Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and...
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Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the "rice-bowl" system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat's presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission. Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
The San Pablo was purpose built for the film, in Hong Kong. She was actually powered by diesel engines: the black smoke from the stack came from old tires and other rubbish fired in a special compartment on the boat. After filming, the boat was sold and survived for some years with various building firms in the Far East, finally using the name Nola D and being scrapped in Singapore in 1975. See more »
Upon seeing the boom in the river, the Captain (Richard Crenna) leans forward grabbing the forward handrail. In the next scene, he again leans forward grabbing the forward handrail. See more »
There is a credit for 'Diversions by Irving Schwartz' in tribute to a mysterious, unknown correspondent whose letters proved a morale booster to cast and crew during trying location work in Hong Kong and Taiwan. See more »
The Sand Pebbles - a powerful and human anti-war film
`The Sand Pebbles' has been one of my favourite films since I first saw it on television in 1976. The widescreen version does justice not just to the sweeping panoramas of the quite breathtaking Chinese scenery, but also to the sweeping events and themes of the story. It is in every way a `big' film, dealing with political and military intervention (clear parallels with Vietnam at the time of release), nationalism, racism, and the horrors of war. Yet for all its heavy themes, it is most successful in the depiction of its very human characters. These characters are not just the means of conveying the `messages' of the film, or fodder for the gripping and well-staged action scenes. They are individuals in their own right, involved in something far greater than their own destinies. Some are unpleasant and ignorant while others are honourable but lost in the sea of historic events surrounding them. Some, like Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), demand sympathy and respect as they struggle to come to terms with their personal challenges brought to the fore by these historically significant and politically dangerous events.
Inevitably there are slow and confusing passages as the political implications are expounded, but these are more than compensated for by our emotional engagement as we become involved in the stories of the people caught up in the political fall-out. Robert Wise's direction is strong and emotionally charged, complemented perfectly by Jerry Goldsmith's wonderfully haunting and ominous music. Steve McQueen gives what was probably the performance of his career (receiving his only Academy Award nomination), and he is supported by a wonderful cast including Richard Attenborough, Richard Crenna, Candice Bergen (aged just 19), and especially Mako. But it is really McQueen's film. His very presence lifts scenes and he manages to convey authenticity and gain the sympathy of the viewer with consummate ease. Apparently misunderstood by some critics on its release, it is a powerful and intrinsically human anti-war film. It is not a happy film, but it is totally absorbing and thought provoking.
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