All at Sea (1957) Poster


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He approaches the character in a completely serious manner and the results are marvelous.
order-77 June 2004
I've enjoyed most of the Alec Guiness films, especially The Ladykillers. I must say that I wasn't expecting much from this film and it was only because the VCR did not get turned off that I saw it. I believe it to be one of the most amusing films I've ever seen and one of Guiness' best. He approaches the character in a completely serious manner and the results are marvelous. The incongruity of a naval man who gets seasick and dock turned into a "ship" are very funny. At first, the character seems stiff and military, but he is anything but. One of the best scenes is of him dancing with teenagers. Every one of Guiness' Ealing Studios films are gems, but this is the top. This needs to be put out on DVD/VHS.
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A.K.A. All at Sea
kat1312 November 2001
This has been a family favorite for years ! It also has waited that long to become part of our movie collection. DVD would be nice Mr. Turner (Hint, Hint) even if in a second movie collection ( FULL versions of Man in the White Suit, The Horses Mouth + All at Sea). Yes, although listed at IMDB as 'Barnacle Bill' it's actual release title is "All at Sea" this story of a sea sick sailor made hero tickles the funny bone and warms the heart. This delightful movie can be shown to all ages something we sorely miss with most of today's films.
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Another great Guinness performance
thehumanduvet18 October 2000
The great Alec Guinness gives one of his usual fine performance in this lightweight comedy, wrapped around a typically wacky Ealing conceit - the sailor who can't go to sea buying a pier and running it like a ship. The early set-up sequences, featuring a montage of Guinness playing his ancestors at sea through the ages, are the usual silly, slapstick fun, and our hero's exploits getting his 'ship' up and running, fending off the crooked local council, and generally having a good time are heartwarming and cannot fail to raise a smile. One sequence, where he tries to run a dance hall at the end of the pier and is merrily strutting his stuff on the dancefloor with some local hottie when the authorities arrive to complain, is particularly memorable if only for the mad grin on Guinness' face as he boogies. Lacking the deeper satirical bite or wealth of really hilarious moments and characters powering the true classics of Ealing, this is nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable little film, featuring the standard role-call of vaguely familiar faces (watch out for a youngish Donald Pleasence in an early scene). Not brilliant, but fun.
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Another fine offering from Ealing Studios
bigar-44 August 2000
Wonderful film with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour. Alec Guiness is excellent as an descendant of a family full of (in)famous captains who has just one little problem to follow in there footsteps: he has a bad case of seasickness! So he decides to buy a 1000 foot pier and run it as a ship. The city-council though has other plans with de seafront and the pier does not really fit into their plans. The Captain can only do one thing: declare his pier as a proper cruise ship! This is a film that fits in with the other small masterpieces made by Ealing Studios in the fifties and I can really recommend it..
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bregund30 April 2005
Alec Guinness is wonderful in this movie. As the movie starts, he wanders around London with a reporter in tow, carrying a keg of rum. He walks into a bank and bangs on the counter, demanding drinking glasses. A stunned Donald Pleasance, playing a bank clerk, stares back and says "we don't have glasses." Alec Guinness looks around in disbelief and says "No glasses? What do you do when famous people come in here?" It's this kind of humor that permeates the film.

Guinness purchases a run-down resort pier and strolls through the place, which is filled with bored pensioners watching cheap stage shows. The pier has been falling apart for decades, but he breathes new life into it by creating a dance hall and offering spirits. The local politicians have other ideas, and Guiness finds out that they have hoodwinked him and, through the rights of eminent domain, plan to purchase the pier back at half the price. He outwits them by registering the pier as a ship, enraging the politicians, and offers "cruises" for people prone to seasickness. It's a cruise that never goes anywhere, but offers food, dancing, music, and even a radar screen for the more mature folks. It's all very proper and charming. Guinness shows off his dance moves, there's a climax involving a dredging boat, and then a bouncy little song at the end accompanied by the ghosts of Guinness's ancestors (all played by him, of course); the song goes on just long enough to make you laugh like hell at the weirdness of it.

This might not be one of Guinness's best roles, but it's still a fun movie.
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"Everything Pier-Shape and Blackpool-Fashion"
robertguttman4 April 2014
It was a bit of a shock that, when Alec Guinness passed away many, so many of his obituaries insisted that "Star Wars" was his most memorable film. For those unfortunates who remember him that way, the Ealing Films he made during the 1950s are absolutely essential viewing.

