I watched this film from 1927, directed by Walter Summers, for free, on Armistice Day, courtesy of the BFI Player, and we’re in ‘Battle of the River Plate’ territory, with dramatic reconstructions of the battles which involved the Graf Spee, the Good Hope, and the Glasgow, the Invincible, and the Inflexible.
This film’s score (contemporary, but sympathetic to the genre, by Simon Dobson) and cinematography (by Jack Parker and Stanley Rodwell) lend a great beauty to the sea battles, and some tableaux resemble classical paintings of epic fights and their aftermath. But it is in the minutiae of life, of sumptuous dinners, of chats between the men, of behind closed doors doubts, of a dog dancing around waiting for its walk, which makes this film something rather different.
There’s a sense of realism here, and of camaraderie between men and officers on board ship. It’s also an assured film back on land, with recognisable locations like Tower Bridge bringing us into the action rather than keeping us at arm’s length.
This new restoration might put the film back in the list of great war pictures, certainly those made in Britain, and it was a worthy choice for a gala performance at the recent London Film Festival.