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The Battle of the River Plate - Movie of the Month for April 2024


Admiral_Karasu

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Movie of the Month for April 2024

The Battle of the River Plate

Try having the movie watched by the following weekend or so, that's SAT/SUN April 6 to 7.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8bISpsdoZM

Note! Recommended that you use the link to watch the movie in an adjacent tab or new window for ease of reference.

 

The Battle of the River Plate (movie) a.k.a. Pursuit of the Graf Spee on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_the_River_Plate_(film)

And on IMDB:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048990/

 

Spoiler Warning!

If you have no clue about the movie previously, watch the movie first before going into the discussion.

General discussion of the movie to follow below. Remember that if you want to discuss technical and/or historical aspects, request the club leader to set up an accompanying thread for any such discussion. (I've actually set up two such threads in advance. One for tactical discussions, another for ships and armament.)

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The Internet and YouTube have lots of material on the battle of the River Plate and Graf Spee. Here's just two clips for those that some bonus content. The Graf Spee in Montevideo, and a minute-by-minute animation of the battle (which I moved to the battle tactics discussion).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA2Fv4SHzVw

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@iDuckman I noticed too that in the movie Dove and Langsdorff hit it off really well considering the circumstances. Both would have been experienced seamen so maybe there's some feeling of kinship due to that even though Langsdorff basically had just sunk Dove's ship, in Portuguese territorial waters no less. The Germans on Graf Spee also treated their prisoners well enough and were very professional about it.

When making this movie they also definitely would have known what happened on the Graf Spee because Dove was there both amidst the real events and in this movie as well.

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9 hours ago, iDuckman said:

Too much of a downer, I suppose.

 

Apparently Langsdorff planned to go down with his ship but was persuaded by his crew not to. Nonetheless, after having sorted out things for his crew in Argentina, he decided to atone for his feeling of guilt by committing suicide. It's a difficult call to judge him either way, as no one knows how the second battle might have played out. The only thing that is certain is that a lot more men would have died.

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When it comes to movies, I'm typically fond of checking up things about them, details such as filming locations and backgrounds of the actors. This is a British movie production so, rather unsurprisingly, I think the cast is made up of British actors.

The three top billed actors are John Gregson, Anthony Quayle, and Peter Finch. Now, maybe the British audiences are more familiar with Gregson (who played the captain of the Exeter) but his name doesn't ring any bells for me, either before the salvo or otherwise. Anthony Quayle is the one who's the most familiar of the tree to me. Finch sort of in between I'd say. All three of them (and many others in the cast) were in service during WW2, Gregson in the Royal Navy.

While not top billed, the central character of the film is the captain of the Africa Shell, Patrick Dove, played by Bernard Lee (everyone knows him, right?). The first German officer we see is played by the Oscar winning director John Schlesinger. Other names I can recognize are Patrick Macnee, Roger Delgago, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Kemp and Donald Moffat. Patrick Dove is also credited with a minor role as Captain Streonshalh. His prior acting experience was in 1940, in the movie 'For Freedom' in which he played captain Patrick G. G. Dove (himself, that is). That movie was a dramatization of the events leading to the war, extending to the raiding action of the Graf Spee.

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I noticed the ships were freshly painted in the movie.  Did any of these ships participate in the Suez Canal Crises the same year of the movie?

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10 minutes ago, Justin_Simpleton said:

I noticed the ships were freshly painted in the movie.  Did any of these ships participate in the Suez Canal Crises the same year of the movie?

An interesting question. Wikipedia names several ships that were there, but not necessarily all of them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Suez_Crisis

USS Salem was in the area, though, and HMS Birmingham (played the Graf Spee in the refueling scene and in the funeral scene) was also in the Mediterranean so potentially could have been involved.

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21 hours ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

maybe there's some feeling of kinship due to that even though Langsdorff basically had just sunk Dove's ship

Apparently they did get along just swell, with Captain Dove writing a book about the episode and speaking warmly of Langsdorff: 'I Was Graf Spee's Prisoner'. I've searched the net hoping that someone might have it, but no joy. Book cover, from Amazon.de:

image.png.768199649052151561610aef0c56e9d1.png

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23 minutes ago, I_cant_Swim_ said:

Apparently they did get along just swell, with Captain Dove writing a book about the episode and speaking warmly of Langsdorff: 'I Was Graf Spee's Prisoner'. I've searched the net hoping that someone might have it, but no joy. Book cover, from Amazon.de:

image.png.768199649052151561610aef0c56e9d1.png

 

Some excerpts from the book can be seen here:

https://maritimequest.com/freighters/02_pages/a/africa_shell_1938_related_material.htm

 

Somewhat related, this is the diary of a captain who was held prisoner on the Altmark.

https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_mariner/vol11/nm_11_1_39to57.pdf

 

Some short snippets from accounts of various people.

https://www.tracesofwar.com/thewarillustrated/17/i-was-there-we-were-prisoners-on-the-graf-spee.asp

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8 hours ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

When it comes to movies, I'm typically fond of checking up things about them, details such as filming locations and backgrounds of the actors. This is a British movie production so, rather unsurprisingly, I think the cast is made up of British actors.

