Sink the Bismarck! (1960) Poster

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Well done . . . with a major flaw
jacksflicks2 August 2002
The British have made war and historical movies with an unrivaled consistency of quality, and Sink the Bismarck is no exception. The details are meticulous, the casting first-rate (except for a hokey voice-impersonation of Churchill), and the battle sequences marked by accuracy and fine special effects.

This otherwise fine film is marred, however, by the false depiction of one of the major characters, Admiral Lutjens, commander of the Bismarck. In the film, he is stereotyped as the typical Nazi - a Hitler sycophant, careerist and wild-eyed fanatic. This was most certainly not the historical Lutjens, who was by no means a Nazi fanatic. Lutjens was a naval hero from World War I, who served out of duty and dedication, not Nazi conviction. (Lutjens protected Jews under his command, and members of his family were in trouble for their anti-Nazi views.) This is at complete odds with his depiction in Sink the Bismarck, which I find inexcusable, given that the above information was certainly available to the production. In fact, an accurate depiction of Lutjens would have, in my opinion, added interest to the plot.

Nevertheless, Sink the Bismarck is eminently watchable and a fine addition to any war movie collection, if you bear in mind the above caveat.
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Excellent movie
thull119 December 2000
For starters, this picture was thankfully filmed in black and white. This is only appropriate for gray colored ships shooting it out in the North Atlantic. The performers were, for the most part, convincing. The movie got a little risky by using a fictional character (played by Kenneth More) for the lead role, and delving a bit into his personal life. But it didn't get out of hand. The movie takes just the right amount of time in developing and depicting the important events in the eight day life of the Bismarck. I got the feeling that I was actually there and watching these events take place. The movie is essentially accurate, based on accounts I have read in books; including one by the highest ranking German survivor. The depiction of the destruction of the British battle cruiser Hood was not exactly accurate, but I would rank that a minor point. Getting the ship used in the movie to blow up the same way the Hood would probably have been more trouble than it was worth. The bottom line is the ship was destroyed and only three crew members survived.

This movie is an excellent, no-nonsense portrayal of the short and dramatic life of the legendary German battleship Bismarck.
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Fine war film
Panamint13 February 2015
A distinguished wide-screen film that honors those who served in a great British naval episode while showing generally how naval warfare was carried out in the early days of WWII.

Effectively portraying the sheer power of one of the most monstrous weapons ever devised by the dark side of the human mind- the battleship Bismarck. Battleships had a hideous, graceful sort of massive beauty during their brief heyday at the peak of war technology but went the way of the dinosaur after WWII. Their vulnerabilities are demonstrated in this film, as are certain unfortunate (but not necessarily erroneous) tactical moves by the German Admiral and the Captain of the Bismarck.

In case you don't know the story I won't spoil it but an event occurs around the middle of this film that has a sudden awesome shock value that can still cause your jaw to drop. It is perfectly set forth despite the low-tech film techniques available in 1960- the producers do a great job.

A deadly serious film about deadly serious heavy subject matter, "Sink the Bismarck" has qualities that hold up and it is worth your viewing time.
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Gripping wartime British naval drama
roghache28 May 2006
This movie is a well crafted and gripping depiction of British attempts to locate and destroy the German battleship Bismarck during World War II. It is told from the viewpoint of sailors aboard vessels from both sides and also the British naval command headquarters. I have little knowledge of naval history so am in no position to comment regarding historical accuracy.

Personally, I found most compelling the strategy and tension within the Admiralty War Headquarters in London, especially the personal depiction of the coordinator of this operation. Kenneth More convincingly plays Captain Jonathan Shepard, who lost his own wife earlier in an air raid and has a son who is himself a naval pilot involved in the battle to sink the Bismarck. Shepard's relationship with the lovely but very professional female naval officer Davis is well captured. There is also a moving portrait of Shepard's restrained response to unfolding news regarding his son. Though there is engaging battle drama at sea, it's the character portrayal of this stiff upper lip British officer that made the movie for me.
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I'm happy that I'm not a naval warfare expert.....
padutchland-16 April 2006
and could just watch and enjoy the movie without analyzing it. That's what movies were originally for - entertainment and enjoyment. I don't know if the special effects were great for the time or not, but they looked enough like the real thing for me. Great naval battle scenes and the acting was perfect for the times portrayed of the 1940's and the real way that military people are mostly low key in planning discussions and carrying out their duties. All very believable scenes with the flavor of the way it really was even in portions that were added to entertain (when history takes a back seat to entertainment). Kenneth More showed his versatility in excelling in such a serious part and Dana Wynter very professional. I don't know why she didn't become a larger name here in the States with such pure beauty, grace and honest acting ability. By coincidence I just saw her in another movie In Love And War where she played a totally different type of part and nailed it great. Anyway, if you haven't seen Sink The Bismarck, then by all means give it a gander. It is time well spent for not only those who enjoy naval movies, but good drama films as well.
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A Fine Story, Well Told with few innacuracies
mikestollov13 October 2003
A lot of people criticise this film for the wooden acting, but this ignores a vital point. In the period the film is set people were a lot more formal, especially in the Royal Navy. Such negative comments are on a par with claims that Shakespearean language is too floral or that George Washington wore a powdered wig. Honestly I cannot accept any such comments. Anyone who's seen the God Awful TV movie, "The Junction Boys" will see much more woodeness.

Charting the maiden voyage of the Nazi battleship's Bizmark & her brief career in the Atlantic, this film lacks modern details now known about this episode due to the efforts of divers, namely information gained from the wreck of the Bizmark itself & investigations of HMS Hood's remains, famously blown into pieces by a hit from Bizmark.

Also not dealt with is some of the rather more subtle facts of this period. Bizmark is touted as "the deadliest warship afloat" but this isn't borne out by the facts. The Bizmark chose it's battles very well, avoiding conflict with Royal Navy warships that could do it actual damage. She was a commerce raider, praying on defenceless merchant ships, less powerful warships & fleeing from anything that could do her harm. The fact that she came up against warships that could actually do damage to her was down to the doggedness of the Royal Navy.

