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Gift Horse

6.31 h 39 min1952PG
Lt. Cmdr. Fraser is given command of a decrepit destroyer with a motley crew in 1940 ahead of a daring mission to destroy a crucial Nazi dockyard.
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Supporting actors
Dora BryanJames Donald
George Pitcher
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Prime Video (streaming online video)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

106 global ratings

  1. 70% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 4% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

Darth MaciekReviewed in the United Kingdom on 03 January 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
Trevor Howard changes an "underdog" old destroyer into an enraged she-wolf and rides her right into the jaws of the Beast...
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This is an excellent old war film, inspired by real events. I liked it very much and I am very glad that I bought it.

The story begins with a British crew assembling in USA in 1940 to take charge of an old American destroyer, USS "Whittier", which will become then HMS "Ballantrae". This transfer is the consequence of "Destroyers for Bases Agreement", a real-life event (signed on 2 September 1940). At 23 years of age USS "Whittier" is already an old and used ship, but as they say "you don't look a gift horse in the mouth" and in fact the British crew will nick name their new ship "Gift Horse"...

What follows is the story of a hastily assembled group of very different people slowly overcoming all kind of difficulties under the leadership of a harsh and for a long time very disliked skipper, Lieutenant Commander Hugh A. Fraser (Trevor Howard) - before becoming finally a well integrated crew in charge of an efficient war machine. Then finally HMS "Ballantrae" will be ordered to participate in an extremely dangerous mission - the raid on Saint-Nazaire on 28 March 1942. And whatever the issue of the raid, she is not meant to return...

The story described in the first part of the film is inspired by real experiences of British crews which were hastily assembled in 1940 to man the 50 old American destroyers. One of them, HMS "Campbeltown" (ex-USS "Buchanan") was indeed used during the raid on Saint-Nazaire and those events are described in the second part of the film.

This black and white movie was not a superproduction, there is virtually no special effects and fighting scenes are not very spectacular - but it doesn't really hurt the film. The great strength of "Gift Horse" is the excellent scenario, very strong dialogs and very good acting of every person present on the screen. There is lots of humor in this film, particularly about the troubles which affect the "Gift Horse" during her shakedown and first war missions - at one moment HMS "Ballantrae" earns the dubious honor of being greeted by the message "Welcome Swiss Navy"...

Four actors are particularly important. Trevor Howard is simply amazing as the skipper of "Gift Horse". James Donald plays very well Lieutenant Jennings, the executive officer of HMS "Ballantrae", an ambitious dandy and a redoutable Don Juan, who will meet his "fate" before this film ends...))) Richard Attenborough is even better as "Dripper" Daniels, a simple sailor with big mouth who before war was an union organiser and who therefore will be the principal trouble maker on board (Donald and Attenborough later also played together in the "Great Escape"). Finally Bernard Lee, who much later was to become very famous as "M" in James Bond movies, plays a very likeable sailor, Able Seaman "Stripey" Wood

Bottom line, this is an excellent, very well made and well interpreted "oldie but goldie" war film. I loved it and I am definitely keeping my DVD for another viewing on day. Enjoy!
7 people found this helpful
Ben LiebertReviewed in the United Kingdom on 05 February 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Its a good film
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As a product its great. As a film its good but not great if you know what i mean. I am very happy to have the chance to see it as it is very unlikely to watch it these days. Nicely presented and well worth it
ElaineyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 04 June 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
The story of HMS Ballantrae - Gift Horse
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I thoroughly enjoyed watching this dvd. The picture quality was very good, as was the sound , no turning sound button up & down as with so many old dvds. The film was based on true events that happened at the time of the battle of the Atlantic. I thought the acting was brilliant especially Trevor Howard who played the captain of HMS Ballantrae. Also so many familiar faces made this film stand out. Loved it !
clive hortonReviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 February 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
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BEST WAR PICTURE EVER! for a secret that nearly never got told...
Amazon CustomerReviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 July 2022
1.0 out of 5 stars
The true story
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Great Actors ,The main story finishing off a major dry dock
To help end the war
An epic real story
That could have shown
It was a one way trip
JohnnyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 29 November 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
The raid on St Nazaire.
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Great performance by Trevor Howard. The story is loosely based on the real life raid on the, Nazi occupied, dry dock at St Nazaire in France. Basically it was a suicide mission. The film is basically a lead up to the raid, and a medley of stories involving the officers and crew.

The Germans were surprised and totally amazed by such a brazen attack. A German Officer even recommended one particular Royal Navy gunner for the Victoria Cross. 5 VC's were won on this raid. [...]
David BReviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 January 2013
4.0 out of 5 stars
An Accurate depiction?
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The first half of the film portrayed the war time navy as it probably was. All the usual 1940s social stereo types, with wonderful acting and directing. For me in the second half, they lost the plot and sank aback into a second rate British war film of the stiff upper lip type and how we beat the dastardly huns. Well worth a viewing to see Dora Bryan and Bernard Lee again. It was worth a wait of 30 years to see it again. Overall quality was very good
MontyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 01 June 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
Typical British war film
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For those of a certain age, who probably saw this at the cinema first time, it was great seeing it again. The Royal Navy to the rescue so to speak. Great little film. Trevor Howard , good as usual stiff upper lip and all that
One person found this helpful
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