The Battle of the River Plate Review

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In the early years of WWII, the Royal Navy struggled to keep British supply routes clear. This film tells the true story of the hunt for one of their biggest threats, the German warship Graf Spee.


While it is a cut above most stiff-upper-lip British 50s war pictures, this account of the scuttling off Montevideo of the German warship Graf Spee in the early days of WWII hardly represents the finest hour for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, although it’s certainly a useful gap-filling item if you’ve been collecting their works as they come out on video. Peter Finch is the decent enemy, disgusted by the Nazis, while John Gregson and Anthony Quayle are the Brits who recognise Finch’s old school values but still want to sink him. Connoisseurs of British character playing will spot Bernard Lee, Patrick MacNee, Christopher Lee (speaking Spanish), Roger Delgado, Douglas Wilmer, Michael Goodliffe and Andrew Cruiskshank. However, despite all the tight-lipped heroism, it is notable that most of the film consists of footage of large grey battleships just sitting there, and that the only woman in the cast is just barely visible in a dockfront bar.

Not Powell and Emeric's greatest work, but still a cut above many '50s war movies.