At first she did prevail, but once more due to the opposition she was given. HMS Hood was definitely NOT a good choice for this conflict, she was NOT a Battleship, she was an old, thinly armoured Battle Cruiser & well below the standard of Bizmark, her guns were innacurate & her armour wasn't up to the threat she was faced with. The accompanying battleship Prince of Wales was a brand new warship, with terrific specifications, but was so new she also had teething poblems (her firing control wasn't fully calibrated & some of her guns had problems that prevented them from firing) & even went into battle against the Bizmark with civilian ship builders on board who were still working on her! Hardly surprising then that Bizmark sank Hood & damaged Prince Of Wales badly. None the less between the two of them they hit Bizmark three times, knocking out one of her boilers, puncturing her armour, so she took on water & leaked fuel, a critical turning point in the eventual outcome.

When Bizmark was later damaged by aircraft, robbing her of her rudders, she was unable to run away & finally forced to come up against "KG5" (HMS King George The Fifth) & her support fleet, then the truth was revealed. Bizmark was good, but against the older, less well specified KG5 she lost heavily, with enormous loss of life. Bizmark was good, but in a fight with comparable forces she was nothing special (yes, she was outnumbered, but by very much older ships).

The confususion of this time is clearly shown, as Bizmark circled uncontrolably following the air strike, so meaning that sightings sent to RN HQ mean that at one point she was thought to be heading away from the battle fleet, then towards it.

We do see some emotional manipuilation going on, an effort to either sustain the narative, or arouse hatred in the audience for the enemy so that we are not horrified by the carnage that will soon be unleashed upon them. Royal Navy ships are shown getting sunk that actually didn't even get hit. Also Ark Royal Swordfish aircraft are shown getting shot down, when actually all returned intact (a fascinating fact, the ancient, obsolete Swordfish from the aircraft carrier Ark Royal were all the Fleet Air Arm had. The Germans at the time laughed at the cumbersome, bi-plane torpedo bombers, but they couldn't hit them! Their anti aircraft guns had predicters on them to track incoming aircraft & hit them, but the Swordfish flew so slowly the predicters couldn't compensate & all the shells missed!).

Technical details apart, the naval action is where the movie excels. For the last time British movie makers were allowed access to a Royal Navy Battleship, probably HMS Vanguard, the last RN Big Gun warship. Notice how the scenes in the Bizmark & KG5 gun turrets are identical! Well they weren't going to get this footage from the German Kriegsmarine! However notice that the sailors are shown wearing their white, anti flash covers correctly for once. They should go over the mouth, but rarely do you see this in films.

The acting is superb, considering the period & the generation they came from. Kenneth Moore plays the part of Cpt Joh Sheppard (co ordianting the show down with Bizmark in the London RN HQ) sympathetically, portraying the genuine feelings the RN sailors had for the Nazi sailors who'd lost their lives. (A comment from a sailor of the time "She was the most beautiful ship I'd ever seen & we'd come here to sink her"). Later it was known that the German sailors went throught similar moments after sinking the Hood. The final seconds of the film show Moore reluctantly throwing Bizmark's Atlantic battlefield model into the rubbish. Not covered is the abandoning of the surviving Germans by the Royal Navy. It is claimed that this was revenge for the loss of life on the Hood, where all but 4 were killed. But Lufftwaffe air attacks against the Royal Naval Forces were a genuine threat, as was an attack by German U-Boats who did not hesitate to sink any enemy ship no matter what was going on. Basically not stopping to pick up survivors was Standard Operating Procedure whether they were friend or foe, something that seems to be forgotten by the German survivors. They blame the Royal Navy, but the RN never knew if a U-Boat torpedo was on the way, headed for their valuable ships. It was ultimately the effects of their Nazi Admiral Doenitz's orders, comander of the U-Boat packs, that lead them to be abandoned.

Carl Mohner portrays the Captain of the Bizmark "Lindeman" with an air of professionalism, he isn't seen as a Nazi. He is shown as a good warrior, but not a Fascist. Karl Stepanek as Admiral Lutchens is shown as a slightly arrogant, puffed up Nazi. There is some truth here, but later intelligence releases would explain why Lutchens sent such a long message to Berlin that allowed the British to fix his position so accurately & seal his fate. It wasn't arrogance or a death wish, basically he already believed that he had been located by the RN & so had nothing to lose by breaking radio silence (he was wrong, at that point the RN had no idea where he was). Later historical evidence shows he was rather more complex that a simple Hitler toady.

The final battle scenes avoid the brutal carnage, later comments from surviving German sailors tesitfy to the impact of 16 inch shells from the Royal Navy as they tore the Bizmark to pieces. Basically they describe how the decks were littered with flesh, "like a butchers shop" as one put it, from the crew as they were blown to bits by the Royal Navy shells. Given the hatred the British still had for the Germans in 1960 when this film was made (ask my mother who at the time wept for the loss of the Hood & swore at German air armadas that dropped bombs on her) this ommision isn't a surprise, as is the limits of acceptability at the time.

Also not covered is the end game, where KG5 pounded Bizmark with broadside after broadside. This is one of the reasons that the Bizmark aquired the legend of strength & invicibility. However any naval tactician of the time would have quickly pointed out a fatal flaw in this part of the action. Getting in close & sending 16 inch shells into Bizmark was NOT the way to sink her, the shells would be travelling at a shallow angle & would explode in the upper decks. The proper way to do it is to get further back & send in shots that come in at a plunging angle, exploding deep in the ship. She wasn't invincible, she was simply tortured.

All in all you have to look a very long way to find a similarly finessed work charting Naval Warfare. "Battle of the River Plate", "Midway", "The Cruel Sea" & "Tora! Tora! Tora!" are about the only examples I can think of. Intrigiungly they are also open to the criticisms levelled at acting standard of "Bizmark" but seemingly they don't attract the same. Why this is I don't know.

