on Nicholas Monsarrats 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
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
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
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