Not least among those films is this little opus, in which Guinness portrays an ex-naval officer who suffers from catastrophic mal-de-mer. Unable to go at sea but not wishing to be away from it, he assumes command of the only type of "vessel" he can endure, an amusement pier.

It is Guinness's characterization that makes this film work. The very fact that he plays Captain Ambrose absolutely straight is what makes the character so funny, including a wonderfully spot-on parody of Noel Coward's speech to his crew from "In Which We Serve": "An efficient pier is a happy pier". Of course, it is granted that audiences back in 1957 undoubtedly picked up on allusions such as that much more readily than audiences would today.

The film also features a running theme prevalent in many British comedies of that period, namely the individual overcoming big bureaucracy or big business. In this case, when the local town council threatens to close down his amusement pier, the imperturbable Captain Ambrose outwits them by means of the clever expedient of registering his pier as a ship, under a foreign flag of convenience. It's just the sort of solution one would expect from the inventive studio that brought audiences "Passport to Pimlico".

I understand this film was also released under an alternative title, "Barnacle Bill". However, under any title, it is a worthy addition to the seemingly limitless pantheon of characters portrayed by the remarkable Alec Guinness.
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Love it!
leonm5427 March 2003
As a true lover of the Ealing studio films, especially those of Alec Guinness, I am delighted to find this movie on television. Unfortunately, this is the only way one can view it, as it is not available on VHS or DVD. The story of the seasick prodigy of a navel family and his attempts to keep a British "stiff upper lip" in the face of adversity is endearing and hilarious. Also catch The Man in the White Suit, The Lady Killers, and The Lavender Hill Mob. You may also enjoy Hobson's Choice.
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Worthy addition to the Ealing canon
Enoch Sneed30 December 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This funny, well-executed film is often overlooked for the simple reason it was the last of the Ealing comedies. In fact, it is credited to "Ealing Films" not "Studios", being made at "MGM-British". To some, this suggests the last gasp of a glorious series of films. In fact, this is fun to watch and makes some sharp digs at good old England, and indulges in a few genre spoofs along the way.

Alec Guinness plays Captain Ambrose, a naval officer from a long line of naval officers who is incurably seasick and cannot serve at sea (a series of clips show his ancestors - all played by Guinness - from a coracle-rowing caveman, to Trafalgar, to Jutland in 1916 - shades of 'Kind Hearts and Coronets'). At one point, to our surprise, we do see him on the storm-lashed bridge of a warship only for the camera to pull back to show a mock-up being sprayed by a man with a hosepipe - echoes of Charles Frend's 'The Cruel Sea' (there is even a brief clip of K49, HMS Compass Rose, from that film) .

To keep up the family tradition he uses his savings to buy a run-down seaside pier. He may be a martyr to seasickness but Ambrose is Navy through and through and with a combination of personality and discipline (giving speeches similar to Noel Coward from 'In Which We Serve') he gets the old place working again. When the corrupt local council try to buy him out at a rock-bottom price he goes the whole hog and registers the place as a ship offering 'cruises' to fellow seasickness sufferers.

'Barnacle Bill' follows the Ealing staple of the 'little man' up against vested interests but in this case the opposition is petty and mean-minded. England is changing, it has a new youth culture, but the changes can be exhilarating and should be embraced (Guinness dancing to a skiffle group is a highlight of the film). Ealing films have always been said to stand for traditional values and the good old British ways of doing things. 'Barnacle Bill' indicates a changing viewpoint - we have great traditions, but there are elements of narrow-mindedness and corruption which we can well do without.

