Whether wittingly or accidentally, the presentation of this epic tale of the British Merchant Marine omits the customary cast of characters in the screen credits. Thus does it emphasize the genuineness of the personalities concerned in the unfolding of a gripping drama.
So one prefers to believe the man who plays the skipper of the San Demetrio is Captain Waite in person, just as the tough, nameless Texan who joins the tanker in Galveston is a tough Texan imbued with the idea of Britain’s needing help to win the war.
If the chief engineer – who performs miracles in the half-flooded, fire-swept engine room by not only restarting the engines, but by cooking a pailful of potatoes in live steam from a leaking valve – is not a c.e. in real life, it really doesn’t make any difference. And this goes for all of them, from the bosun to the kid apprentice whose first voyage it is.
Much credit must go to Michael Balcon, the producer, and Charles Frend, who directed. How much F. Tennyson Jesse’s official account on salvaging the San Demetrio, after she had been abandoned for two days and nights 900 miles from her port, helped Robert Hamer and the director in their writing of the script can only be surmised, but the dialog is unvaryingly authentic.