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Pursuit of the Graf Spee (1956)

The Battle of the River Plate (original title)
A true WW2 story: the British Navy must find and destroy a powerful German warship.
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Nominated for 3 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Gregson ...
Captain Bell - H.M.S. Exeter
...
Commodore Harwood-H.M.S. Ajax
...
Captain Woodhouse - H.M.S. Ajax
...
Captain Parry - H.M.N.Z.S. Achilles
...
Captain Dove - M.S. Africa Shell
Lionel Murton ...
Mike Fowler
Anthony Bushell ...
Mr. Millington Drake - British Minister, Montevideo
Peter Illing ...
Dr. Guani - Foreign Minister, Uruguay
...
Captain McCall - R.N., British Naval Attache for Buenos Aires
...
Lieutenant Commander Medley R.N.
John Chandos ...
Dr. Langmann - German Minister, Montevideo
Douglas Wilmer ...
M. Desmoulins - French Minister, Montevideo
...
Ray Martin
Roger Delgado ...
Captain Varela - Uruguayan Navy
Andrew Cruickshank ...
Captain Stubbs - 'Doric Star'
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Storyline

In the fall of 1939, the German heavy cruiser (referred to as a pocket battleship) Graf Spee seems to have command of the Atlantic. In the first three months of World War II, she was responsible for sinking 9 ships. The British sent three cruisers commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood to confront her. The battle took place on December 13, 1939 and the British came out on top. The Graf Spee headed for the neutral harbor of Montevideo, Uruguay. They were given only a short time to effect repairs and the British did their best to make them believe a British fleet of 6 or 8 ships awaited them. Rather than chance the loss of his men, the German captain ordered the Graf Spee scuttled. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Suspense Clutches Your Heart in This Spectacular Saga of the Sea! See more »


Certificate:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

November 1957 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Pursuit of the Graf Spee  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(VistaVision)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The USS Salem was a WWII-vintage Des Moines-class heavy cruiser, armed with nine eight-inch guns. In this movie we can also see the three-inch AA guns installed to combat Kamikaze attacks. See more »

Goofs

A symbolic scene, when a crane lowers a lifeboat with Captain Dove into an aircraft hangar of "Admiral Graf Spee", and the roof closes over it, could not happen, because such hangars were typical for US ships only, and "Graf Spee" had no aircraft hangar. See more »

Quotes

[on board a badly shot up HMNZS Achilles]
Gunnery Officer: Captain, sir.
Capt. Parry, HMNZS Achilles: Yes, guns?
Gunnery Officer: We've fired nearly 1200 rounds sir. About one third of the arsenal only remaining.
Capt. Parry, HMNZS Achilles: Thank you. Are you all right?
Gunnery Officer: A few new ventilation gaps here, sir. A bit draughty, but otherwise all right.
[Capt. Parry turns to look at gunnery control position full of shell holes]
See more »

Crazy Credits

H.M.S. Jamaica as H.M.S. Exeter See more »

Connections

Featured in The Story of Making the Film They're a Weird Mob (1966) See more »

Soundtracks

Rio de la Plata
(uncredited)
Music by Brian Easdale
Lyrics by Manuel Salina
Performed by April Olrich (dubbed by Muriel Smith)
See more »

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User Reviews

A masterful depiction of the first major naval battle of the Second World War.
7 June 2004 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

I often wonder why this film was re-named The Battle of the River Plate when the actual action took place 150 miles to the east in the South Atlantic. Nevertheless it is a great production brought all the closer to reality by the use of two of the original Allied cruisers which were still in commission at the time of filming. The big problem was the choice of a warship to fill the role of the pocket battleship Graf Spee which had already been scuttled and that of her two sister ships which were also destroyed before the end of the war. The choice of the heavy cruiser USS Salem while not perfect was probably the best the producers could come up with despite it's extra tier of forward and rear main guns and the familiar U.S. Navy number 139 on it's bough. The storyline of the film is held together through the eyes of Captain Dove played by Bernard Lee who is taken aboard the Graf Spee after his merchant ship Africa Shell becomes one of her victims. Loosely held as a prisoner Dove is given an insight into the Graf Spee's tactics as a surface raider and that she is in fact masquerading as an American warship with false gun turrets and a bough number, solving the producers dilemma of explaining the different physical characteristics of each warship. The actual battle while well done does show a few inconsistencies in that the near miss salvos are more like large splashes and at times the Graf Spee looks motionless while being bombarded by allied shells. This is more than made up by the fine acting of the combatants, with Anthony Quale giving a best of British tradition role as task force leader Commodore Henry Harwood along with John Gregson as Captain Bell of HMS Exeter and Jack Gwillim as Captain Parry of the New Zealand cruiser Achilles. Peter Finch is perfect in the role of the chivalrous and compassionate German commander of the Graf Spee Hans Langsdorff who in real life displayed these rare qualities and was immensely respected by those on both sides of the conflict. When the Graf Spee puts into Montevideo harbour in neutral Uruguay to effect repairs a great diplomatic battle ensues over her sanctuary and the story switches to a tense minute by minute dockside radio coverage by American reporter Mike Fowler played in true journalistic style by Lionel Murton. Meanwhile two of the three British Cruisers supported by a newly arrived warship Cumberland maintain a vigil out to sea while their embassy engages in it's own brand of propaganda to deceive the Germans into believing they are up against a vastly superior British naval force. Langsdorff falls for the ruse and after seeing his men to safety scuttles his mighty warship precisely at sunset a few miles out of Montevideo in the mouth of the River Plate. With the expectations that another and greater naval action was forthcoming this fateful decision gives the end of the film somewhat of an anti-climax but it was the factual truth and a necessary conclusion to maintain it's credibility. To add a final footnote, there is presently underway a large salvage operation to raise as much of the Graf Spee as possible and eventually put it on display in a museum in Montevideo.


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