The three top billed actors are John Gregson, Anthony Quayle, and Peter Finch. Now, maybe the British audiences are more familiar with Gregson (who played the captain of the Exeter) but his name doesn't ring any bells for me, either before the salvo or otherwise. Anthony Quayle is the one who's the most familiar of the tree to me. Finch sort of in between I'd say. All three of them (and many others in the cast) were in service during WW2, Gregson in the Royal Navy.

While not top billed, the central character of the film is the captain of the Africa Shell, Patrick Dove, played by Bernard Lee (everyone knows him, right?). The first German officer we see is played by the Oscar winning director John Schlesinger. Other names I can recognize are Patrick Macnee, Roger Delgago, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Kemp and Donald Moffat. Patrick Dove is also credited with a minor role as Captain Streonshalh. His prior acting experience was in 1940, in the movie 'For Freedom' in which he played captain Patrick G. G. Dove (himself, that is). That movie was a dramatization of the events leading to the war, extending to the raiding action of the Graf Spee.

Anthony Quayle was one of the bridge officers.  A distinctive and familiar face.
Peter Finch I know, but I couldn't recognize him as Langsdorff. 
Bernard Lee, of course, is King Theoden.
Patrick McNee is Steed from The Avengers. 
Roger Delgado was the first Master in Doctor Who, and a great friend of Jon Pertwee who was supposed to be on Hood's last mission. 
Christopher Lee has been in everything, but I don't recall recognizing him in this film.  The bar owner maybe?
I know the name Donald Moffat but can't place him.
And John Schlesinger, you say?  Cool.

That's a damn strong cast.

 

Trivia time:  What film was Patrick Stewart's film debut?

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10 hours ago, iDuckman said:

Anthony Quayle was one of the bridge officers.  A distinctive and familiar face.
Peter Finch I know, but I couldn't recognize him as Langsdorff. 
Bernard Lee, of course, is King Theoden.
Patrick McNee is Steed from The Avengers. 
Roger Delgado was the first Master in Doctor Who, and a great friend of Jon Pertwee who was supposed to be on Hood's last mission. 
Christopher Lee has been in everything, but I don't recall recognizing him in this film.  The bar owner maybe?
I know the name Donald Moffat but can't place him.
And John Schlesinger, you say?  Cool.

That's a damn strong cast.

 

Trivia time:  What film was Patrick Stewart's film debut?

Yes, Anthony Quayle played Commodore Henry Harwood and was on the bridge of the Ajax.

Christopher Lee was indeed the bar owner who kept ranting in Spanish.

Donald Moffat, can't blame you for instantly placing him, but he's played US Presidents in two films (pretty good for an English actor) and Garry in the Thing.

But Bernard Lee..... King Theoden?

image.png.78c5a3f588d437f40cb3ec02435bda1e.png

As for Patrick Stewart... can't readily remember. The earliest I've seen him was on TV, on Claudius. He's likely been in a number of Shakespeare productions too, but when would his earliest movie have been. Sometime in the sixties, likely, but couldn't know without popping over to IMDB for a quick look...

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7 hours ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

As for Patrick Stewart... can't readily remember. The earliest I've seen him was on TV, on Claudius. He's likely been in a number of Shakespeare productions too, but when would his earliest movie have been. Sometime in the sixties, likely, but couldn't know without popping over to IMDB for a quick look...

Ah, Sejanus.  He was obviously an established actor at that point.  I, Claudius perhaps my all-time favorite Masterpiece Theater.  The books I, Claudius and Claudius the God are even better.

Debut was in the very underappreciated film Excalibur.  Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nichol Williamson.  Also the film debut for Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne.
Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh

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5 minutes ago, iDuckman said:

Ah, Sejanus.  He was obviously an established actor at that point.  I, Claudius perhaps my all-time favorite Masterpiece Theater.  The books I, Claudius and Claudius the God are even better.

Debut was in the very underappreciated film Excalibur.  Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nichol Williamson.  Also the film debut for Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne.
Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh

Ah... Excalibur. IIRC, that's early 80s isn't it?

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1981, I think.  Yep, '81.   I've seen it 3-4 times and would watch it again.  There's even a good documentary on the making of.  It was Boorman's passion project and made on a very small budget.

The Making of Excalibur: Myth Into Movie
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8 hours ago, Admiral_Karasu said:

Ah... Excalibur. IIRC, that's early 80s isn't it?

 

8 hours ago, iDuckman said:

1981, I think.  Yep, '81.   I've seen it 3-4 times and would watch it again.  There's even a good documentary on the making of.  It was Boorman's passion project and made on a very small budget.

The Making of Excalibur: Myth Into Movie

Correct, 1981

Excalibur  1981  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082348/
 

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I hope everyone's found the time to watch the Battle of the River Plate.

Did you spontaneously spot any glaring inaccuracies, goofs, or some other weird things when watching the movie. I myself first noticed how odd it was to see a bearded Langsdorff, pretty much as puzzled as when I spotted a beardless Lord Pirrie (yes, it's April again) though that's another story and another movie (actually a TV series). Later on Langsdorff appeared clean shaven as we've seen him photographs as well. Did he let his beard grow somewhat at sea in the manner akin to that of U-boat officers and men, or was it some fashion statement?

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