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The Riddle of the Sands (1979)

In 1901, two British yachtsmen visiting Germany's Frisian Islands accidentally discover a German plot to invade England.


Tony Maylam


Tony Maylam (screenplay), John Bailey (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Michael York ... Carruthers
Jenny Agutter ... Clara
Simon MacCorkindale ... Davies
Alan Badel ... Dollmann
Jürgen Andersen Jürgen Andersen ... Von Brüning (as Jurgen Andersen)
Michael Sheard ... Böhme
Hans Meyer ... Grimm
Wolf Kahler ... Kaiser, Wilhelm II
Olga Lowe Olga Lowe ... Frau Dollmann
Ronald Markham Ronald Markham ... Withers


In the early years of the 20th Century, two British yachtsmen (Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale) stumble upon a German plot to invade the east coast of England in a flotilla of specially designed barges. They set out to thwart this terrible scheme, but must outwit not only the cream of the German Navy, but the feared Kaiser Wilhelm himself. Written by Jonathon Dabell <J.D.@pixie.ntu.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Men can disappear without a trace...and their secrets with them. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The film was made and released about seventy-six years after its source novel "The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service" by Erskine Childers had been first published in 1903. See more »


When Clara visits just after the attempted ramming, she is wearing a hat and coat. When she leaves and rows away, she is just wearing a dress without the coat and hat. She is clearly seen throwing the coat into the boat before rowing away. See more »


Davies: Do you realize that England has not defenses at all facing Germany? No North Sea fleet? And all her naval bases are in the south: Portsmouth, Chatham.
Carruthers: Historical accident.
Davies: Oh quite! But now it's not France whom we have to guard against. Germany is growing stronger every single day, and very soon, her navy will rival ours.
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Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: Frisian Islands, Germany 1901 See more »


Version of The Riddle of the Sands (1987) See more »

User Reviews

Not a bad effort
5 March 2005 | by andy-782See all my reviews

If you've read the book you'll realise that it couldn't be made into a 90 minute or so film. Bits have to be cut and some scenes adapted so that the film contains a flowing understandable narrative. Often this is not particularly successful. Riddle of the Sands suffers to some extent in this way. Nevertheless this is a pretty good attempt at transferring the book to film. Michael Yorke and Simon McCorkindale are right for the parts they play. Neither are my favourite actors but I don't think many others would have portrayed the characters, warts and all, as realistically. The supporting cast are where the real strength of the film lies. Hans Meyer as Grimm is wonderfully sinister, as indeed is Michael Sheard as Boehme. Alan Badel was one of the best actors ever and his portrayal of Dollman is flawless. Jenny Agutter as Clara also shines. The music by Howard Blake deserves mention because the soundtrack is so important when setting the mood and, besides, the recurrent theme is a very nice piece of music. This is a slow-paced film but is nonetheless a powerful and well told story. If you want fast action and explosions everywhere give it a miss and head for some standard Hollywood identikit action film. If you want a well made story set in beautiful surroundings with good understated performances and a decent soundtrack try and hunt down a copy of the video or catch it on one of its rare TV showings.

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English | German

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Riddle of the Sands See more »

Filming Locations:

Holland See more »


Box Office


GBP1,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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