Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the "rice-bowl" system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat's presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission.Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
This movie marked the first time that "Twentieth Century Fox" switched from their own CinemaScope process to Panavision, though earlier in the decade the studio had produced "Cleopatra" (1963) in Todd-AO 65mm widescreen. See more »
When Holman reports aboard San Pablo, he salutes twice, once ostensibly for the National Ensign and once to the Officer of the Deck. As it is after dark, the Ensign is not flying and there is no saluting it. See more »
There is a credit for 'Diversions by Irving Schwartz' in tribute to a mysterious, unknown correspondent whose letters proved a morale booster to cast and crew during trying location work in Hong Kong and Taiwan. See more »
The original "roadshow" version ran 196 minutes; later cut to its present length (182 minutes) for its general release. The roadshow version was included in a 2007 special edition DVD release, which provided the first viewing of this version since the original 1966 release. See more »
Steve McQueen remains the focal point in ambitious, sometimes rambling film...
STEVE McQUEEN makes a completely believable machinist's mate aboard a U.S. Navy gunboat who finds himself enmeshed in the politics of unrest that existed in 1926 China during the period of the Boxer Rebellion. It's probably one of the finest roles of his career--honest, vexating, and completely true to the emotions of his character whose only real concern is taking care of his engines.
There are plenty of other good performances. RICHARD CRENNA is the Captain, uncertain of just how the U.S./Chinese friction should be solved, and CANDACE BERGEN is lovely as a missionary who has a tender romance with McQueen.
The exotic locales (it was filmed mostly in Taiwan), the lush background score by Jerry Goldsmith, and the confrontation between the U.S. Navy and the Chinese authorities which supplies the necessary suspense before an action-filled climax, all serve to make THE SAND PEBBLES a fascinating look at a period in history that is seldom explored. And, of course, it raises questions as to our role in imperialism and our interaction with the culture of foreign countries that make the film relevant today.
It's a long film, rather uneven in places, but directed with rare sensitivity by Robert Wise and richly detailed period atmosphere.
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