REVIEW: The Sea Wolves (1980) | ManlyMovie

REVIEW: The Sea Wolves (1980)


Fogeys versus Fascists or Atticus Finch and James Bond machine gun Nazis.  The Sea Wolves is a funny, entertaining and occasionally bloody ‘men on mission’ adventure film in the vein of ‘The Guns of Navarone’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’.  The film also boasts an exceptional cast with Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, David Niven and Patrick McNee.

Gregory Peck stars as Colonel Lewis Pugh, the leader of the mission and who is tasked by British High Command to prevent the sinking of allied ships in the Indian Ocean.  The Allies believe that the Germans have been transmitting details of Allied ship movements via an encoded transmitter aboard one of three ships docked in the neutral port of Mormugoa.

Because the ships are in neutral territory, the British are hesitant to send in a commando squad.  This duty is left to Pugh and his men which include Captain Gavin Steward (Roger Moore) and Col. W.H. Grice (David Niven).  Their plan is to get retired ex-English soldiers living in India (Calcutta Light Horse) to steal a rickety boat from New Delhi and sail it all the way to Mormugoa and then sink the three German ships using timed charges.  The old soldiers recruited, while out of shape, are still patriotic and volunteer to fight for their country.

There is also a subplot in the film, involving Steward’s character getting romantically involved with a knife-wielding German spy, the Bond girl-esque beauty Mrs. Cromwell (Barbara Kellerman).

While not action-packed, the Sea Wolves, is interesting to watch as you track the progress of their mission, much like a Frederick Forsythe novel.  The final assault, however, is exciting, with explosions going off, and Gregory Peck and David Niven firing weapons, dodging bullets and throwing grenades.  The miniature ships used in the climatic scenes are also well constructed and realistic.

Unfortunately, the Sea Wolves is not period accurate in detail with a decidedly 1970s look in both hairstyles, vehicles and uniforms.  Roger Moore also seems to have walked off from a Bond film, delivering an uninspired performance.  Gregory Peck is solid as usual, but one can’t help but feel a bit of Dr. Mengele in his acting, as he also starred in The Boys from Brazil (1978) previously.

Frequent director of John Wayne films, Andrew V. McLaglen (Cahill US Marshall, Chisum, and The Wild Geese) delivers an underrated and unfairly derided WW2 film that deserves more points for showing real footage of the actual event during the credits.  This film is far more memorable than so-called critically acclaimed period films that are forgotten within a year or less (The Imitation Game, Theory of Everything, and A Beautiful Mind).

John Matrix



  1. Avatar

    Just Some Polack

    August 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    It’s an interesting little piece, but it has a couple of problems. #1 Roger Moore – way too smug here. #2 Gregory Peck – a bit bored here. And the biggest one #3 – Andrew V. McLaglen. I’ve never been a fan of his. With an exception of “Wild Geese”, his 1970s and 1980s movies always felt to me like slow, mediocre 1965 movies. However, it is definitely worth watching because of the incredible story and the comradery between the old soldiers. If they would only cut out this useless romantic subplot, I would give it also 6/10, but because of that it’s 5/10 in my book.

    Oh, and if it wasn’t such a terrible decade for manly movies, I wouldn’t actually mind a remake of this movie.

    • Avatar


      August 25, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      It’s like a 1950’s British war movie…the kind of thing John Mills and Richard Attenborough were doing twenty five years earlier. (Guns Of Navarone?) It was old fashioned in 1980. It’s not great but I have to admit I’ve sat through the thing from beginning to end on a rainy Sunday afternoon broadcast and enjoyed it too….Agree about McLaglen. Wild Geese demands a page here. McLaglen did a couple of movies which had potential (Shenandoah,The Last Hard Men) but Wild Geese is the one that really does work despite the odd cheesy moment. It should be a staple on this site, Like Death Hunt, it’s a film that works brilliantly even though you know it would have been even better if someone more talented had directed it. …it has it has a lot to do with the casting…manly stuff.

  2. Avatar


    August 25, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Nice to see The Boys From Brazil get a name check…always liked that one.