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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.
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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
Anthony Quayle ... Commodore Harwood-H.M.S. Ajax
Peter Finch ... Captain Hans Langsdorff - 'Admiral Graf Spee'
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
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
Douglas Wilmer ... M. Desmoulins - French Minister, Montevideo
William Squire ... Ray Martin
Roger Delgado ... Captain Varela - Uruguayan Navy
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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:

The nightingale of Montevideo...she sang of love while the world was shaking! See more »


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

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

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (VistaVision)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Michael Powell had been a big fan of Noël Coward's In Which We Serve (1942), which acted as inspiration for him. See more »

Goofs

When the petty officer runs forward on Exeter after she is hit in the bow, he reacts to the explosion of another shell before the hit occurs. He then completely disappears between frames and a repair party suddenly appears. It can also be seen that the ship is not moving through the water during these scenes. See more »

Quotes

Captain Bell - H.M.S. Exeter: The Commodore calling a council of Captains at sea. Quite the Nelson touch, eh?
See more »

Crazy Credits

At the beginning of the film, we see this acknowledgement: There are hundreds of invisible people behind every film. Behind this one there are thousands. We would like to thank them collectively, for if we named them all there would be no room for the film. Then as the opening credits roll, an extensive list of acknowledgements (mostly naval officers) is shown in the background. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The South Bank Show: Michael Powell (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Cabalgata de los Gauchos
(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 solid entry from Powell/Pressburger
9 December 2004 | by bensonjSee all my reviews

Not withstanding the negative comments of some critics, this is another great Powell/Pressburger film. Perhaps what prevents it from getting its due is that it looks like another entry in the "big WW II battle recreation" genre, but the structure, the performances, and the film's intent in general aren't really in the service of that genre. The climactic battle is fought in the middle of the film, and the last third unexpectedly takes place on the docks and in the cafes and embassies of Montevideo, with a festival air and comedy relief. Powell rightly feels that the core of the film is Bernard Lee's admiration of his captor; indeed, the final scene is the expression of that admiration. Yet the viewer isn't "pointed" to that relationship. All the expository dialogue serves the battle scenes--where the Spee might be, how to attack it, the relationship between the British Commodore and his Captains--and later, the strategies of the Spee's leaving port. Particularly in the latter part, there's a lot of discussion which doesn't relate to the film's denouement. And the collection of British prisoners on the Spee don't coalesce into an ensemble. In an odd way, their fate never seems integrated into the battle, nor does it particularly highlight the relationship between Lee and Finch. This unusual structure is in part due to the film apparently following actual events fairly closely, and actual events don't follow conventional dramatic structure. But, really, that absence of conventional structure, and the refusal to emphasize the Lee-Finch relationship or to make it a dominant theme, are the film's greatest strengths. Finally, note should be taken of the superb photography in VistaVision.


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