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The Cruel Sea (1953)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  19 August 1953 (USA)
7.7
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,814 users  
Reviews: 51 user | 19 critic

The World War II adventures of a British convoy escort ship and its officers.

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Title: The Cruel Sea (1953)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Ericson
...
Lockhart
John Stratton ...
Ferraby
...
Morell
John Warner ...
Baker
...
Bennett
Bruce Seton ...
Tallow
Liam Redmond ...
Watts
...
Julie Hallam
Moira Lister ...
Elaine Morell
June Thorburn ...
Doris Ferraby
Megs Jenkins ...
Tallow's Sister
Meredith Edwards ...
Yeoman Wells
Glyn Houston ...
Phillips
...
Tonbridge
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Storyline

At the start of World War II, Cmdr. Ericson is assigned to convoy escort HMS Compass Rose with inexperienced officers and men just out of training. The winter seas make life miserable enough, but the men must also harden themselves to rescuing survivors of U-Boat attacks, while seldom able to strike back. Traumatic events afloat and ashore create a warm bond between the skipper and his first officer. Atmospheric sea footage. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

escort | convoy | sea | u boat | survivor | See All (38) »

Taglines:

Monsarrat's brilliant best seller comes surging to life

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 August 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Det grymma havet  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)| (Gaumont Kalee)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

If you look carefully, you will see that the rank insignia on Ericson's (Jack Hawkins') sleeves are in a different "font" from those of the other officers on his ship. This is because Ericson is RNR (Royal Navy Reserve: men who had been discharged from the regular navy but were retained as reservists - and indeed the novel makes it clear that Ericson had served at Jutland before joining the Merchant Navy), whilst the other officers are RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve - men who joined after the outbreak of the war). See more »

Goofs

After the British sailors have been depth-charged by HMS Compass Rose, the seagulls converging on the corpses can be seen flying backwards. This is due to the cameraman sailing towards the scene in error when it was shot; the film was simply reversed to give the required effect. See more »

Quotes

Capt. Ericson: Steady as she goes, Number One.
See more »


Soundtracks

The Chestnut Tree
or "The Spreading Chestnut Tree" (uncredited)
Author unknown, perhaps traditional song
Sung by the sailors in the raft to keep wake
See more »

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User Reviews

Beautiful, thoughtful British film-making from the past.
26 October 1999 | by (Bozeman, Montana) – See all my reviews

If my ship were going down, and I had that one last moment to grab a treasured something, my copy of the book, THE CRUEL SEA by Nicholas Monsarrat might well be what I choose. (That is supposing I already had my life vest on.) This book has affected my life deeply since I first came across it as a teenager. It is why I joined the US Navy. (where I ironically ended up in the submarine service.) It formed an invaluable step in teaching me what `duty' meant, and `honor.' It is therefore a bit more difficult for me to judge this motion picture than most. Were it horrid, I should still love it, I suppose. Fortunately it is not horrid. `The Cruel Sea is in fact first rate.

It is difficult to translate any full-length novel to the screen. There are too many `moments in time' to get them all in. So the adaptation of a novel by a screenwriter becomes a process of selection. Eric Ambler did his usual excellent job in writing this script, and if he left out some of the better bits, he also got the best bits in. Charles Frend directs it well within the style of the early 1950's. The special effects are above average for the time and not unacceptable by today's standards, although they are not spectacular. The film editing is clean and crisp with little to complain about. The musical score is not intrusive, but not up to the rest of the effort. It would be ten years before the art of Movie Music caught up to the rest, and here the score is no worse any other film of 1953. It is however the acting that gives this movie the push to get it far above the rest.

Jack Hawkins is marvelous in his understated competence as Captain Ericson, and the actors who play his officers (including a very young and very British Denholm Elliot) all turn in workman-like performances. It is however the overall excellence of the entire cast that is impressive. One of the major strengths of British films from the end of the Second World War through the 1970's was the incredibly fine ensemble casting that provided first-rate acting even in the smallest parts. Walter Fitzgerald in his 30 second role as the air raid warden shows true compassion when he says, `Yes, Mister Tallow, that was your house, wasn't it?'

All of the vivid, bloody color that made `Platoon' and `Saving Private Ryan' the two best combat films ever made are absent here. This was a different type of warfare, the blood, all of the color washed away by the cruel sea. The Battle of the North Atlantic was a very British battle. A five and a half year long stoic battle of endurance, of perseverance, of honor and duty. This is the side of the Second Word War that most lived, but few have ever been able to put into words. `The Cruel Sea' is much more than just a history lesson though. It is a very good movie, and it is a beautiful example of what British film could be in 1953. I highly recommend it.


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