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).