DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray: The Cruel Sea

This new Blu-ray release of The Cruel Sea is a good opportunity to experience this unusually gritty 1953 drama depicting life during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

Based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Monsarrat, it tells the story of life on board a Naval corvette led by Captain Ericson (Jack Hawkins) and his inexperienced crew, who include Lockhart (Donald Sinden), Ferraby (John Stratton), John Morell (Denholm Elliott) and Hallam (Virginia McKenna).

Directed by Charles Frend and produced by Leslie Norman (father of Barry), it was a commendably frank depiction of the hardships of warfare.

The sense of realism is impressive for a film of the time: using a mixture location shooting, studio shots and model work, life on board the ship is portrayed with an admirable attention to detail.

We never fully see the enemy German U-boats and the effect keeps the tension high, whilst the stormy Atlantic is almost presented as a dangerous enemy of a different kind.

The hardships and moral dilemmas of World War II are also well presented, making the characters feel like real people struggling with life during wartime and not one-dimensional heroes.

Nominated for one Oscar (Best Screenplay) and three BAFTA Awards (including Best British Film and Best British Actor), it established Hawkins as a star and greatly boosted the careers of Sinden, Elliot and McKenna.

Sinden is especially worth watching, as he invests his role with considerable depth, which may come as a surprise for those more familiar with his later work in UK television.

It remains one of the better British depictions of World War II and still stands up well nearly sixty years on from when it was released.

This re-release from Optimum Home Entertainment has been digitally restored and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1: the 1080p transfer is impressive and wisely no digital corrections have been added to remove the natural grainy look of the film.

As with any film of this age there some slight imperfections but overall this looks very good for a film of this age, with the close ups of characters looking especially good.

The LPCM 2.0 audio track is handicapped by the original source material (often a problem with films of this age) but despite that, the dialogue is clean and easy to follow, whilst the action and overall ambience is fine.

The extras feature the following:

  • Interview with Donald Sinden (33 mins): The star recalls recalls how he got cast; how certain scenes were shot; his experiences on set; the problems filming romantic scenes and legacy of the film.
  • Trailer (4 min): The original theatrical trailer for the film In English, not subtitled.
  • Behind the Scenes Stills Gallery: A collection of photos from the filming of The Cruel Sea.

The Cruel Sea is out now on Blu-ray from Optimum Home Entertainment

> Buy The Cruel Sea on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> The Cruel Sea at the IMDb
> Find out more about The Battle of the Atlantic at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 13th June 2011


Apocalypse Now (Optimum Home Entertainment): Francis Ford Coppola’s classic 1979 drama about a special forces mission during the Vietnam War gets an incredible 3-disc edition, featuring 9 hours of extras, including the making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK] [Read our full review here]

True Grit (Paramount Home Entertainment): The Coen Brothers adaptation of the Charles Portis novel (previously made in 1969 with John Wayne) is the tale of a young girl (Haliee Steinfeld) who recruits a grizzled lawman (Jeff Bridges) and a Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) to hunt down her father’s killers. [Buy the Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon UK] [Full review]

Ice Cold in Alex (Optimum Home Entertainment): World War II drama about a group of Allied troops who escape the siege of Tobruk and have to escape to Alexandria. Directed by J. Lee Thompson, it stars John Mills, Sylvia Sims, Anthony Quayle and Harry Andrews. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

The Cruel Sea (Optimum Home Entertainment): Unusually gritty 1953 drama about a naval crew struggling to survive the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II. Directed by Philip Frend, it stars Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden and Denholm Elliot. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Witchfinder General (Odeon Entertainment): Vintage 1968 British horror film about witch hunter Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) and his reign of terror during the English Civil War. Directed by Michael Reeves, it co-stars Ian Ogilvy and Hilary Dwyer. [Buy the Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Inside Job (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A searing and fascinating documentary about the financial crisis from director Charles Ferguson, is a reminder of the social and financial costs wrought on the world by the Wall Street elite. Voiced by Matt Damon, it won Best Documentary at the Oscars earlier this year. [Buy the DVD from Amazon UK] [Listen to our interview with Charles Ferguson]


5 Days of War (Entertainment One) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Age of Heroes (Metrodome Distribution) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Hereafter (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Jackass 3.5 (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Le Mans (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Paul (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Psychoville: Series 1 and 2 (2 Entertain) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sanctum (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Sex Pistols: There’ll Always Be an England (Fremantle Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Straightheads (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Superman: The Ultimate Collection (Warner Home Video) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (Arrow Video) [Blu-ray / Normal]

> UK Cinema Releases for Friday 10th June 2011
> The Best DVD & Blu-ray releases of 2010