The Battle Of River Plate - Ten days before World War II Germany's crack battleship Admiral Graf Spee sails with orders to carry out action against Allied merchant shipping in the South Atlantic. Captained by Hans Langsdorff (Peter Finch) Graf Spee with her superior speed sinks ship after ship. Meanwhile the net is tightening round the German Killer. Outwitted by British Intelligence the Germans are convinced Graf Spee is trapped by a massive naval force. The captain evacuates his men and as a succession of explosions light the night Graf Spee becomes a burning inferno Langsdorff has scuttled the pride of the German fleet in the belief that he was facing impossible odds. The killer of the Atlantic would strike no more. In Which We Serve - The story of the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Torrin and those that serve in her. In the Battle of Crete she is dive-bombed while streaming at thirty knots and goes down fighting. We see through the memories of her survivors the ordeals achievements and gallantry of HMS Torrin from her commissioning until she sinks in her last battle. We Dive At Dawn - When all leave is cancelled for the crew of the British submarine Sea Tiger the men know they are in for an important mission. Their target: the German warship Brandenburg located in the Baltic and surrounded by mines and escorting destroyers. Picking up three German airmen who have been shot down they learn the exact position of the Brandenburg and head for it. Now they must face the mines the destroyers and perhaps the biggest threat of all - the Brandenburg's own deadly torpedoes!
We Dive at Dawn (1943) tells of the encounter between a British submarine and a German warship in the Baltic Sea. John Mills gives a dependable performance as the submarine commander, with Eric Portman the pick of a strong supporting cast. Director Anthony Asquith finds the balance between action sequences and "in situ" dialogue, and there's an evocative score from Louis Levy. The film has long been underrated and deserves reappraisal.--Richard Whitehouse
A World War 2 drama that highlights the characters (all aged only between 19 and 23 years) as much as the actual events. The British submarine Sea Tiger's crew is looking forward to a long shore-leave after months at sea. This is cut short when they are ordered to pursue and sink the German battleship Brandenburg. The crew's sub-Commander (John Mills) struggles to fulfil the mission despite discovering that the battleship is heavily defended. Along the way Sea Tiger encounters many obstacles and once the crew has attempted to sink the battleship they have to escape knowing that they are about to run out of fuel.
Two examples of British Second World War films, We Dive at Dawn (1943) and Reach for the Sky (1956), are here stylishly packaged as a World War II Classics pack. We Dive at Dawn tells of the encounter between a British submarine and a German warship in the Baltic Sea. John Mills gives a dependable performance as the submarine commander, with Eric Portman the pick of a strong supporting cast. Director Anthony Asquith finds the balance between action sequences and "in situ" dialogue, and there's an evocative score from Louis Levy. The movie was an underrated film that deserves reappraisal, whereas Reach for the Sky (1956) was a box-office hit and remains a fondly regarded classic. Kenneth More is ideally cast as Douglas Bader, the gifted pilot who loses both legs in a pre-war air crash, only to play a major role in the Battle of Britain, rise to the rank of Group Captain and become a war hero. Based on Paul Brickhill's biography, this is an "official" history maybe, but Lewis Gilbert's screenplay and direction are historically accurate and informed by that very British humour of which More was a natural. The film is graced by a decent supporting cast, and a typically "widescreen" score from John Addison. On the DVD: The black and white prints look and sound excellent. Whereas We Dive at Dawn has 4:3 video aspect ratio, 15 chapter points and no subtitles, the later Reach for the Sky has vivid 16:9 anamorphic reproduction, 20 chapter points, subtitles and detailed biographies of More, Gilbert and Barder. The original theatrical trailer is included, but it would also have made sense to include an interview or documentary footage of Bader himself. Even so, this is an excellent starting-point for investigating a key area of British cinema.--Richard Whitehouse
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