Avoid the knee jerk reaction concerning the portrayal of the characters involved & you have a deep, fascinating portrayal of one of the most interesting chapters in WW2 Naval History. For similar adventures try the films mentioned above but NOT the fat-head 2001 "Pearl Harbour" remake, which makes me want to puke.
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Sad movie
rmax3048237 April 2003
The German battleship Bismark was one of the finest warships ever built. She carried 8 15-inch guns and a powerful secondary battery and could make 30 knots. It wasn't one of the biggest or most powerful battleships ever built. The Japanese had the Yamato and Mushashi towards the end of the war, juggernauts with 18-inch cannons. There's a limit to gigantism of course, and in the case of battleships it had to do with whether they could fit physically through the Panama Canal, a concern the Japanese had long put behind them. So the Bismark wasn't the sort of sacred monster that sheer size would make her. But she LOOKED absolutely great. Sleek, well balanced, with her superstructure done the way an architect might have done it, not an engineer. She looked built for speed, and endurance too. For an example of the opposite trend, take a look at Rodney or Nelson. More powerfully armed, with 9 16-inch guns carried in three turrets, all set forward of the superstructure. Man, that is one ugly design. And, more than that, Bismarck's crew were highly trained and she was equipped with one of the world's best optical fire-control systems. It wasn't just luck that sank the Hood and damaged any smaller ships that go too close; it was good shooting. (Her shooting didn't fall off until that final bombardment.) Winston Churchill called her "a masterpiece of naval construction," although not in this movie. She kept large elements of the fleet pinned down at home simply by sitting in her protected port and being available.

I must have seen this movie a dozen times and each time I begin by wondering if I'll be able to sit through it again. (I've got some of the exchanges memorized.) I generally make it, though. It's too good in its own dated way to pass up.

The model work is not bad at all for its time. The reviewer who said this film called for black and white was correct. It looks cold and frightening on the North Atlantic. Almost everything would have been, or at least seemed, gray even if it had been shot in color. The peformances are up to professional standards. More is a different character here from his usual jocular one -- frosty, demanding, and no nonsense. Until finally, overcome with emotion, he breaks down in an understated scene. Dana Wynter, his assistant, spots him and discreetly leaves him alone. She's too beautiful to criticize as an actress. She radiates purity and anima and gently draws More out of his shell. Naismith is a familiar face, as are many of the others. And there is a running gag in this underground bunker where More is plotting the Bismarck's demise. Nobody knows what time it is or, if they know it's 9 o'clock, they don't know if its morning or evening. Even the Germans aboard the Bismarck are lent some humanity by the script writers. The cadets look like earnest fresh-faced kids. The Captain is a practical man, worried about his ship and his crew. Only Karel Stepanek, as Lutjens, belongs in another, much earlier movie, say one made in 1943. He is well out of the frame established in the rest of the film. Stricken with awe when he gets a birthday greeting from You-Know-Who. Some of the dialogue is made up, out of necessity. Who knows what went on on the Bismarck's bridge, especially during that last catastrophic shelling? Back in the bunker, Dana Wynter looks down at the wooden models on her chart where a dozen British warships surround the single Bismarck and pound her to pieces. "I don't feel like cheering," she says. Well, "War is all hell." Maybe that's why human beings seem to need another one every twenty years or so, to remind ourselves.

What a waste of great ships, and of good men, on both sides. And an argument could even be made that Bismarck's sister ship, the Tirpitz, played an even more important part in the war simply by staying put and tying down so many British ships that were needed elsewhere. Our side "wins," of course. Our side almost always wins when we're the side that's funding the movie. A lot of viewers will expectably feel relief when the threat represented by Bismarck is over, but they probably won't feel much like cheering.
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'Getting emotional about things is a peacetime luxury!'
Nazi_Fighter_David3 December 1999
Kenneth More plays the severe cold and uncompromising Captain Jonathan Shepard who has lost his wife in an air raid, and whose son is a naval pilot in the warfare against the Bismarck...

'Bismarck' is a super German battleship of World War II that had a short, but spectacular career...

Captain Shepard guides the distinguished campaign from the Admiralty War headquarters in London: The search, the course, the deploy and the destruction of the Bismarck under an archetype that said: 'Getting emotional about things is a peacetime luxury.'

The Bismarck's admiral (Karel Stepanek) is a Nazi officer characterized by emotional instability, presumptuous and overenthusiastic...

Sighted and bombarded by British battleships, the Bismarck is incapacitated and sunk by torpedoes on the morning of May 27, 1941.

Dana Wynter is the likable attractive lady naval officer, fitting in mood and attitude...

In the climax of the film and after the naval epic, Michael Hordern, the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet, turns to his men and says: 'Let's go home, gentlemen!'

This exciting sea battle would have been better on a standard screen than in CinemaScope, as its ships were clearly 'models' using newsreels footage... Nevertheless, the film is an entertaining hunt, with good acting.

Beside the search and eventual sinking of the Bismarck, I would like to mention, that the personal drama of the British sailors increase the intensity of the picture's realism...
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One of the best war time epic movie
ebiros214 November 2005
This is a little known war time epic movie that should rank with the likes of "Patton". The story is about the grudge match that's spawned from sinking of battleship Hood by the German battleship Bismark. A full blown search for the German battleship by the British navy takes place to hunt down and sink the Bismark. Acting is first class, and although the special effects have something to be desired by today's standard, movie none the less conveys the tension and excitement of what probably was the greatest and the final naval conflict between battleships. In recent years Bob Ballard and the Oceanographic Institute rediscovered the sunken remains of the battleship Bismark which confirmed the ferocity of the fire power that was exchanged in this naval warfare. This movie gets mentioned by movie producers of today when they sight their seminal influence it had on some of their plot lines, which attests to its production value. The sub plot which unfolds between Kenneth Moore and Dana Wynter is also written superbly. A good war time semi documentary that's worth seeing.
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Never forget that you are Nazis!
JamesHitchcock12 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In May 1941 the mighty German battleship Bismarck, accompanied by the cruiser Prinz Eugen, left her home port in the Baltic on a mission to attack British convoys in the North Atlantic. The two ships were intercepted in the Denmark Strait, between Greenland and Iceland, by the British warships HMS Hood and HMS Prince of Wales. In the ensuing exchange of fire the Hood was sunk, with the loss of all but three of her crew, and the Prince of Wales and the Bismarck were both damaged. The German commander, Admiral Günther Lütjens, therefore decided to return to a port in occupied France so that the Bismarck could be repaired. The ship was, however, pursued across the Atlantic by the Royal Navy, determined to avenge the loss of the Hood and to neutralise the threat which the Bismarck posed to British shipping.

