Ships With Wings

1941

Sergei Nolbandov
Director
Ealing Studios
Studio

Disgraced Fleet Air Arm pilot winds up on a Greek island, where he becomes enmeshed in a Nazi plot.

Warning: tetchy review follows!

Well-made and well-acted propaganda film that unfortunately derails itself in the final reel. Sydney's carrier commander suddenly becomes incompetent and forces planes to land on a badly damaged carrier, something no intelligent officer would do, but it kills enough supporting chracters that hero Clements has to step in and save the day. That's insulting enough, to both the Royal Navy and the audience's intelligence, but the way the hero does save things is so utterly implausible that it's impossible to take seriously.

The scene where Morland Graham watches his son plunge into a fiery death with nary a raised eyebrow, because "stiff upper lip, ay wot" is purely obnoxious, and just proves that propaganda is for mindless sheep, whether the good guys make it or not. Charles Victor's scruffy mechanic is the only sensible person in the whole film, and he's the comic relief. A shame these aspects ruin it, as the film is above par in most other respects. The bloodthirstiness of the film, both on the part of the Nazis (no surprise) and the hero, who lands a plane on top of people twice, is notable, even for a film made at this time.

The main reason to watch today is the ample stock footage of aircraft and the special effects, which are quite elaborate and well-done for the time. One can easily imagine a young and wide-eyed Derek Meddings in the audience taking notes. A lot of the online reviews take the effects to task for being terrible, as if CGI is some wonderful improvement, but then IMDb "contributors" are for the most part even more imbecilic than actual movie "critics." The cast is all fine within the limitations of the propaganda, but Edward Chapman stands out as a Greek airline owner with delusions of grandeur.

The real star of the film, HMS Ark Royal, was sunk shortly before the film's London premiere, adding a contemporary touch to the proceedings.

Note: Banks is wearing a Vice Admiral uniform in the opening scenes of the film, but is quite clearly wearing Rear Admiral's shoulder boards in the later wartime scenes. Oops!

-Dave W.



10th January 1942
Cinema



103 mins
1.37:1



HyperLink
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John Clements
Lieutenant Dick Stacey
Leslie Banks
Vice Admiral David Wetherby
Jane Baxter
Celia Wetherby
Ann Todd
Kay Gordon
Basil Sydney
Captain Bill Fairfax
Edward Chapman
Leonidas 'Papa' Papadopoulos
Hugh Williams
Wagner
Frank Pettingell
Fields / Helfrich
Michael Wilding
Lieutenant David Grant
Michael Rennie
Lieutenant Peter Maxwell
Frank Cellier
General Baradino Scarappa
Cecil Parker
German Air Marshal
John Stuart
Commander Hood
Morland Graham
CPO Marsden
Charles Victor
MacDermot
Hugh Burden
Sub Lieutenant Mickey Wetherby
John Laurie
Lt. Commander Reid
Betty Marsden
Jean
George Merritt
Surgeon Commander
Charles Stuart
Von Rittau
(incorrectly listed in IMDb
as Charles Sturat)
H.M.S. Ark Royal
HMS Invincible
Unknown
Dignitary at Launch
(uncredited)
Unknown
Dignitary at Launch
(uncredited)
Unknown
Messenger on Airfield
(uncredited)
Jack Watling
Officer Hazing Wetherby
(uncredited)
Unknown
Officer Hazing Wetherby
(uncredited)
Unknown
Officer Hazing Wetherby
(uncredited)
Charles Farrell
CPO Getting Kay's Autograph
(uncredited)
Unknown
Boxer, Jean's Dog
(uncredited)
Graham Penley
Seaman Marsden
(uncredited)
Unknown
Club Waiter (uncredited)
Unknown
Officer Reading Court Martial Findings
(uncredited)
Unknown
Greek Boy (uncredited)
Unknown
Johnny Grant
(uncredited)
Unknown
Lieutenant on Invincible
(uncredited)
George Spence
SS Officer (uncredited)
Unknown
SS Soldier (uncredited)
Unknown
SS Soldier (uncredited)
Unknown
SS Soldier Holding Papadopoulos
(uncredited)
Unknown
Luftwaffe Officer at Airfield
(uncredited)
Unknown
Luftwaffe Officer at Airfield
(uncredited)
Ian Fleming
Brigadier (uncredited)
(incorrectly listed in IMDb as Colonel)
Ben Williams
Officer at Briefing
(uncredited)
Unknown
Officer at Breifing
(uncredited)
Unknown
Messenger (uncredited)
Unknown
Pilot in Wardroom
(uncredited)
Cameron Hall
Commander on Wetherby's Staff
(uncredited)
Unknown
Officer on Wetherby's Staff
(uncredited)
Unknown
Officer on Wetherby's Staff
(uncredited)
Unknown
Wardroom Steward
(uncredited)
Unknown
Scarappa's Aide
(uncredited)
Unknown
Von Rittau's Bombardier
(uncredited)
Unknown
Wagner's Bombardier
(uncredited)
Clive Baxter
Boy (uncredited)
Charles Russell
Sailor (uncredited)

Dave Wright: Screencaps & Notes