Hi Douglas & Matt, I just saw this movie a week ago. The whole USS SALEM substitution for the Graf Spee was AWFUL .. The Spee was SO distinctive of a warship design that it can't be substituted for. And then to have the huge 139 bow number screaming at you for the whole movie was an insult. They could have at least painted out the number ... come on ! ? So a remake would be nice ... I must agree with you ... Mark :-)
I have a VCR tape (& still have a VCR) of the RANK film "The Battle of the River Plate" released in the USA as "The Pursuit of the Graf Spee", from 1956. It starred John Gregson, Anthony Quayle Peter Finch with Christopher Lee appearing as a bar owner in Montevideo. The USS "Salem" played the "Graf Spee", HMS "Sheffield" appeared as the "Ajax", "Exeter" was represented by HMS "Jamaica" and HMNZS "Achilles" appeared as herself and in some scenes, HMS "Cumberland" played herself.
There's been a lot of talk here over the years, about Hollywood war movies. What about one on the DKM Graf Spee?
Here we have an innovative warship design - making for some interesting comment, if done right: a response to terms of the treaties post-WWI (so that war could also be a brief subject), now setting out to strike some of the initial naval blows of what would become the most involved, widespread and vicious war in all history. Most of the world hasn't yet even taken a side, in the conflict. And Graf Spee's raiding at the time being conducted with scrupulous attention to the rescue and safety of the crews and passengers from the merchant ships being looted and sunk.
How many of Graf Spee's rank-and-file crew - or indeed, even her officers - would have had any idea the conflagration which was to follow? And what about going up against the British, and the Royal Navy (a subject handled very interestingly IMHO, for example, in Das Boot).
Then you have the dramatic naval battle itself - bringing HMS Exeter to a very dire pass, as well as a surprisingly effective contribution (indeed, salvation) by "only" a pair of light cruisers - the HMS Ajax and HMS Achilles - employed brilliantly.
And perhaps equally surprising: the flight of Graf Spee to refuge in Montevideo - in the very type of Third World country over which the global powers would ultimately fight, for control. Would Graf Spee be allowed to stay long enough to make sufficient repairs? After all, this was the Americans' "back yard" - and they weren't even in the war, yet: would the New World stand up to the British, even then assembling the Royal Navy to intercept Graf Spee with overwhelming force, whenever she did emerge? What's not absolutely shot-through with drama and even global geo-politics, here?
Then of course the radical decision, and actual execution of blowing up the ship (not to mention potential special-effects bonanza, here).
And more - a captain who committs suicide: what was Langsdorff's thinking, in those final days? Had it changed since the day he first took command?
- Does a Commander end his life out of Honor, after the ignominy of defeat - or is it to avoid the dishonor surely to be visited upon any officer, following such a debacle, returning to a militant and fascist Germany?
- How might a commander have come to feel (whether historically accurate for Langsdorff, or not) about the Nazi regime - and the cost of continued service to it, being extracted from himself, and from his men? (The rank-and-file crew could also weigh in, here.)
- And again, the Road Ahead: just what was Germany seeking to accomplish - and what realistic chance that it would succeed? And again: at what cost, even world-wide?
I can't see what wouldn't fascinate a viewer, in all the above - which actually happened - again, if treated skillfully.*
I submit that the Story of the Graf Spee could make not only for a great anti-war film, but one of the best naval movies, ever.
What say all of you?
- Matty in FL
* - Which, among other things, means: NO Kate Beckinsale (Oiy Vey! ) - YOU know what I mean...