"Sink the Bismarck!" is made in a semi-documentary style, concentrating less upon the actual combatants than upon what have been described as the "unsung back-room planners". (The documentary effect is enhanced by having the American journalist Ed Murrow repeat some of his wartime radio broadcasts from London). The main character, played by Kenneth More, is Captain Jonathan Shepard, the Admiralty's Chief of Operations, responsible for directing the operation from a war room in London. Michael Hordern, playing the Admiral leading the hunt for the Bismarck at sea, has a much smaller role. (Historically this would have been Admiral Sir John Tovey, but his name is never given in the film).

More was one of those actors who had a fairly small range but who was capable of giving some very good performances within it. He specialised in playing calm, imperturbable upper-middle-class Englishmen or Scotsmen, often officers in the armed forces. (He could often look out of his depth when he tried to go too far outside this range). Here, however, he is excellent. Shepard is a fictitious character; the film- makers insisted in the closing credits that he was not to be identified with Captain Ralph Edwards, the real Chief of Operations during this period. More plays him as, outwardly, a typical stiff-upper-lip Briton of the era, but one who beneath his calm façade is hiding his own personal traumas. His work is physically less dangerous than service at sea would be, yet nevertheless extremely stressful emotionally; one of Shepard's colleagues, unable to cope with the strain, has announced that he will resign his job in the operations room to take up a position as commander of a naval vessel.

In some ways the film is very accurate; the battle scenes were shot using scale models of the actual ships involved. There are a number of historical inaccuracies, but I suspect that these are not "goofs" in the sense of inadvertent errors made through carelessness but deliberate departures from historical fact for the sake of dramatic licence. During the chase the Bismarck sinks a destroyer named HMS Solent; no British destroyers were lost in the battle, and although there was an "HMS Solent" during the war it was a submarine, not a destroyer. A Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal is shot down, although no aircraft were lost in the actual battle. Both these details were added to increase dramatic tension; one of the crew of the bomber is Shepard's son Tom, and his father must endure an agonising wait for news of his son.

Perhaps the greatest departure from historical reality concerns the character of Admiral Lütjens. Karel Štěpánek plays him as a fanatical Nazi, arrogant and absurdly overconfident. (Peter Finch had given a much more sympathetic portrayal of a senior German naval officer in "Battle of the River Plate" four years earlier). He barks at his crew "Never forget that you are Nazis!"; a real Nazi would probably have said "Never forget that you are National Socialists!" but the truth is that the real Lütjens was not a Nazi at all. He disliked the regime for which he was fighting and, contrary to the way he is portrayed here, was very pessimistic about the Bismarck's chance of success. Yet in the context of the film Štěpánek's performance is a good one, increasing the dramatic contrast between Lütjens and Shepard, both more cautious and more humane.

Patriotic wartime epics, often based upon true stories, were popular in the British cinema during the fifties and sixties, so it is not surprising that the hunt for the Bismarck should have furnished the material for a how-we-won-the-war film. Compared to the high emotions of something like "The Dambusters", perhaps the greatest true story war film, it can at times seem rather cool, yet it is still undoubtedly one of Britain's better efforts in the genre, due particularly to More's efforts. 7/10
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" gotta Sink the Bismarck, all the world depends on us."
bkoganbing12 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In May 1941 the Royal Navy was stretched to the breaking point. As was accurately pointed out by Laurence Naismith playing the First Sea Lord, they are committed heavily to the battle raging for Greece, to defending the critical base at Malta, and to protecting Atlantic convoys from America. So when Hitler turned loose his newest and biggest battleship, the Bismarck, the Royal Navy had not a whole lot to throw at her.

Sink the Bismarck is done in a documentary style with the action taking place on the high seas in the British ships and on the Bismarck. The other part of the drama takes place at the war room at the Admiralty where the fictitious character Kenneth More, a captain who had his ship shot out from under him by the German commander who is in charge of the Bismarck.

The Bismarck was only out for eight days, but in that time she annihilated the British cruiser Hood with all but 3 lost. After that it was a running battle with both planes from the carrier Ark Royal and ship to ship battles with the Prince of Wales, the George V, and the Dorcestshire before the Bismarck went down in the Atlantic.

There is a side personal drama involving Kenneth More whose son is a flier on board the Ark Royal and who is missing. WREN officer Dana Wynter is around to lend a sympathetic ear and there's a bit of a hint that things might get personal with More and Wynter.

The Ark Royal planes did some damage and I notice that the planes flown off the Ark Royal were ancient biplanes. They did some damage, but didn't sink the Bismarck themselves. Unfortunately some lessons were not learned by the British command and the Prince of Wales and the Repulse were sunk several months later by the Japanese with aerial bombardment when they reported for duty at the British base in Singapore. The British did in fact experiment with carriers as the Ark Royal's contribution in that action and others signifies. I'm willing to bet Mr. Churchill wished he had a few more carriers like the Americans and Japanese did. And I'm also willing to bet he was thanking the Deity the Germans had none.

Two things helped popularize the film in America and it did do well on this side of the Atlantic. I remember a packed house when I went to see it in theater back when I was a lad. One was the presence and narration of Edward R. Murrow who as a correspondent for CBS radio reported to America on the Bismarck story and so many others. His more than FDR's was the voice of World War II for the American public.

The second was that country singer Johnny Horton had a big selling hit also entitled Sink the Bismarck. Though nary a note of it is heard in this film that song on the charts boosted sales to Sink the Bismarck tremendously.

