Monday, 17 January 2011

Q-Ships: Review New York Times September 17, 1928

I have not been able to unearth any clips of the movie Q-Ships. However, I discovered this review of the film:

Thrilling and wonderfully realistic episodes in the campaign against the German U-boats during the World War, reproduced by the New Era Films, Ltd., of London, are to be seen at the Cameo Theatre in a picture called "Q Ships." This production is presented in this country by Captain Harold Auten, who won the Victoria Cross as the commander of the Stockforce, one of the Q ships, and he and several members of the original crew of that vessel re-enact in this film their roles of those eventful days of strife.

"Q Ships" is an expertly sketched drama of sea fighting, and although Britain emerges victorious, the courage of the rival forces is depicted with fairness. The welcome arrival of the United States destroyers is emphasized as one of the prime factors in defeating the hitherto successful efforts of the submarines by convoying ships through the danger zones.

This picture begins by dealing with the ravages of the submersibles before America entered the war, and there is a glimpse at the British Admiralty of officers discussing the sinking of food ships and another flash wherein Admiral Jellicoe himself appears, greeting an actor made up to resemble Admiral Sims. Thereafter is shown the gradual weakening of the U-boats and a daring attempt of one of the German commanders to enter Scapa Flow.

The U-boat's manoeuvring is watched by British officers on an electrical contrivance which permits them to follow the craft as she is steering through the mine-field.

Another incident in this production depicts the success of the listening devices aboard destroyers and a U-boat resting far below the surface to keep away from the dreaded depth bombs. The stifling atmosphere aboard the submersible causes the officers and men to have difficulty in breathing, and one perceives, a little later, their relief, when they come to the surface, after the destroyer has sped on its way and they are able to breathe deeply of fresh air.

The most dramatic feature of this film is when the Q ships are introduced. Call the vessel the Stockforce, as it was a vessel resembling that masquerader. The panic crew and the working crew are seen, and during the time that no submarine is in the offing the officers and men play cards, write letters, read books. Suddenly comes the report of a periscope being sighted off the port bow. The producer then turns to the submarine, with the commander declaring that the Stockforce looks just about the size for a torpedo. He watches the Stockforce through the periscope and finally gives the order to fire the torpedo, and the only too familiar white line of those days is seen in the water as the engine of destruction speeds on its mission toward the steamer. Auten turns the engine room telegraph and the torpedo strikes his ship under No. 1 batch.

Not long afterward, when smoke is seen coming out of the Stockforce's bows, Auten gives the order for the panic crew to act their best and take to the boat. There is the negro, his face whitened with paint on which he had been busy at the time of the explosion; the black cat, the seaman who was left and who has to take a dive into the sea.

The working crew, hidden cleverly, go about the decks of the Stockforce on hands and knees, and officers are watching the submarine through craftily concealed periscopes. The U-boat Commander is chary about coming to the surface, but eventually he concludes that the Stockforce is harmless. Auten bides his time until he is sure that he can reckon with the submersible, and the manner in which this is done is most interesting, but it is better to leave it here, untold.

Captain Auten is the author of the script of this production and also the technical adviser. The German details were supplied by a former U-boat Commander, Kapitan-Lieutenant H. Roehn. NY Times

You can view a photo on Getty Images of the filming of the movie outside the American Embassy in London in 1928.

Just found out that you can buy a DVD of the film here