Moore Not Less - The Sea Wolves
The Sea Wolves reunited director
Andrew V McLaglen, composer Roy Budd and Roger Moore with several cast
members from The Wild Geese - although sadly Richard Burton and Richard
Harris are absent. Actors from The Guns of Navarone also feature - The
Guns of Navarone in many ways the film that The Sea Wolves is trying to
The screenplay is based on a
real World War 2 operation that involved expatriate British veterans
known as the Calcutta Light Horse Brigade undertaking a secret mission
in Goa to disable transmissions being made to German U-Boats. The real
life veterans are paid tribute to in the closing credits and we are
also reminded that as a result of the Goa raid the amount of Allied
shipping lost in the Indian Ocean fell dramatically.
The producer Euan Lloyd
complained that the film wasn't marketed very well by the studio and it
wasn't a tremendous success in the end. The most notable casting
besides Roger was Gregory Peck as the lead and veterans David Niven and
Trevor Howard. While The Sea Wolves is hardly the greatest war
adventure film ever made it is at least pleasant to see all these
famous names onscreen together.
It's World War 2 and Britain is
losing shipping in the Indian Ocean to German U-Boats. The Special
Operations Executive in India suspect that a German ship docked in Goa
is secretly sending information about Allied shipping to U-Boats. The
problem? Goa is a Portuguese colony and so classified as neutral. No
official military operation can be undertaken there. However, an
unofficial operation is another matter and one is soon put into action.
Special Operatives Colonel Lewis
Pugh (Gregory Peck) and Captain Gavin Stewart (Roger Moore) turn to the
Calcutta Light Horse Brigade - Boer and First World War veterans who
are still keen to do their bit for King and Country. Colonel Bill Grice
(David Niven) will lead these plucky old codgers in their secret
mission to terminate the Jerry communications in Goa.
The Sea Wolves is a doggedly
old-fashioned film that always runs the risk of feeling like old hat
for 1980. There is a Matt Munro song as the theme and it only makes the
film seem even more old-fashioned. The Sea Wolves takes a while to get
going too and is probably the lesser of the three films Roger Moore
made with Andrew V McLaglen around this time.
McLaglen is (perhaps unfairly)
remembered as something of a journeyman and this is definitely him in
point and shoot mode with the actors coasting along and no great
flamboyance coming from behind the camera. One good thing about The Sea
Wolves though is that it comes from that age before computers and
studio trickery took over and so has some good authentic looking Indian
Unlike North Sea Hijack, Roger's
Bond image is played up much more in The Sea Wolves. The Wild Geese and
(more so) North Sea Hijack saw Roger go against his familar image but
The Sea Wolves doesn't stretch him much. He has gunfights and scraps
and wears a tuxedo. He even hits the gaming tables and karate chops
Rog looks good in his military
uniforms too. They lose him somewhat in a subplot though where he has
to help create a diversion for the attack with a big party and fiesta
to be used to distract the German sailors. Moore is given a romance
with Barbara Kellerman's sociey dame Mrs Cromwell, a woman with a
secret. The secret comes as no real surprise.
The Sea Wolves has been
criticised for its rather anachronistic air and Roger is a symptom of
this too with his longish hair and safari jacket. I'm no expert but I'd
imagine that a British military officer in the early 1940s would be
expected to have a good short back and sides. There is a decent amount
of humour in the film that mostly lands with a clunk. You do start to
feel like you've already seen this film before while you are watching
it. Not just The Wild Geese comparisons but countless war pictures.
David Niven is clearly getting
too old for these types of films by now but he does manage to convince
you that he's a retired soldier with one more adventure left in him.
His old world charm and class shines through. The nostalgic air of The
Sea Wolves is a deliberate throwback to all those vintage World War 2
films and if anyone is going to save the day it might as well be David
It's great to see Trevor Howard
too and it wouldn't be a British adventure film from this era without
the distinctive voice of Patrick Allen. Allen ended up as the ironic
links announcer for Channel 4.
Gregory Peck grapples with his
English accent throughout and never really manages to get it in a good
headlock or pin it to the canvas but he's Gregory Peck so it doesn't
matter too much even if he does appear to be half asleep for much of
the film. Kenneth Griffith plays the mechanic Wilton and brings his
usual sense of eccentricity and whimsy.
The last act of the film - when
we finally get the military secret mission - is just about worth the
wait and the photography at sea does at least make The Sea Wolves look
like a good production. It's reasonably tense when our heroes run into
trouble and try to finish their task. You should stay for the action at
the end but as far as pensioners on a mission films go The Wild Geese
was more exciting and had a harder edge to it.
This is watchable enough but The Sea Wolves is certainly no Where Eagles Dare or Guns of Navarone.