As a footnote: Guinness's 'crew' on the pier include Percy Herbert and Harold Goodwin who would go on to help him build 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' for David Lean.
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Great fun
maxbuck_199930 March 2004
Saw this as "All At Sea" in the mid 1980's and actually had a copy from TV on tape, but lost it. I'd love to have a copy in my video/DVD library, but none to be found... Really fun and a great cast. Guinness plays the part(s) well, and there are lots of familiar faces if you are at all familiar with British comedy, or British Films in general for that matter. I believe that "All At Sea" was the US Title (US release also in 1957). It is interesting to note that it was made the same year as "The Bridge on the River Kwai" and that Percy Herbert also shares the screen with Guinness in both films.
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Family favorite for years. I am hoping it will come on DVD.
btourville18 February 2004
I have this on tape (from the TV) and hoping it will come out on DVD or VHS. I lucked out one day and taped it. I have never seen it shown since. My tape is wearing out. Help! It is a great comedy and can be enjoyed over and over again.
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A long forgotten underrated Ealing comedy, A little gem
chris newton14 January 2007
This film is Brilliant and so funny and typical of the Ealing comedy's with a weird twist mind. The funny parts are Alec guinness's eccentricities, Especially the dancing when he is arrested by the police and also his house on the pier itself, So funny to see him pacing up and down in his LITTLE house quite literally up and down. The Ealing comedy's always seem to have an element of the small people overcoming the adversity's of the large institutions, This film is typical of this by Alec Guinness's sole attempts to fight the decision to pull down the pier. The weird twist is the CRazy idea of running the pier as a ship, and takes a while to get your head round this idea, But once you do you can appreciate the film even more, If you don't well you will think the films a load of old tosh... Love it or loath it... i personally love it.. Incidentally the pier used was the Old pier at Hunstanton that was there before the eyesore they have there now, Not too far from me some lovely shots of Hunstanton as well in the film real nostalgia. Ealing Comedys are excellent and are simply in a league of their own and this I feel should get more recognition, like Ladykillers etc
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cute little film about a sea captain who gets sea sick
MartinHafer1 July 2005
Although most Americans have little knowledge of his work other than Star Wars, Alec Guinness produced an amazing body of work--particularly in the 1940s-1950s--ranging from dramas to quirky comedies. I particularly love his comedies, as they are so well-done and seem so natural and real on the screen--far different from the usual fare from Hollywood.

This very odd little movie is about a navy captain who comes from a long family line of sea captains. The problem is, he gets so deathly seasick that his career is spent ashore! Out of the blue, he becomes the owner of a seaside amusement pier and begins to envision it as his "ship". He talks as if it's a boat and runs it with naval efficiency as well. See the film--it's funny and very absorbing!
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Minor, but still memorable, Guiness comedy from his stint at Ealing.
TheVid13 December 2002
The Guiness persona makes this stereotypical British comedy worth a look; but this is a minor effort compared to his earlier work at Ealing. The irony of the central character and the pokes at bureaucracy are somewhat simplistic and lack the dark wit of earlier projects like KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS, MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT and LADYKILLERS. Still, any Guiness is better than none at all!
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Enjoyable silliness
aahamme9 July 2017
Sir Alec was his usual fine self, and the story is enjoyably trite and silly, but the constant, odd fade-outs instead of proper scene endings makes one think that this was a victim of Ealing Studio's death. Few of the scenes are allowed to resolve themselves,while a few shots needed to be cut much shorter (the Ancestral Ghosts and their overlong, unfunny dance, for instance - 20 seconds would've been enough) leaving one to assume that many minutes of the story were trashed by Ealing's "mortician".

The story would have been well served if we could have seen a few positive effects upon the Town, when the Pier became a Ship. Just a few shots of people crowding into sad restaurants and seaside rooming houses, while they awaited a 'berth' on the Arabella, would have built much expectation and suspense. I bet that such scenes WERE filmed but later chopped, as there are several references to the Arabella bringing much business to the Town, but we never see that.

I cannot recall another movie like this, where drama, dialogue, and music cues are cut-off by disturbing "fades-outs" of sound and picture. But if the MGM idiots (who also dumped its entire warehouse/library into pits along a highway) had anything to do with this, one should not be surprised.
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The tale of the land bound sailor
bkoganbing13 December 2016
Alec Guinness was pretty dismissive of Barnacle Bill and the similarities between Kind Hearts And Coronets are too obvious to ignore. Barnacle Bill is not as good as Kind Hearts, but it's still yet another amusing item from Ealing Studios. A place which had birthed Guinness's career as a star but which he would take leave of shortly. This was his last film under that banner.

This captain truly hates the sea. Following in a naval tradition of his ancestors, one that was less than distinguished, Guinness gets his commission, but he is cursed by mal de mer. This captain cannot deal with sea duty, so he's given land based duty throughout the late war and is now retired.