Kind of unusual that an American country singer would choose a British naval action as the subject of a song. But the heroism of all the members of the Royal Navy and even that of the crew of the Bismarck is the stuff legends are made of.
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" He's as cold as a witch's heart, yet I wish for a man with no heart at all "
thinker169111 January 2009
When making a film like, "Sink The Bismark" it benefits the audience when actual facts of the ship or the events are used in the final cut. This film does just that. It begins with the Christening and launching of the impressive German vessel, Bismark. The massive battleship which could easily cruise at 30 knots became the pride of Germany and quickly proved her military prowess when encountering the H.M.S. Hood. The Hood was the pride of the British Royal Navy with her Captain and select crew of 1,500 men were well seasoned and experienced. Yet on that fateful day of May 24th, 1941 the two ships came within 15 miles of each other. After several exchanged salvos, the Bismark with her compliment of 8 fifteen inch guns completely destroyed the British ship leaving only three survivors. This disastrous event is but one of the exceptional battle scenes, superbly recreated by Howard Lydecker and his special effects crew. To add to the creative storyline are the actors which give this movie a superior realism. Kenneth More as Captain Shepard, who along with his naval staff wage war against the Bismark from their underground command post in war-torn London, where Edward R. Murrow gives the world a blow by blow account of the desperate time. Dana Wynter plays Anne Davis, his able assistant. Carl Möhner is Captain Lindemann, the proud Captain of the Bismark with Karel Stepanek playing his immediate superior, Admiral Lutjens. Laurence Naismith plays the First Sea Lord. This a great film and should honor the Allies who gave so much when the world needed them. ****
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This is "The Titanic" of War Movies.
PWNYCNY30 May 2006
In World War Two Nazi Germany launches a battleship that was for its time the most advanced and lethal warship ever built. And as proof of its invincibility, the Bismarck within a matter of minutes sunk and seriously damaged two of Britain's biggest warships. Yet like the Titanic, this ship, this incredible example of technical ingenuity, was doomed to fail, and to fail spectacularly and ingloriously. As the title indicates, this movie is about the sinking of the Bismarck. To reveal how and why this ship failed would be inappropriate here, but this movie does a credible job in explaining why the British became totally obsessed with that one ship and why the British had to destroy that ship at all cost. Watch the movie.
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Historical and warlike film about the commanding staff and battles between the Bismarck battleship and British cruisers
ma-cortes12 January 2015
This is an excellent picture dealing with infamous ship including spectacular battle sequences and prestigious main cast helped by a fleet of the best Brit character players . It's one of the last great Brit pictures about warfare naval action and being based on real incidents . British Navy sets out to locate and sink notorious German battleship during WWII in this most stirring account of the quest for the formidable Bismarck . This is the World War II story of the British Navy's effort to defeat Nazi Germany's most powerful warship .

This is a splendid British film concerning historic deeds during WWII , the naval battle in the Atlantic Ocean between German battleship and British squadron of various ships , carriers and airplanes . This picture is based on fact , but there have been complaints that is most inaccurate . Magnificent performances from Kenneth More as the withdrawn officer director operations supported by a beautiful as well as interesting Dana Wynter . The main and secondary cast are stunningly incarnated by a magnificent plethora of English actors such as Michael Hordern , Maurice Denham , Michael Goodliffe , Jack Gwillim , Michael Ripper , Bernard Lee , David Hemmings , Ian Hendry , Laurence Naismith , Geoffrey Keen and Esmond Knight, who plays the captain of the HMS Prince of Wales, actually served as an officer on board her and was injured during the battle.

Excellent scale models , though also utilized actual battle footage ; according to special effects cameraman L.B. Abbott, the miniatures were photographed with spherical , non-anamorphic lenses . This made it easier to force the perspective of the image to make the miniatures appear bigger and further apart. The producers knew that the use of miniatures and explosions would have to look very realistic to be successful , they hired Howard Lydecker, one of the legendary Lydecker brothers who were generally considered to be the best special effects team in the industry and they had spent decades perfecting their craft at Republic Pictures. The film contains an evocative and atmospheric cinematography in black and white by classic cinematographer Christopher Challis who also photographed 'The battle of the River Plata¨. The flick was stunningly directed by Lewis Gilbert . The motion picture will appeal to wartime genre buffs and British classic movie fans . Rating : Better than average .

The film is based on true events , these are the followings : Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz were the largest battleships ever built by Germany, and two of the largest built by any European power.In the course of the warship's eight-month career under its sole commanding officer, Capt. Ernst Lindemann, Bismarck conducted only one offensive operation, in May 1941, codenamed Rheinübung. The ship, along with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, was to break into the Atlantic Ocean and raid Allied shipping from North America to Great Britain. The two ships were detected several times off Scandinavia, and British naval units were deployed to block their route. At the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Bismarck engaged and destroyed the battlecruiser HMS Hood, the pride of the Royal Navy, and forced the battleship HMS Prince of Wales to retreat; Bismarck was hit three times and suffered an oil leak from a ruptured tank. The destruction of Hood spurred a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy involving dozens of warships. Two days later, while heading for the relative safety of occupied France, Bismarck was attacked by obsolescent Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal; one scored a hit that rendered the battleship's steering gear inoperable. In her final battle the following morning, Bismarck was neutralised by a sustained bombardment from a British fleet, was scuttled by her crew, and sank with heavy loss of life. Most experts agree that the battle damage would have caused her to sink eventually. The wreck was located in June 1989 by Robert Ballard, and has since been further surveyed by several other expeditions
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Solid War Film
gordonl568 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers

Another well made war film from that great 1950 to 1966 era, when more than a few excellent war time films were knocked out. This one tells the tale of the German battleship, Bismarck. Bismarck was the first battleship built by Germany since the First World War. Because of several ocean raids made earlier in the war by GRAF SPEE, SCHARHORST and GNEISENAU. The British were worried that Bismarck could wreak havoc of the Atlantic convoys.

When Bismarck and the cruiser Prinz Eugen, made their break to reach the Atlantic, the Royal Navy sent every ship they could to hunt them down. First honours went to the German Navy, when they sank the star of the R.N. the Hood, and heavily damaged the Prince of Wales.

Later on, Bismarck's luck ran out when a lucky hit with a torpedo dropped by a Swordfish aircraft, damaged her steering gear. Unable to escape the rest of the ships in pursuit, she went to the bottom under a hail of shells and torpedoes. Prinz Eugen escaped and made it to German held France.

