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The Rank Collection: British War Collection [4 Discs] [DVD]

Release Date:12/06/2011
In all of British cinema, arguably no one could produce war-themed dramas with the qualitative consistency of mogul J. Arthur Rank. Rank fared particularly well with World War II sagas that took place at home and abroad, four of which appear in this deluxe box set. Included are: Above Us the Waves (1955), directed by Ralph Thomas and starring John Mills - about a British submarine's attempts to destroy a Nazi warship; The Malta Story (1953), directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Alec Guinness, about a reconnaissance photographer who attempts to stave off the Italian invasion of Malta; Sea of Sand (1958), directed by Guy Green and starring Richard Attenborough, about a British patrol's efforts to blow up an Axis fuel dump; and The Way to the Stars (1945), a sprawling Anthony Asquith drama about the various men stationed on a British airfield.

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    Desert Patrol
    Sea of Sand was distributed in the US in a shortened version, Desert Patrol. John Gregson plays Captain Williams, a martinet mine expert who vows to whip a lackadaisacal patrol into shape. This brings Williams in conflict with patrol leader Captain Cotton (Michael Craig), but also earns him the respect of hard-bitten trooper Brody (Richard Attenborough). The wisdom of Williams' no-nonsense approach is demonstrated when the patrol is besieged by the highly disciplined members of the German Afrika Korps. The film was produced by Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman, best known to American TV viewers as the creative forces behind the weekly series The Saint. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Way to the Stars
    Originally released in England as The Way to the Stars, Johnny in the Clouds is the story of how the Battle of Britain affected the lives of combatants and civilians alike. Terence Rattigan's screenplay concentrates on three groups of people: an American pilot and his wife, a doomed British officer with a wife and child, and a young couple who plan to marry despite the precariousness of wartime romances. Most of the action takes place at an air base and the neighboring village, where the private citizens react to rationing and other restrictions with various degrees of nobility and selfishness. The American title of this film is derived from the poem "Johnny in the Clouds," recited in tribute to the decease British airman; the U.S. version, which was released after the war, includes a prologue set in the deserted air base, with the bulk of the film offered as a flashback. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Above Us the Waves
    Judging by the number of times it has shown up on TV, Above Us the Waves may be American viewers' favorite British war film. Most of the film is set in a British midget submarine, commandeered by John Mills. The sub's mission (together with its "fellow" vessels) is to sink the German battleship Tirpitz. This will be accomplished by the midget sub fleet sneaking into Norwegian waters, floating beneath the Tirpitz, then planting explosives. Only Mills' sub manages to complete the mission. Based on a true-life 1943 incident, Above Us the Waves takes a revisionist approach by showing the German officers and seamen to be human beings rather than faceless minions of Hitler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    The Malta Story
    The Malta Story stars Alec Guinness as WW II camera reconnaissance pilot Peter Ross. Crash-landing in Malta, Ross presents his photographs to the resident air officer (Jack Hawkins). The photos reveal that the Italians are planning a major invasion of the island. Low on fuel and men, the officer is all but helpless as the Italians mount their attack. Only the last-minute arrival reinforcements and supplies prevent Malta from falling into the hands of the enemies--but the story doesn't end there. Filmed on location, The Malta Story boasts some exceptional aerial photography, not to mention excellent performances from Guiness, Hawkins, Anthony Steele, Muriel Pavlow, Flora Robson and the rest of the stellar cast. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Richard Attenborough
      Richard Attenborough - Trooper Brody
    • John Gregson
      John Gregson - Capt. Williams
    • Michael Craig
      Michael Craig - Capt. Cotton
    • Vincent Ball
      Vincent Ball - Sgt. Nesbitt
    • Percy Herbert
      Percy Herbert - Trooper White

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.