Engineer Jake Holman arrives aboard the gunboat U.S.S. San Pablo, assigned to patrol a tributary of the Yangtze in the middle of exploited and revolution-torn 1926 China. His iconoclasm and cynical nature soon clash with the "rice-bowl" system which runs the ship and the uneasy symbiosis between Chinese and foreigner on the river. Hostility towards the gunboat's presence reaches a climax when the boat must crash through a river-boom and rescue missionaries upriver at China Light Mission.Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Art Direction (Color). See more »
When Lieutenant Collins turns and faces aft to watch his men hurry to battle stations before the battle at the boom, the view shown is from the stern deck house looking forward, not what he is actually seeing from his position on top of the bridge. See more »
[addressing the assembled crew of the USS "San Pablo"]
Today we begin cruising to show the flag on Tungting Lake and the Hunan Rivers. I want all honours rendered smartly. At home in America, when today reaches them, it'll be Flag Day. For us who wear the uniform, every day is Flag Day. It is said there will be no more wars. We must pretend to believe that. But when war comes, it is we who will take the first shock, and buy time with our lives. It is we who keep the faith. We serve the flag. The...
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The original "roadshow" version ran 196 minutes; later cut to its present length (182 minutes) for its general release. The roadshow version was included in a 2007 special edition DVD release, which provided the first viewing of this version since the original 1966 release. See more »
Those who know Robert Wise primarily as a director of big-scale musicals ("The Sound of Music," "West Side Story.") would be suprised to know that his best films, in many ways, were his NON-musicals. Consider "I Want to Live," "Odds Against Tomorrow," "Curse of the Cat People," and, most especially, "The Sand Pebbles," one of the best, most insightful films about men at war ever made.
Set in China in 1926, this film gives an honest evocation of the period between the collapse of the Monarchy in 1908 and the Communist takeover 41 years leter, when whoever had the most firepower essentially ran the country. A tumultuous period, pictured here with an honesty and candor rarely seen in a mainstream American film. In the midst of this, the men of the San Pablo try to maintain an uneasy peace, and the result is an effective film about men at war, without a lot of gratuitious sex or vulgar language.
Then there are the performances. Steve McQueen gives what's probably, along with "The Getaway," the best performance of his career. His Jake Holman is a basically honest, sane man cought up in a dishonest, insane situation. He was deservedly Oscar-nominated for this performance, but lost, perhaps inevitably, to Paul Scofield's incomparable St. Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons." Sir Richard Attenborough once again proves a better actor than director as Frenchy, Holman's best friend. Always excellent Richard Crenna SHOULD have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his Captain Phillip Collins, a by-the-book officer who finds that you can't always play by the rules in a situation where madness is an everyday occurance. Mako WAS deservedly nominated as the tragic Po-Han, McQueen's assistant who becomes an unwilling pawn between the Americans and the Chinese radicals. And Candice Bergen proves that she can act when called upon as the young missionary with whom McQueen falls in love, and whose life he dies trying to save.
They don't make 'em like this anymore. See it.
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