The film itself is told from the British headquarters managing the pursuit. Kenneth More plays the officer in charge. He is supported by a slew of British character actors like, Geoffery Keen, Laurence Naismith, Michael Horden and Maurice Denham. Pretty Dana Wynter supplies the female content.

Shot is black and white, the film features some excellent model work, and top notch battle scenes. The director, Lewis Gilbert keeps this one moving at a steady pace with nary a slow moment on screen.

Even 50 plus years after being made, this one stands up very well and is worth a look.
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The Classic War Film.
MIKE-WILSON617 June 2001
In this superb film,Kenneth More,plays the fictitious Capt Shepard,who is brought in to run the Navel war room in Whitehall, just before the Bismarck sets sail from Germany. We see the highs and the lows during the hunt, from the sinking of the Hood, which everybody thought was unsinkable, to the final battle. More gets good support from Dana Wynter, Geoffrey Keen, And Laurence Naismith. The shots of the actual battle, both real and the model work, are good. All in all a film well worth watching.
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Admiral Gunther Lutjens Maligned
thomasja55 January 2016
I agree with the other reviewers who complained that Adm. Gunther Lutjens was portrayed as being a pro-Nazi when in actuality, he wasn't. In fact, Lutjens had protested against the dismissal of Jewish officers from the Navy and when Hitler came to visit the Bismarck 2 weeks before her departure, he gave Hitler the navy salute and not the Nazi salute.

Part of the problem with this movie is where 20th Century Fox obtained their material from. They used the material in C.S. Forrester's book "The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck". In that book Forrester had portrayed Lutjens as being pro-Nazi which had 20th Century Fox researched before making the movie, would have uncovered Forrester's mistake (intentional or not). A better book was Ludovic Kennedy's "Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Battleship Bismarck," but I don't believe his book had come out at the time the movie was made. 20th Century Fox should have waited until it did than to base a true event on a possibly biased book.
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The Pinnacle of Miniature Special Effects
BigBobFoonman21 December 2010
Yes, my children, there was a time when movies knew nothing of CGI, and very difficult scenes of violence and destruction were given over to names like Buddy Gillespie, Wally Veevers, and Warren Newcombe, Howard and Teddy Lydecker. These men looked deep inside their childhoods, and started using miniatures, filmed at slow motion camera speeds to proportionately smooth out the movement of model ships, water, model airplanes, collapsing and exploding buildings, even crash model cars.

The most difficult miniature work was with water and the look of the water in relation to a miniature ship.

It was found that the larger the model ship, the more realistic the water looked, and in Columbia's "Sink the Bismarck", the ships were anywhere from 40-60 feet in length. The water body was an indoor pool over 300 ft. in diameter, surrounded by wind machines and under the floor of the tank, large hydraulic pistons created waves.

Can you imagine what fun that was? Blowing up and sinking these huge was a dream of mine for years.

Today, a scruffy kid sits in front of a computer and creates sea battles and catastrophes that are astoundingly realistic. He uses 1's and 0's.....nothing of the physical world.

Still, the destruction of the Bismarck, and the capstone piece, the massive explosion of the H.M.S. Hood amaze and awe anyone who watches this film today.

This is a WWII film for the ages, and a centerpiece of a very fun special-effects era.
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A solid, low-key North Atlantic WWII film
secondtake27 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Sink the Bismark! (1960)

A smart, steady as she goes WWII film in stately, wide screen black and white. There is little to flaw in it, and equally little to lift it above its quiet perfection. I don't mean it's a perfect movie, but that it manages perfectly to hold its tone, from the war rooms to the sea battles, from the English side to the German, with intelligence and historical accuracy.

The terror the large, high tech battleship caused is legendary among those who lived through it. It was a symbol of German military and engineering prowess. When it knocked out (sank) Britain's largest and best ship early in the war, it looked invincible. And the prime minister made a point of saying, in a key early moment, that they had to do whatever it took to sink it. And so risks were taken and more lives lost and until, eventually, it was sunk.

Not to give away the end, but this is history, and war is serious. As a sign of how the movie remains sombre through it all, there was no cheering and really not even a smile among the British when they saw the Bismarck finally go underwater. Which is admirable, the stiff upper lip thing, but it's also a little unbelievable. Indeed, the German boat leaders are constantly shown to be arrogant and cocky, worried more about letters from Hitler than the fact they are leaking oil. I suppose it might be true to some extent, that the British were all good chaps and determined to win and the Germans were all ruthless and tireless and determined also to win.

Such is war.

But this is maybe the largest tilt the film makes in the wrong direction. It is filmed with great control, and it mixes a little existing footage with the new shooting really seamlessly. The acting is first rate, with no heroes in the Hollywood sense, just a large cast of focused talent.

As for accuracy, it seems that scholars find it quite good in the large picture but riddled with little errors, including the portrayal of the German captain as a cocky Hitler worshiper. There is some question about whether the Germans scuttled the ship themselves or if it was sunk, and there was apparently no Norwegian spy involved. Some of the errors have to do with the use of updated ships for the filming, but most of this is too fast to worry about. There is the hinted at turning away after the sinking, without picking up Germans in the water, and apparently the rescue effort was minimal, so a hundred Germans died in the water. Great detail is found at the Wiki entry for the movie (as well as the entry for the ship). Another page to pursue is at

The main character, Captain Shepard, and his son on a navy ship, are fictional.

The wreck was discovered in 1989 by the same team that discovered the Titanic, and James Cameron made a documentary on the ship (and its wreckage) in 2002.
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Zig-Zag Patterns and the Hunt for the Bismarck.
hitchcockthelegend9 August 2015
Sink the Bismarck! Is directed by Lewis Gilbert and adapted to screenplay by Edmund North from the book written by C.S. Forester. It stars Kenneth More, Dana Wynter, Carl Möhner, Laurence Naismith, Geoffrey Keen, Karel Stepanek, Michael Hordern and Maurice Denham. Music is by Clifton Parker and CinemaScope photography by Christopher Challis.

World War II, the North Atlantic, the British Navy desperately tries to sink Germany's prime battleship. The scourge of the seas, The Bismarck.

