54 user 19 critic

Pursuit of the Graf Spee (1956)

The Battle of the River Plate (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Adventure, Drama | November 1957 (USA)
In the first major naval battle of World War II, the British Navy must find and destroy a powerful German warship.
Nominated for 3 BAFTA Film Awards. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
John Gregson ... Captain Bell - H.M.S. Exeter
Anthony Quayle ... Commodore Harwood-H.M.S. Ajax
Ian Hunter ... Captain Woodhouse - H.M.S. Ajax
Jack Gwillim ... Captain Parry - H.M.N.Z.S. Achilles
Bernard Lee ... Captain Dove - M.S. Africa Shell
H.M.S. Sheffield H.M.S. Sheffield ... H. M. S. Ajax
I.N.S. Delhi I.N.S. Delhi ... H.M.N.Z.S. Achilles
H.M.S. Jamaica H.M.S. Jamaica ... H.M.S. Exeter
H.M.S. Cumberland H.M.S. Cumberland ... H.M.S. Cumberland
Lionel Murton Lionel Murton ... Mike Fowler
Anthony Bushell ... Mr. Millington Drake - British Minister, Montevideo
Peter Illing ... Dr. Guani - Foreign Minister, Uruguay
Michael Goodliffe ... Captain McCall - R.N., British Naval Attache, Buenos Aires
Patrick Macnee ... Lieutenant Commander Medley R.N.
John Chandos John Chandos ... Dr. Langmann - German Minister, Montevideo


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 nine 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 six or eight 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


Spectacular Saga of the Sea! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


H.M.S. Cumberland "played" herself. However, she had been withdrawn from frontline service and was being used as a gunnery trials ship, with various prototype turrets installed from time to time, so that they could be evaluated. When she appears towards the end of the movie, it is obvious that her forward turrets (A and B) have been removed, and a small prototype turret installed in the X (aft) position. H.M.S. Cumberland was finally scrapped two years after the shooting of this movie. See more »


When the crew of the Ajax cheers the Achilles in long shot, the crew (including both bridges) are wearing dark blue naval uniforms, but when it switches to close ups of both bridges, they are in tropical white uniforms. See more »


Captain Langsdorff 'Admiral Graff Spee': There are only two things to remember in a modern naval battle, Captain. Good intelligence from shore; so that you know what to expect when you see it. Good spotting on your own ship; so that you know what you see when you expect it.
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Crazy Credits

I.N.S. Delhi (formerly Achilles) as H.M.N.Z. Ship Achilles See more »


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


Cabalgata de los Gauchos
Music by Brian Easdale
Lyrics by Manuel Salina
Performed by April Olrich (dubbed by Muriel Smith)
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User Reviews

Powell and Pressburger's Most Underrated Film.
11 March 2009 | by JohnWellesSee all my reviews

"The Battle of the River Plate" (1956) is Powell and Pressburger's most underrated movie. Set in 1939, its about the British navy trying to capture "The Graf Spee" pursued by the "HMS Ajax", "HMS Exeter" and "HMS Achilles".Most people say it is not up to the standard as, say, "A Matter of Life and Death", but I disagree. As it is not one of the more wider known parts of World War Two, it makes the first half tense and exciting. But its the second half, when "The Graf Spee" hides in a neutral port where it kicks into high gear. The whole place reeks of atmosphere, unequalled in any over Powell and Pressburger film. As I have said before, a very underrated movie, that is well worth watching.

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English | German | Spanish

Release Date:

November 1957 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pursuit of the Graf Spee See more »

Filming Locations:

Atlantic Ocean See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Archers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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