"The Sand Pebbles," starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Richard Crenna, is an excellent, if slightly slow-moving and over-long film that tells a compelling story of the American navy in China during the 1920s, when the United States was one of the world's foremost practitioners of "gunboat diplomacy." Based on a novel of the same name by Richard McKenna, it was directed by Robert Wise ("West Side Story," "The Sound of Music") and adapted for the screen by Robert Anderson.
This is a 1966 American war drama directed by Robert Wise, loosely based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Richard McKenna.
It tells the story of Jake Holman (played by Steve McQueen), who is an independent, rebellious U.S. Navy machinist's mate, first class aboard the fictional gunboat USS San Pablo in 1920s China.
It also depicts the era's racism and colonialism on a small scale, through the sailors' relations with the coolies who run their gunboat and the bargirls who serve them off-duty, as well as on a large scale, with the West's gunboat diplomacy domination of China.
Marayat Andriane (later known as a writer of erotic fiction "Emmanuelle" under the nom de plume Emmanuelle Arsan) plays Maily, a Shanghai-bargirl who becomes the wife of Frenchy (played by Richard Attenborough).
After more than 40 years, 20th Century Fox found 14 minutes of footage that had been cut from the film's initial roadshow version shown at New York's Rivoli Theater.
This DVD has this restored version.
The sequences are spread throughout the film and add texture to the story, though they do not alter it in any significant way.
Although it is a long film, it interests you with action-packed exotica and some historical events.
The Sand Pebbles is among the best movies about China during the early 1900s pre-WWII upheavals, the best Steve McQueen, a potential watcher might choose to watch and certainly remember, watch again a decade or two later, as I've been doing since it was just released. A great movie.
The 196-minute roadshow cut of The SAND PEBBLES (1966) is a treasure. If you ever want a cure for whatever ails you, try sitting down to a Steve McQueen movie, particularly anything he did from THE CINCINNATI KID (1965) to BULLITT (1968). You'll be treated to a view of American masculinity that is long gone. Athletic, laconic, working class, always butting up against the-powers-that-be, the McQueen take on heroism does not exist anymore. Now we favor super-assassins or comic book superheroes.THE SAND PEBBLES, with its story of a U.S. Navy gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River when the Kuomintang took control of China from the warlords in the 1920s, premiered at a time when LBJ's going-all-in commitment to war in Vietnam was starting to arouse significant domestic opposition. THE SAND PEBBLES, for its time, is a surprisingly provocative anti-imperialist statement from a major Hollywood studio (Twentieth Century Fox). The message? Nations traffic in lies and everyday people -- the sailors, the coolies, the whores, the missionaries -- are merely grist for the mill.
A great man of film, Sir Richard Attenborough, passed away yesterday. He has over 90 listing of movie and Television credits. His role in the "Sand Pebbles" with Steve McQueen is one of his better roles. He plays a shipmate of McQueen on a "U.S. gunboat cruising on China's Yangtze River in 1926. This film has been universally praised by other film critics and here at the KCLS web site two reviews have given it four stars with one of the comments being "A+++" movie. Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen had already been in the cast of the "Great Escape". Both movies are worth your attention if you haven't seen them. Please leave your reaction to the "Sand Pebbles" here at the KCLS web site. Thanks!!
Steve McQueen. And that ain't all, there's China too. Though it's actually Taiwan for the most part. But... Steve McQueen! To really see and understand what this movie is about you gotta view both the "theatrical" widescreen version and the "Roadshow" version (with about 15 minutes of story replaced). The cinematography of first version is in the film's original anamorphic Panavision and features some of the most stunning work in this medium ever! Be it a night-dark alley or an expansive countryside, the work is nothing short of amazing. So why bother with the other version? It seems most of what was taken out (and now restored) relates to the growing relationship of the two main characters. Without this footage you're left with wooden, two-dimensional characters. What a shame. If some genius ever gets around to reassembling this film and re-releasing it to theaters (ala Lawrence of Arabia) many eyes will be opened to this excellent film.
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