June 17, 2003 -- “The Sea Wolves: The Last Charge of the Calcutta Light Horse” is a 1980 war movie based on a true story from World War II. It is a workmanlike film told in a non-flashy, straightforward way, featuring an all-star cast. It is part war movie and part spy movie, with some political intrigue thrown in.
The late Gregory Peck stars as Col. Lewis Pugh, and Roger Moore stars as Capt. Gavin Stewart. Both are British spies and soldiers who go to Goa, a neutral Portugese colony in India, to try to find out how the Germans are sending classified information about Allied shipping in the Indian Ocean to deadly U-Boats on patrol in that area. They discover that the Germans are sending secret radio messages about shipping to the subs from merchant ships anchored in Goa harbor. The British can't attack the ships in the harbor, however, because Goa is a neutral territory. The British come up with a novel solution to the problem. They will use civilians, retired military men, to stage the attack. The men will pretend to be drunken revelers who stumble upon the ship.
The daring raid is to be carried out on March 10, 1943, by members of The Calcutta Light Horse, a club of retired British military men. They are led by Col. W.H. Grice (played by veteran actor David Niven, who once played James Bond, and who starred with Gregory Peck in the action classic “The Guns of Navarone”). He is accompanied by Major 'Yogi' Crossley (Patrick MacNee of “The Avengers” fame), an explosives expert, and a number of other volunteers from the Calcutta Light Horse. If they are caught, the British government will deny all knowledge of their raid. They will receive no pay, no benefits, no medals, no recognition of any kind. In addition, they won't be told what their mission is until they are well under way. Everyone in the club volunteers anyway. While the men prepare themselves for the raid, Gavin Stewart and Jack Cartwright (played by veteran actor Trevor Howard) deal with deadly German spies and prepare clever diversions to aid the raid in Goa. Getting the raiders to Goa is quite a feat in itself. The team steals a rickety old boat named the Phoebe, hoping it will get them there and back without sinking, or being destroyed by a U-Boat.
Roger Moore, who had already been playing James Bond for several years by this time, effortlessly slips into his spy role, including a hot romance with Barbara Kellerman. Gregory Peck is cool and efficient, both as a spy, and as the leader of the raiding party. David Niven does his usual fine acting job. The supporting cast is solid. Filmed on location in West Germany, India and England (the club scenes were filmed at The Roshanara Club in Old Delhi), the film has a feeling of authenticity about it. Two German survivors of the attack on the boats in the harbor, the Ehrenfels, Drachenfels and Braunfels were consultants on the film. Over the end credits, photos of the actual attack can be seen, as well as the salvage of the three ships in 1951. Also during the credits, photos of the real men who carried out the dangerous raid are shown together with pictures of the actors who portrayed them in the movie.
I saw this film on DVD. There are no extras on the DVD, but the video transfer is good. It has both wide (aspect ratio 1.85:1) and full screen (aspect ratio 1.33:1) versions of the film on opposite sides of the disk. The sound is Dolby (TM) Digital stereo. It seemed the sound levels were low and uneven. Sometimes it was hard to hear the dialogue without turning the volume up very loud, which increases the risk of being blasted by the sudden sounds of loud explosions and gunfire. The DVD comes with English and French subtitles. This film rates a C+.
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