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The Battle of River Plate Review

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Set in World War II this centres around the entrapment of the German battleship Graf Spree in the Montevideo harbour and its subsequent scuttling. It's a standard British war movie, you know the Brits will win in the end.

★★★★★

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. Conoisseurs 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.

Powell and Pressberger made their name with British war movies like this so quite how they got it so wrong remains a mystery. It's not terrible but in filming it in documentary style it has meant that actors have been pushed to the side and have been wasted in bit parts.

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