But he's an enterprising soul and buys a rundown amusement pier in a seaside resort. Unfortunately some of the local politicians have plans for a Pacific coast type highway and they've slated the pier for demolition. The film is about Guinness's struggles against the local political machine.

Given that kind of plot I'm sure the film found favor on this side of the pond. Urban dwelling Americans would have known exactly what was going on. Barnacle Bill also compares with Jerry Lewis's film Don't Give Up The Ship where he too came from a less than distinguished naval family and Lewis has bits as several of his ancestors.

Barnacle Bill is not the best of Alec Guinness's Ealing comedies, but it's still lots of fun. In the end our land bound sailor finally does get to sea and he fights a naval engagement of sorts. You'l have to watch to see what I mean.
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Forever Ealing
blanche-23 July 2015
From Ealing Studios comes "All At Sea," a 1957 film starring Alec Guinness and a cast that includes names which were or became familiar names/familiar faces in British film and theatre productions (and in one case, books): Irene Browne, Maurice Denham, Lionel Jeffries, Joan Hickson, George Rose, Jackie Collins, Donald Pleasence, and Eric Pohlmann, most of these actors in small roles.

Captain Ambrose comes from a long line of sailors who had sketchy histories, but he himself can't get on the water because of seasickness.

After the war, he buys an amusement pier in a resort town, which the town council wants to tear down. However, he is too clever for them. He has it registered as a ship, thus making it impossible for them to get rid of it.

He is able to make the pier profitable and becomes friends with the woman (Irene Browne) who has rental huts on the beach that are about to become displaced by the grand plans of the council. And they haven't given up yet.

Amusing film with Alec Guinness playing Captain Ambrose -- and like most great actors, he does the part seriously, which makes it funnier. He carries the film as the other actors have small roles. Browne's is a little bigger and she is wonderful as first an enemy of the captain and then as a warm friend.

The final scenes are excellent, as Ambrose's heritage comes into play. Really fine film.
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A comedy gem from Alec Guinness
snitz4328 May 2015
In the same year as Alec Guinness starred in 'The Bridge Over The River Kwai' he created one of the most delightful comic characters of the Fifties in this hidden gem which is fortunately available on DVD.

Guiness portrays a seasick former naval officer battling the greedy machinations of corrupt City Council members at an English seaside resort.

The twists in the plot are delicious fun, and I enjoy it's wry dialogue even more than other classic British comedies penned by the same screenwriter such as 'Lavender Hill Mob' and 'Passport to Pimlico', T. E. B. Clarke.

Notable in the cast are impeccable Irene Browne and a starlet by the name of Jackie Collins, who became a celebrity by writing novels set in Hollywood.

Please seek the DVD of this brilliant comedy performance by Guinness.
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Ship of fools earn the last laugh
Chase_Witherspoon17 November 2012
Low key citizens versus the establishment comedy from Ealing Studios stars Alec Guinness as a would-be naval captain, prevented from of a life spent at sea by acute sea sickness, his consolation is to convert a peer into a amusement park depicting a luxury cruise liner, but the local council led by Maurice Denham wants to close him down.

Guinness has multiple roles (as visions) while Irene Browne plays his ally in the fight against Denham and his cronies (principally Lionel Jeffries and Victor Maddern), with growing sympathy from members of the council who see his amusement park as a positive investment for tourism (Alan Cuthbertson, principally). Prolific Percy Herbert plays Guinness' faithful first mate, while Richard Wattis and Donald Pleasance have minor cameos.

Though it's probably one of Guinness' most obscure movies (there's a reference to a better known Guinness' 1950 film "The Mudlark"), it remains a capable comic farce, middle of the road comedy carrying most of the hallmarks that made Ealing the manufacturer synonymous with traditional British comedies in the 1950's.
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Absolute tripe
John Downes11 August 2007
I love Ealing comedies. I love Alec Guinness. So I looked forward to seeing this when it was shown on TCM a few days ago.

What a disappointment. The jokes are lame, the plot is stupid. A stupid plot does not automatically make a film a failure of course (is there a plot-line sillier than Passport to Pimlico?) but this plot is un-funny stupid. And what I especially resented was the sight of stalwart actor/comedians like Lionel Jeffreys and Maurice Denham trying to do their best with this witless material.

If you've an ambition to watch every Ealing Comedy ever made, then look it up. There is no other reason to waste your time with it.
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