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The Cruel Sea (1953)

Approved | | Drama, War | 19 August 1953 (USA)
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2:17 | Trailer
The World War II adventures of a British convoy escort ship and its officers.

Director:

Charles Frend

Writers:

Nicholas Monsarrat (by), Eric Ambler (screenplay)
Reviews
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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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

19 August 1953 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Det grymma havet 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
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Donald Sinden was originally supposed to play First Lieutenant James Bennett, until Stanley Baker was cast instead. Therefore, Sinden ended up playing the much larger role of Sub-Lieutenant (later Lieutenant-Commander) Keith Lockhart. See more »

Goofs

Liam Redmond plays the part of "Chief Engineering Rating\\C.E.R. WATTS." However, on at least two separate occasions both the ship's Captain Ericson (Jack Hawkins) and later Coxswain Tallow (Bruce Seton - 11th Baronet of Abercorn) clearly call him WATSON. See more »

Quotes

Lockhart: Sir, reports from HQ say that there are five U-boats in this area.
Capt. Ericson: Five? It was good of them to tell us!
Lockhart: [Later that evening] Now they say there are nine U-boats operating around this area.
Capt. Ericson: Nine? Good grief, we must be very popular this evening!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Talking Pictures: Barry Norman (2017) 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
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Beautiful, thoughtful British film-making from the past.
26 October 1999 | by H.J.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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