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

Director:

Charles Frend

Writers:

Nicholas Monsarrat (by), Eric Ambler (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Hawkins ... Ericson
Donald Sinden ... Lockhart
John Stratton ... Ferraby
Denholm Elliott ... Morell
John Warner John Warner ... Baker
Stanley Baker ... Bennett
Bruce Seton ... Tallow
Liam Redmond ... Watts
Virginia McKenna ... Julie Hallam
Moira Lister ... Elaine Morell
June Thorburn ... Doris Ferraby
Megs Jenkins ... Tallow's Sister
Meredith Edwards ... Yeoman Wells
Glyn Houston ... Phillips
Alec McCowen ... 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

Taglines:

Monsarrat's brilliant best seller comes surging to life See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The pendant number on HMS Saltash, F362, is the post-war number of HMS Portchester Castle, which was presumably the ship used for the filming. See more »

Goofs

Just after the repair in the Mediterranean is completed and Compass Rose gets underway, another ship can be seen on the horizon. See more »

Quotes

Lockhart: [after a battle] Are you all right?
Capt. Ericson: No, I don't mind telling you I'm not!
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Connections

Referenced in Hitler: The Comedy Years (2007) 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 awake
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User Reviews

Torpedos off Starboard Bow
19 February 1999 | by Rob FoxSee all my reviews

Archetypal British WW2 fare which is very clearly a cut above the rest. Jack Hawkins steers HMS Compass Rose, a small escort ship, through the perils of convoy duty and the ever present risk of U-boats.

Hawkins excels as the exhausted Captain in this no frills account of men battling against a constant and ruthless enemy - the sea. A melancholic soundtrack and the distinct lack of jingoism create a forlorn atmosphere as the ship's company endures periods of grinding boredom interrupted only by the sudden terror of U-boat attacks. In the tensest of scenes, during a rare heady pursuit, the radar gives Hawkins his firmest ever indication of an enemy submarine. "There are men in the water just there" he murmurs, realising that as Captain he is alone in making an agonising decision - whether to drop depth charges and risk killing a group of British survivors floating ahead of him. The attack is pressed home, killing the defenceless men but failing to hit the U-boat, and leads to a moving scene where Hawkins' resolute professionalism crumbles in a brief but heartfelt show of drunken emotion.

The trips to sea are punctuated by tableaux scenes on shore, where the tribulations of officers and crew are no less fraught with threats and worry. In a country under siege there can be no escape from air-raids or even an adulterous wife. "It's no-ones fault" says Hawkins "It's the war, the whole bloody war." A strong supporting cast, includes 'youngsters' Denholm Elliot, Donald Sinden and Stanley Baker.

This is a film that succeeds in telling how dangerously close to the edge the British came during the Battle of the Atlantic and of the enormous impact it had on ordinary individuals. The closing scene leaves the audience with a real sense of how, after five long years of war, a nation was left exhausted and emotionally drained.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Cruel Sea See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)| Mono (Gaumont Kalee)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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