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The Cruel Sea

The Cruel Sea“Based on Nicholas Monsarrat’s novel
  of the same name, the film The Cruel Sea
  paints a graphic picture of the dangers,
  challenges and torments facing the
  inexperienced crew of the convoy escort
  vessel Compass Rose during the Battle
  of the Atlantic...

GIVEN THE TASK OF TAKING CHARGE of the convoy escort vessel Compass Rose during the Second World War with a crew barely out of Civvy Street, former merchant seaman Ericson (Jack Hawkins) has his work cut out for him.

It is 1940 and the sea is a dangerous place, with the menacing German U-boats not the only enemy the Compass Rose will have to brave. The vast Atlantic itself, with unsettling and unpredictable storms, can also turn against the unwary.

As a convoy escort vessel, Compass Rose has the job of protecting convoys of ships as well as seeking out and destroying U-boats. Ericson is up to the task, but his truly 'motley' crew is inexperienced and most have never even been to sea.

As the only professional seaman amongst the officers, Ericson finds the crew has only had a few weeks' basic training. He quickly comes head-to-head with the pompous, vulgar, aggressive and overbearing 1st Lieutenant Bennett (Stanley Baker), whose credentials are not what they appear to be.

Other officers include the enthusiastic but unworldly former bank worker Gordon Ferraby (John Stratton), former freelance journalist Keith Lockhart (Donald Sinden) and former barrister John Morell (Denholm Elliott), whose wife Elaine (Moira Lister) is a showgirl and seems more interested in her career than her husband.

At times, Compass Rose will find herself under attack, rescuing survivors at sea and experiencing moments when the slightest noise could spell disaster. The crew must learn to live with each other, working as a team, until the occasional blessing of a refit means that shore leave is granted.

In the summer of 1941, Lockhart is confirmed as the new Number One, and a new officer, Baker (John Warner) joins the ship. Facing constant danger from all sides, the men learn how to keep watch, how to go without sleep, how to bury the dead and how to die without wasting anybody's time.

Romance and tragedy can sometimes go hand-in-hand. While Bob Tallow (Bruce Seton) is on leave with his friend Jim Watts (Liam Redmont), he introduces Jim to his sister Gladys (Megs Jenkins), but will there be a happy ending? And later, when Lockhart meets the lovely wren Julie Hallam (Virginia McKenna), can they each work around their beliefs to think of a future together?

With every ill being blamed on the 'bloody' war, Ericson is haunted by difficult decisions he has had to make in order to preserve the safety of his crew, the convoy and the Compass Rose. The Cruel Sea is a terrific, tense and poignant classic film highlighting the harsh and dangerous realities of life at sea during the Second World War, sometimes under the most appalling conditions.

Nicholas Monserrat's The Cruel Sea was a novel that unflinchingly portrayed life at sea on a convoy escort vessel. A tremendous success, the novel had already sold over four million copies in just two years when Ealing decided to make the film.

Shot on board an actual Royal Navy corvette, The Cruel Sea explores the bonds that form between the sailors, the daily pressures they face and their epic struggle to defeat the enemy which is at times frightening and nerve-wracking.

With a magnificent cast that includes Jack Hawkins, Sir Donald Sinden, Denholm Elliott and Stanley Baker, The Cruel Sea was nominated for a BAFTA for Best British Film and is a gripping insight into the lives of unsung heroes at sea during the Second World War, along with the agonizing decisions and incredible dangers they faced daily. Who will survive The Cruel Sea?

A Michael Balcon Production, The Cruel Sea also features: Meredith Edwards as Yeoman Wells; June Thorburn as Doris Ferraby; Sam Kydd as Carslake; and Andrew Cruickshank as Scott Brown. Screenplay is by Eric Ambler; Director of Photography is Gordon Dines, ARPS; Technical Advisers are: Captain J E Broome, DSC RN, Retired and Commander R S Abram DSC RN (Retired); Music, played by the Philharmonia Orchestra Conducted by Ernest Irving, is by Alan Rawsthorne; Produced by Leslie Norman; and Directed by Charles Frend.

Filmed in 1953, The Cruel Sea has now been digitally restored and is released on Blu-ray for the first time on 13 June 2011.

Blu-ray Technical Specifications: Year: 1953 | Certificate: TBC | B&W PAL | Catalogue No: OPTBD0628 | RRP: TBC.

Extras: Interview with Donald Sinden; Stills Gallery.

"The Cruel Sea is a terrific, tense and poignant classic film highlighting the harsh and dangerous realities of life at sea during the Second World War"
Maggie Woods, MotorBar