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  Convoy North Sea High Risk
Year: 1940
Director: Pen Tennyson
Stars: Clive Brook, John Clements, Edward Chapman, Judy Campbell, Penelope Dudley-Ward, Edward Rigby, Charles Williams, Edward Jeayes, Michael Wilding, Harold Warrender, David Hutcheson, George Carney, Al Millen, Charles Farrell, John Laurie
Genre: WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: The men of this British warship are champing at the bit to secure shore leave, but the top brass are keen to keep them on thanks to the Second World War having gotten underway in the past year, and the Nazi ships and submarines threatening many ships in the North Sea and Atlantic. This vessel is assigned to the North Sea and ordered to protect a convoy of ships heading from Norway to Britain, but there are complications, a personal one being the presence of a new Lieutenant on board, David Cranford (John Clements). What's the problem? He purportedly had an affair with the wife of the Captain, Armitage (Clive Brook), and she, Lucy (Judy Campbell) is on the convoy from out of Scandinavia, so naturally there is some bad blood between them. Can they put the past behind them?

With the fate of the world in their hands, you had better believe they can, in this wartime flagwaver from director Pen Tennyson, great-grandson of the celebrated poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. If you are wondering why you might not have heard more from this filmmaker, the answer was simple: once the war started he joined up and was killed aged twenty-eight in a plane crash, so never got the chance to persevere with what was to all intents and purposes a very promising career. Could he have been a new Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean or Carol Reed? It's difficult to say, he certainly had that family name to live up to, but on this evidence, his final film (he directed two others beforehand) he had the talent to keep his story barrelling along and the actors full of personality.

Obviously, this was propaganda from Ealing Studios, but the Brits were really very effective at that game, be that in Nazi-thumping comedies or more serious war adventures, but the national spirit - irreverent when need be, but just as indomitable if that were needed too - was indelibly portrayed in many of the wartime efforts out of this country. You just had to look at the cast to see how these pictures were determined to bring the nation together to battle an unimaginable evil, though even then many citizens were not aware precisely how evil they would be, and they succeeded with some assurance, reminding the troops what they were fighting for and those left back home why they were suffering so. Indeed, the love triangle business comes across as superfluous to the patriotic air and lesson-learning.

Not to mention the can-do attitude, though Tennyson was not afraid to illustrate that this could go awry should you use that brio to stage a maverick exercise: the boat (captained by an almost unrecognisable Edward Chapman, Mr Grimsdale himself) that heads off on its own rather than sticking with the convoy may have alerted Armitage's ship there was a massive Nazi destroyer in the area, but it pays a sorry price too. There were action sequences aplenty (check out those adorable miniatures!), partly to make the idea of going to war appear exciting, but not sugarcoating the fact that these encounters cost lives, and you should be prepared that not everyone who set out to fight was going to come back alive. The Germans were not portrayed as flint-hearted monsters, though their superiors showed the further up the chain of command, the worse they became, yet there was humour too, and a breezy tone to what could have been self-serious and heavy. With a change of mood every scene, you had the impression of a panoply of experience, and would inevitably be saddened Tennyson never had the chance to prove himself further. Music by Ernest Irving.

[Network release this on Blu-ray as part of The British Film: the trailer and an image gallery are the extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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