Cracker-jack war movie that brings brains and brawn to the party. Instrumentally the pic is concerned with the officers back at headquarters (Moore outstanding), how they try to device a plan to capture and sink The Bismarck. The second guessing of its movements, the attempts to keep a lid on the emotional pains as news filters through about losses in battle, men missing in action, with some personal issues bubbling away to further compound the hot-bed of stress.

This all makes for a riveting and intelligent backdrop to the scenes out at sea. It's fascinating that as Winston Churchill was demanding that he didn't care how they did it, that they simply must destroy The Bismark, Hitler was sending out birthday greetings and pleasantries to his Naval commanders. The battle scenes are spanking, a mixture of real footage, great model work and superb effects, while the great Christopher Challis photographs it all in screen filling clarity.

Stiff upper lips at the ready for a truly great WWII movie. 8/10
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Someone throw me a crumpet
tieman6427 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Advances in aviation and air-to-surface weapons led to the death of lumbering, iron clad battleships. By the early 60s most of these ships were scrapped or decommissioned. As a result, Lewis Gilbert's "Sink the Bismarck!" is one of the last films to feature real, WW2 era British warships. It's also one of the better of many naval movies released in the late 50s and early 60s ("Damn the Defiant!", "The Caine Mutiny", "The Sand Pebbles", "The Bedford Incident" "Run Silent, Run Deep", "The Sea Chase", "The Enemy Below").

Adopting a dry (it's a British production, you see), somewhat documentarian tone, the film is a cat and mouse techno-thriller in which the British Admirality, led by Chief of Naval Operations Captain Jonathan Shepard, attempts to intercept and sink the Bismarck, a deadly German battleship (the largest ship ever built by any European country) which has been decimating Allied convoys.

Unlike most of these films, the action takes place largely in an underground war room where tactics and orders are cooked up and transmitted to the fleet. It's a chess game, our Chief of Naval Operations, who spends the film looming over maps and war boards, risking thousands of lives with each decision.

Unsurprisingly, the film demonizes Admiral Lutjens, the man in command of the Bismarck. He's your typical Nazi villain, bent on destroying the world with his deadly toys. In real life, Lutjens despised both Nazi policies and Hitler, and was deeply pessimistic about both his mission and the capabilities of his super ship.

The film is designed to appeal squarely to WW2 veterans and their wide eyed sons. It captures the skill of British naval gunners at the time; the Bismarck may have out-gunned and out-tonned her opponents, but British gunners were notorious for hitting their targets early, fast and precisely. Bismarck was one year old when she bit seabed.

7.9/10 – Worth one viewing.
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Still the best depiction of the sinking of Bismarck, despite the flaws.
elcoat25 February 2011
I saw this as a kid when it first came out, and was thrilled by it. Aurora Models came out with a Bismarck kit soon thereafter, and of course Revell and Airfix came out with far better ones.

Overall, the film is excellent - especially the modelwork featuring the blowup of Hood.

Inaccuracies include documentary footage of British pom-pom antiaircraft guns supposedly firing from Bismarck - the American Bofors manned by actors in German helmets was far better and should have been used more.

The Swordfish going out on the recon mission from Ark Royal are carrying torpedoes, while the ones going out for the final aerial attack on Bismarck aren't - someone in the studio mistakenly switched the film sequences.

There is no camouflage painting on the models, although at the time the film was made, that information might have been hard to have.

Others have mentioned the very wrongful depiction of Lutjens as a die-hard Nazi. For dramatic effect, it had its purpose - "Never forget that you are German! Never forget that you are Nazis!" - but an historically accurate non-Nazi Lutjens and zealous Lindemann could have been even better.

As to the fact that not all Germans were Nazis, a decisive number certainly were, and scenes like in Das Boot where the Germans were outraged that crewmen left on a tanker hadn't been rescued by the beleaguered Royal Navy are hard to stomach.

As to the human interest angle of CAPT Shepard, his missing in action son, and WREN Davis, his early inquiry into her personal relationships seemed inconsistent and contrived, to say the least, right after his opening emphasis on being impersonal on duty.

(Unhappily, WREN Davis - the beautiful German-born British actress Dana Wynter - just recently died on May 6th of this year, 2011. Basic to Dana Wynter's attractiveness - besides her dark-haired physical beauty - was the luminous intelligence and sensitivity reflecting in her eyes.)

Bismarck was one of the most dangerous battleships of its time - ranking with Yamato, Musashi, slow Rodney and Nelson, and the modern American 16" gun ships - but it had flaws. Typical of WW2 German warships, its tonnage/size was out of proportion to its armament. And armor was not as important as armament: once large caliber shells began hitting and exploding, any ship's fighting effectiveness plunged.

Washington or South Dakota would have sent Bismarck's sistership Tirpitz to the bottom quickly, had they ever had a chance to fight her.

It is my opinion that British gunnery was the best in the world throughout WW2. Renown was scoring early, decisive hits - even a conning tower hit - on Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off Norway in early 1940, which sent S&G fleeing. Heavy cruiser Dorsetshire scored an early conning tower hit on the final battle against Bismarck. Heavy cruiser Norfolk scored an early, decisive 8" hit on Scharnhorst's fire control off the North Cape, Christmas 1943, albeit at the same time getting hit (by 11" duds) in return. KGV-class Prince of Wales scored on Bismarck significantly, and KGV-class Duke of York scored the decisive power plant hit on Scharnhorst at the North Cape.

At the same time it should be mentioned that the 14" guns of those KGV class British battleships chronically malfunctioned throughout the war, although their fire control was so accurate that the fewer shells still scored sufficient significant hits in their battles.

By the way, I have an original 1940 Luftwaffe Allied warship recognition book which cites Hood's weakness - biggest ship in the Royal Navy or not - and somewhere I read that Admiral Holland wanted to position battleship Prince of Wales to be Bismarck's first target rather than battle cruiser Hood, but the encounter went otherwise.

