San Demetrio London (1943)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Arthur Young in San Demetrio London (1943)

Low Key WWII Disaster

After heading to America to pick up a shipment of fuel the San Demetrio turns round and heads back for England as part of a convoy. But on the return journey the convoy comes under attack from U-Boats and with their destroyer sunk the San Demetrio is soon hit, forcing the captain to order the ship to be abandoned. Stuck in a lifeboat, the captain and his crew survive 3 days until they see a ship floating in the distance and make their way to it, shocked to see that the smoking vessel is the San Demetrio. With their best shot of survival is to reboard their ship and try and put out the fires. But they don't just put the fires out as the small crew manage to patch it up so that the engines work and try to make it back to England.

Let me start this by saying "San Demetrio London" is based on a true story and what a fantastic true story it is of men doing what it takes to survive. It is also fantastic because it seems so far fetched almost comical that these men having abandoned their ship then reboard it days later and head for home. But that is not the only thing which seems comical because whilst there is some drama the outcome of this story makes you smile as well, I will let you discover the entertaining ending for yourself.

Robert Beatty and Gordon Jackson in San Demetrio London (1943)

But "San Demetrio London" is also one of the most low-key movies I have ever watched almost feeling like a documentary during the opening 20 minutes. Maybe it is the lack of recognizable star power as whilst the likes of Arthur Young and Walter Fitzgerald were not unknown to me the only real recognizable faces were a young Gordon Jackson and Robert Beatty who plays a yank who comes aboard as a deck hand in order to make it to England. It may also be because whilst this is a story with drama, from the initial attack to the men trying to put out the fires there is no flare to it. Directors Charles Frend and Robert Hamer have done a workman like job of telling the story presumably restricted by budget.

Never the less "San Demetrio London" is still a thoroughly good movie with good performances and just the right amount of humour. It also makes an interesting statement about command because when we see the men in the lifeboat the Captain is happy to hand command to his 2nd as he is far better in that situation. And when they reboard the San Demetrio the important decisions are made by consensus as they all vote on whether to turn tail and try to return to America or risk more U-Boats by heading for England.

What this all boils down to is that "San Demetrio London" starts off low key and slow but the power of the true story then kicks in and despite still feeling low-key and workman like is thoroughly entertaining. Basically "San Demetrio London" is a bit of a forgotten gem which I am sure would make for a fantastic remake due to the story but then the fact it is low-key almost adds something special to it.


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