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Hell Boats (1970)

PG-13 | | Drama, War | 20 March 1970 (Denmark)
An American commander, serving under the British Royal Navy in 1942, is assigned to blockade the island of Malta and told to formulate a plan to destroy the Nazi arsenal in Sicily.


Paul Wendkos


Anthony Spinner (screenplay), Donald Ford (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Franciscus ... Lt. Comdr. Jeffords, R.N.V.R.
Elizabeth Shepherd ... Alison
Ronald Allen ... Comdr. Ashurst, R.N.
Reuven Bar-Yotam ... C.P.O. Yacov (as Reuven Bar Yotam)
Mark Hawkins Mark Hawkins ... Lieut. Barlow, R.N.
Magda Konopka ... Luciana
Drewe Henley ... Sub. Lt. Johnson, R.N.
Inigo Jackson Inigo Jackson ... C.P.O. Stanhope
Takis Emmanuel ... Salvatore
Philip Madoc ... 'E' Boat Captain
John G. Heller ... Rheinhardt
David Savile David Savile ... Lieut. Wallace, R.N.
Sean Barrett Sean Barrett ... Sub. Lt. Hendrickson, R.N.V.R.
Bernard Davies Bernard Davies ... Cramer
Moultrie Kelsall ... Vice Admiral Ashurst


An American commander, serving under the British Royal Navy in 1942, is assigned to blockade the island of Malta and told to formulate a plan to destroy the Nazi arsenal in Sicily.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Their job: HIT IT HEAD-ON! Their target: HELL-ON-EARTH!


Drama | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for war violence and brief nudity | See all certifications »






Release Date:

20 March 1970 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

Baskin See more »

Filming Locations:

Fort Mangela, Malta See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Moultrie Kelsall replaced Ronald Adam. See more »


In the opening battle scene, the colliding boats explode before they hit each other. See more »

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User Reviews

Thrilling wartime film with James Franciscus commanding a suicide mission against a Nazi arsenal in Sicily
30 June 2017 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Passable warlike movie with two brave officers : James Franciscus/Jeffords and Ronald Allen/Ashurst who must lead a mission in a risked attack on Sicily coast , as well as a loving triangle takes place between Jeffords and Alison -Elizabeth Shepherd- , Comdr. Ashurst's wife . This exciting film contains cold war heroics , non stop excitement , and full of tension and intrigue . It starts in English Channel 1942 where a British Convoy is sailing and the German Nazis are deployed in the Mediterranean theater in WWII . An American Lt. Comdr. Jeffords , R.N.V.R. (James Franciscus) , serving under the British Royal Navy in 1942 , is assigned along with Comdr. Ashurst, R.N. (Ronald Allen) to blockade the island of Malta and told to formulate a plan to destroy the Nazi arsenal in Sicily . Their job : hit it head-on , their target hell-one-earth ¡ . As they have to destroy the "glider bombs" there to be used against Allied shipping , as the Nazis have such destructive weapons , the world's first smart bombs . At the end happens the British attack on the heavily defended dry dock at Sicily in German-occupied Italy during the Second World War .

James Franciscus and Ronald Allen play WWII commando leaders who lead a group of soldiers on a suicide mission to destroy a Nazi naval arsenal on the Sicilian coast by means of dead ships turned into a live bombs . As the valiant soldiers sailed it down the throat of the enemy . They carry out their risked assignment while keeping their activities hidden from outsiders and German boats and airplanes . The movie title "hell boat" comes from a term used by the Nazis for their motor torpedo E-boat . At the ending , they arrive in the enemy port , being a strongly defended position and commanded by stiff Nazi officers . The Germans had a number of reinforced submarines , planes and boats , but the target of the actual attack was the dry dock facilities and the bomb-shelters . The yarn utilizes an often-used plot line of the war movie genre which has two brave soldiers in love with the same woman , such as : ¨Day-D the sixth of June¨(1956) by Henry Koster , ¨Kings go forth¨(1958) by Delmer Daves , ¨Mosquito Squadron¨ by Boris Sagal and ¨633 Squadron¨ by Walter Grauman , among others . The movie actually comes to life by decently realized action shots , they were fairly well-staged ; however , it also contains some stock-shot footage . The intriguing premise gets to satisfy completely , though it was reminiscent of other wartime films by that time , as it has breathtaking moments , including an explosive climax with bombs , rockets and ammo exploding in the depot . It mixes a twisted tale with intrigue , noisy action , bombings , explosion and a triangular love story . It results to be a sustained and predictable story , although partially based on true deeds , upon the Operation Ruthless planned by Ian Fleming . Acceptable acting from James Franciscus and Ronald Allen as two commanders who take on a strong battle of wits , as for the dangerous operation as a woman . The film progresses with Lt. Comdr. Jeffords/James Franciscus training the crews of the ships , even though the crew lacks faith in his command abilities and he must overcome tensions with his antagonist Comdr. Ashurst/Ronald Allen . The highlights of the movie are the violent as well as exciting fights of the crews against Nazis , who successfully fend off an final attack at Sicily port . And moving scenes at the final when the ships penetrate the highly armored stronghold , nets in the port , and explosives blow up under the dry dock . It includes stock WWII , especially when show up some airplanes , and dog-fighting . Atmospheric cinematography by Paul Beeson , Walt Disney's usual cameraman , though an alright remastering is necessary . Being filmed on location , it was shot entirely on location in Malta including the 'Sicily' scenes . Good and enjoyable musical score by Frank Cordell .

The film was financed by Oakmont production , a company exclusively dedicated to warfare films (Submarine X1 , Hell boats , Mosquito Squadron , Thousand plane raid , Last escape) which was a production arm of Walter Mirisch Films. The motion picture was compellingly produced by Lewis J. Rachmil and professionally realized by Paul Wendkos who was imported from Hollywood to helm this English Wartime movie , displaying enough spectacular images to keep things interesting . Apparently , director worked on the film's original screen story with writers Anthony Spinner , Donald Ford , Derek Ford , being based on a story written by S.S. Schweitzer , but Wendkos is uncredited for such . Wendkos whose works remain undervalued in USA directed various TV series and some films as ¨Guns of the Magnificent Seven¨ , ¨Cannon for Cordoba¨, ¨Gidget¨, ¨The Flight¨, ¨The legend of Lizzie Borden¨ and ¨Attack on the Iron Coast¨

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