Finally, I might mention that in 2012 Airfix models came out with a 1:1200 Sink the Bismarck set of exquisite tabletop waterline models. Bismarck, Prinz Eugen, Ark Royal, Hood, Suffolk, and 2 of the Tribal class destroyers are included. And I myself designed 1:1200 cardstock paper models of the other ships - Rodney, King George V, Prince of Wales, Norfolk, Dorsetshire, some Tribals, and the J/K/N class Polish destroyer Piorun - to complement the Airfix set. Assembling paper models can be slow, intense work, as simple as these models may be.

Indeed, I've now got some of them up on one my CoatneyHistory webpage ... as long as that lasts ... free to print off (in color even), assemble, and re-fight battles with.

The more we learn about the Second World War, the better our chances it will be the LAST world war.

Lou Coatney

A postscript:

Fifteen or so years ago, I was photocopying U.S. Navy Office of Naval Intelligence plans to use in designing my cardstock model ships. I was in the Western Illinois University Library, and an English-born lady - the wife of an elderly chess-playing friend - saw me and was fascinated by what I was doing. I explained, and she said that before World War 2, she and her family went aboard and visited Royal Navy warships and what a wonderful time they had talking with the sailors.

And then she started to cry. Some of those ships - and I gathered one was Hood - had been destroyed and those boys had been killed. I tried to say something to console her but nothing helped, and she left the library still crying.

I love studying and wargaming World War 2, its ships and other equipment, and such, but we NEVER want another world war ... and our own children and families - or others' - to go through such horror and grief.
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Good old fashion' English films are always decent. War ones are even better.
Young Garrett22 March 2000
This movie taught me a lot about things in Warfare.

However when I first saw this movie (when I was 8 or 9) it was all just one great adventure. The movie's suspense is kept up high throughout and never do you feel safe, no matter how many British ships you have with you!

Old School British actors are fab, and just seem to act all jolly and "chappy" at the right times... fantastic stuff.
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SINK THE BISMARCK! (Lewis Gilbert, 1960) ***
Bunuel197628 June 2006
I had missed this on Italian TV a couple of times in the past and didn't purchase the DVD on account of its lack of substantial supplements. Thankfully, my local DVD outlet added it to his collection and I took this opportunity to finally catch up with yet another classic war film.

A meticulously-detailed reconstruction of the famed German battleship's destruction by the British navy (after this had suffered mightily at its hand), the film was purposely shot in black-and-white - when most war epics were being made in splashy color - in order to insert stock footage of the real battle...even if this was eventually stretched-out to fit the actual movie's widescreen ratio! For this same reason, however, the film tends to lack excitement (outside of its sea battles) given the relentless device of documenting the movements of the various ships on both fronts - which, eventually, becomes quite confusing to keep track of!

That said, the film makes the most of an impressive international cast (led by that ever-reliable personification of the 'stiff upper lip' school, Kenneth More, who has to sort out not only the Germans but a personal dilemma as well!) with enough familiar faces - even if, sometimes, one is hard-pressed to remember their name - to fill out the entire crew of the titular vessel itself!! Karel Stepanek is the German Admiral at the helm of the "Bismarck" blinded as much by the seeming indestructibility of his ship as the vainglorious promises of his beloved Fuehrer, while Edward R. Murrow (brought back to prominence by GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK [2005]) appears intermittently throughout - as himself - to report the latest developments of the seafaring 'chess game'.

The behind-the-scenes crew is, likewise, a who's who of British cinema's Golden Age, each offering his solidly professional contribution. Still, it's quite amazing that director Gilbert was up for the DGA award for his work on this film!
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"Sink The Bismarck" was true but not quite accurate.
paul__genet23 June 2003
"Sink The Bismarck" is an excellent motion picture depicting in historical fiction, a great naval battle, probably the last true naval battle between capital ships, shooting at each other within sight of each other - gun to gun. The British, during a very critical time and in a bad position, did sink the Bismarck, but not quite as this movie portrays.

The first engagement between the Royal Navy and the Bismarck was between HMS Hood, an enormous cruiser backed by the brand new Prince Of Wales, a King George Fifth class Battleship and the Bismarck accompanied by the heavy cruiser Prince Eugene. The HMS Hood engaged the Bismarck, the largest, most powerful with 15 inch guns built at that time. Within ten minutes, the Bismarck had literally "blown up" the Hood. Of the Hood's crew of 1400 men, there were only three survivors. It should be noted that while the British considered HMS Hood a major warship, she had been built in 1920 and modified many times before her engagement with the DKM Bismarck. The Hood was actually badly modified, for instance she was riding eight inches below her designed water level. After the Hood blew up, the HMS Prince Of Wales took several bad hits including a hit to her bridge and made smoke and disengaged.

The Bismarck was originally discovered and followed by the two British cruisers, the Sheffield and the Norfolk using a new, but not terribly accurate device, radar. The Bismarck started zig zaging as if avoiding submarines and in two hours stopped and continued in a straight line at which time the two British cruisers lost her. The Bismarck then dispatched the battle cruiser Prince Eugene to Breast and continued on into the Atlantic to sink British (and American) convoys.

Mostly, by deductive reason, the British found Bismarck again and this time brought the battleship HMS King George V and the Ark Royal, a new aircraft carrier equipped with old biplanes carrying one torpedo each (in addition to several more cruisers and destroyers) against the Bismarck in the Denmark Straights. A torpedo from a plane damaged Bismarck's rudder and Bismarck became a practically helpless target for the British capital ships. After a two hour battle between King George V, and her escort, the Bismarck was badly damaged with her bridge destroyed, including the captain and fleet commander having been killed. A junior officer ordered the Bismarck's crew to abandon ship.

It's only been during the last decade that the sunken Bismarck was found. The British warships did not in fact sink the Bismarck. She was scuttled to keep the British from capturing her and using her against her builders and owners, Germany. The proof of the scuttling was found in scanning Bismarck's hull which was still completely intact. The Bismarck still technically belongs to Germany. Therefore, her location has not been specifically revealed to the general public and Germany has so far decided to allow her to remain a grave for those of the crew of the Bismarck who were lost. Nevertheless, the British did "Sink The Bismarck."

Though in black and white, this is a great war movie and does more of less accurately chronicle the last great battle between capital ships of the line, battleships which fought it out gun to gun.

I highly recommend the motion picture.
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