January 7, 2024

THE SEA SHALL NOT HAVE THEM & ALBERT R.N.: Two Lesser-Known British War Films

1953-1954 / 181 min (2 movies)
Review by Mr. Paws😽

Two British World War II dramas by director Lewis Gilbert (who did quite a few of these things back in the day) are paired for this double feature. Neither of them stand out as exemplary, but are solidly entertaining films with good ensemble casts.

In 1954’s, The Sea Shall Not Have Them, a British plane goes down in the North Sea. The crew and Air Commodore Waltby (Michael Redgrave) ditch the plane in a liferaft. Finding them is crucial because Waltby possesses secret German rocket plans. So the search is on, mostly by Air Sea Rescue 2561, commanded by Officer Treherne (Anthony Steel). The narrative continuously switches back and forth between the air crew’s effort to stay alive and complications on-board 2561, but is most interesting when it focuses on the latter, particularly the conflicts and pitfalls.

"We don't talk anymore."
Fans of Stalag 17 might appreciate 1953’s Albert R.N, a POW drama which at-times achieves a similar tone. This one focuses on an eclectic batch of captured allies in a German prison camp. Led by Captain Maddox (Jack Warner), they regularly try - and fail - to escape, at least until Lt. Ainsworth (Anthony Steel) builds a lifelike dummy (dubbed Albert), which will allow men to escape, one at a time, without throwing off the prisoner count. More character driven than the first film, Albert R.N. is (by turns) funny, suspenseful and occasionally tragic, with a truly hateful antagonist in Schultz (Anton Diffring), a sadistic prison guard.

Gilbert directs both with the workmanlike skill that served him well throughout a five decade career. Like most of his films that don’t feature British secret agents, neither had much of an impact on this side of the pond and remain fairly obscure, but are certainly worth checking out. On an amusing sidenote…the PR folks at Cohen Media must have also noticed the similarities between Albert R.N. and Stalag 17, since the press release & back cover synopsis actually summarizes the latter! How did nobody catch that?



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