commander opposite Gary Cooper and Tallulah Bankhead in THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP (he scuttles his own vessel at the end, going down with the ship). But films about actual tragedies never popped up. Except for this British film.

John Mills is the commander of a submarine out on maneuvers in the British Channel. A mechanical failure causes it to sink. Mills is able to get most of his men out using snorkel breathing apparatus, and shooting them out of the torpedo tube. But he is unable to do it for the last three men in the sub with him: James Hayter, Richard Attenborough, and Nigel Patrick.

In their situation they have to just wait out official attempts at rescue. But this is based on the amount of oxygen left on board, and how long it will last. Also, it is turning the ship into a huge tomb for them. And Attenborough, who has claustrophobic problems to begin with, is going over the edge. Patrick turns out to have physical problems that if not treated will possibly be fatal. It is not a happy situation.

It is a gritty little movie, and it has it's moments of unexpected reality. Hayter was not supposed to be on the cruise, but at the last moment he agreed to go in place of a fellow seaman who had to attend an ailing wife. Details like that make one realize what a gamble our daily life experiences can be.

As a look at a disaster that is normally uncommon (but still possible - remember the Russian tragedy of the "Kursk"), with four good performances in it, I strongly urge catching this film.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Close To the Knuckle

7/10
Author: screenman from United Kingdom
9 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here's a very rare movie about submarine disaster. In fact, I don't rightly know of another. Perhaps because its the worst-case scenario for submariners and exposes the evident command futility in a crisis that other countries have not wanted the images portrayed. Having the courage merely to tackle such an awkward subject then certainly deserves some stars.

Life for submariners routinely entails a quantum leap of hazard compared to those within surface vessels. Anything going wrong - anything at all - might compromise the vessel and its crew. And this is what happens. John Mills - that diminutive, but ever-present military stalwart of the time - commands a British submarine out on 'routine' patrol. Things go wrong. It sinks within its test depth. Can the crew be rescued? There's a thoroughly decent cast make-up the crew, including Richard Attenborough (who goes to pieces once more, as he did in Coward's 'In Which We Serve'). All of the usual issues are addressed, and to that extent it's pretty formulaic. Where it differs from any other formula movie is that non of the solutions work.

A residuum of crew are doomed to death.

As I say; it's a grim little movie that ultimately evaluates reconciliation to the last hours of life. Submariners of Britain, USA, and Russia have all experienced this nightmare, as indeed have their families ashore. And although submarines have been around for over 100 years, even now there appears to be no dedicated response or recovery protocol either at a national or international level, as the relatives of the Kursk's crew discovered only too well.

If you have friends or relations serving in the silent navies, you may want to give this a miss. Otherwise dismiss its vintage and pay attention. What would we do today?

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Routine equipment exercise goes very wrong for submariners.

7/10
Author: Irving Warner from Washington State
7 August 2008

A Rank production, with passable production quality and excellent acting. Much stock footage and a healthy amt. of rear projection, par for keeping costs down on Rank dramatic quickies. Since the screenplay was adapted from a play, its stage origins are still somewhat apparent. The performances of Mills, and a very young Attenborough, plus seemingly one-half the J.R. Rank stable of regulars are very good. The sets and costumes were surprisingly ratty--long in the tooth! Still, this is only a few years after the war, and things were still very hard-up in England. Ultimately, this is a "talker" and not an "actioner", and it does fairly well for all that, though not spectacularly so. The ending, to me, disappointed. I do recommend this for classic movie fans.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Down Into the Sea in Boats.

6/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
4 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A British submarine, Trojan, accidentally runs into a drifting mine that blows off her bow and floods her stern. The central section sinks to the bottom with twelve men left alive. Submarine rescue ships come to her aid but it's a long hard slog, introducing air into the hull and trying to lift the wreck with wires. There is a means of escape from the submarine but it will accommodate only eight of the survivors, leaving four men (chosen by lot) to a problematic future.

Frightened men trapped aboard a disabled submarine at the bottom of the ocean. You'd expect a lot of drama, speech making, and philosophizing on what it's all about. Well -- there is a little of that, but not too much.

The drama centers around the stoker, one of the four losers, played by a baby-faced Richard Attenborough. When the boat is disabled, he reveals himself as a sniveling coward. (Note: No cowardice is complete without its "sniveling" qualifier.) But in the course of their isolation, the four remaining men are drawn together and Attenborough learns to overcome his fear and to care for a shipmate who is sick.

John Mills is the captain who remains behind. And aside from Attenborough, there are also Wylie Watson as the comical but sensitive cook who doesn't know how to pronounce the word "Pisces" in the Astrology column, and Nigel Patrick as Number One.

Happily, although these four are stuck in a disabled undersea wreck, the film makers are not. Scenes in the submarine alternate with the efforts of those ashore and those in the rescue craft to haul the mauled hull to the surface. These men are led by the reassuring Bernard Lee. Lee is a fine actor but, as it turns out, can't solve every problem that comes along.

Because we are able to keep abreast of the rescue efforts and the difficulties involved, we're spared the isolation and claustrophobia of that sunken wardroom. This turns what could have been an ordinary, stiff-upper-lip talkfest into a rather dramatic and well-done story of men facing death while others try to help them.

It's based on a play. I can't imagine a play about a situation like this being anything but deadly, but it's a nicely executed film. Good and craftsmanlike.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A bit claustrophobic....

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
21 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a creepy story about a doomed sub. I say creepy because of the plot AND because shortly after they filmed this movie, the sub actually did sink--killing many of its crew.

"Operation Disaster" is about a submarine that is out on routine maneuvers during peacetime--so, you wouldn't expect problems. However, the ship accidentally collides with an old unexploded mine. Most of the crew are killed except for a dozen men trapped in the control room. Eventually, their whereabouts are determined and most of the crew are able to make emergency ascents to the surface. However, there isn't emergency equipment for all--and four are forced to remain behind. Hopefully, the ship can be raised in time to save these brave men.

All in all, this is a very claustrophobic film--the sort that certainly won't appeal to everyone. Despite this, however, the acting is quite nice and the film never gets dull. Well worth seeing.

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Maintaining discipline under pressure

7/10
Author: Sean Murphy from Claudy, N Ireland
19 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Life for these submariners isn't easy above or below the ocean waves. Above the ocean waves it begins by showing some of the crew on leave with their family and the problems and decisions that they face in their personal life such as whether to stay in the navy or not. Below the waves what begins as a routine training mission quickly gets out of hand due to a disturbed mine going off.

It turns into a race against time to free the crew before their air runs out. It is complicated by faulty escape equipment where only some of the crew can quickly escape through the hatch when they are initially discovered by rescuers. The turn of a card can literally determine the fate of the men. A low card leaves an unlucky few to wait in the submarine to see if they can be raised to safety. The weather now combines with time to become their enemy and the race is on.

The action takes place in a confined space and the way people come together in a crisis is deftly handled. A solid although not a totally original performance from John Mills who as the commander tries to get his crew to safety and maintain discipline under difficult circumstances. A much underrated Nigel Patrick does well as his second-in-command; he acts alongside Richard Attenborough with whom he is reunited in the excellent League of Gentleman many years later.

Overall it is an enjoyable and watchable film.

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