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Hello Chit Chat Film Club students, here is your Chit Chat Film Club Film Czar, ready to discuss this week's Chit Chat Film Club Film Of The Week - We Dive At Dawn.
Spoilers, spoilers, you know there must be spoilers at sea.
One of my favourite British war films, I've watched this many times, along with A Canterbury Tale, Went The Day Well?, Way To The Stars and Ice Cold In Alex (which last two also star John Mills). There's so much to enjoy in this picture, it's easy to forget it was released in 1943, during the war, and must have had a direct impact of the families of sailors and those missing their family.
For it starts with a close look at the personal lives of the submarine crew, as they return to base for seven days leave after fruitless hunting. And so we get a superb piece of ensemble playing, each crewman being recognised, and the pecking order established, and their interests and characters all on display. The early part centres on two men, Corrigan, about to be married to the Coxwain's sister but with terrible cold feet, and Hobson, a bitter man who's marriage is ending. The interplay between all the crew, and their women on shore, is just fantastic, short, snappy, witty, but ripe with tension.
We also see the Captain's other responsibilities, managing his crew and their problems. I thought the early scene between Capt Taylor and Hobson was very well handled, and sets up the later scene when Hobson volunteers. Only the Captain would know the significance of Hobson's words.
Returned to boat early (It's a recall! At least, it sounds like one.), they leave behind the broken threads and head back to sea, hunting the German battleship Brandenburg. And so the next part kicks in. The excellent story-telling, the small scenes building to the chase, the plot points laid down coming to play. And it's a vicious film. The German airman beating his fellow to death, the final dramatic attack and depth charges and then the action in the Danish port.
And here's the remarkable part, for Hobson, played superbly by Eric Portman (who gets top billing in the titles above John Mills), goes ashore in one of the airmen's uniform, bluffs his way, and then swiftly, brutally, kills two men, the first with a dagger, the next with his hands and then sets up a machine gun to defend the attack. "There's nobody to cry for me, sir.". With nothing to live for, is he ready for death?
But there are. Back home, on hearing the Sea Tiger's loss, we get a brief glimpse of the friends and families. Ethel picks up the engagement ring to wear again. Alice Hobson watches her sleeping boy.
It's an astonishingly brutal film. For a war-time piece of propaganda, it's pretty rough. I don't think you'd see such direct violence in a British picture until the 1970s. It's a jolly good flag-waver of course. They return home the heroes, and their women are on the quay-side waiting. The story arc is played out to a very satisfying conclusion. But for a few minutes, we're taken to the hard edge, as hard as they could manage in 1943 film.
When I lent this film to my American friend Mason to watch, he returned it, baffled. I couldn't understand about 30% of what they said, he remarked. I've thought about that, and to be honest, there are a few sentences slip by me, accents too thick for my ear even. But the tightness of the crew, the time for running jokes, the naval chatter and procedure, the very close sets and just the ruddy good action story, all make this a top picture.
And it's a Gainsborough film, the same as The Wicked Lady.
Keep the confounded boat level Number One, she's bouncing about like a pea in a blasted drum.
Edit : Now I was thinking that Corrigan looked familiar. He was played by Niall MacGinnis, who was also in 49th Parallel, was the villain in Night Of The Demon, and was Zeus in Jason & The Argonauts.
- Last edited Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:26 am (Total Number of Edits: 2)
- Posted Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:07 am