This was the first in a series of Ealing films about and made during the Second World war that featured miniature ships. The second was Ships with Wings also made in 1940 followed by a Tommy Trinder comedy Sailors Three made in 1941 and San Demetrio London in 1943.
Douglas Woolsey is credited with the effects as is Norman Ough who was a famous Royal Naval ship modeller with models an the UK's National Maritime museum and Imperial War museum among others. According to his entry in Wikipedia he contributed his expertise to the construction of ship miniatures for a number of British films of this period including Sailors Three and Spare a Copper in 1940, Ships with Wings in 1941, The Big Blockade in 1942, San Demetrio London in 1943 and Scott of the Antarctic in 1948.
I feel the miniature work in this film is the best by far. It is generally well photographed and the pyrotechnics are for the most part pretty successfull. In fact a number of shots and the models from this film look like they were re-used in Sailors Three a year later. Certainly the aircraft model (which looks like a Hawker Osprey) from this film is the same one as in Sailors Three as is the shot featuring the bow of the ship with the anchor chain leading past the camera.
The biggest difference between the miniature work done in England at the time and that done in Hollywood not withstanding the the much smaller budgets, was that that the English miniature work was done inside a studio with artificial light mostly due to the British weather. In Hollywood California it was all shot outside in sunlight enabling smaller apertures in the lenses and resulting in a greater depth of field at the higher frame rates required for convincingly shooting models.
The Blu-Ray release of this film can be found here.
|Some single frames have been deliberately overexposed to increase the impact of the explosions.|
Thanks to friend of this blog McTodd for alerting me to the existence of the Blu Ray release, the significance of the name Norman Ough and for flagging the model re-use between the Ealing films of this period. In fact he suggests that the destroyer miniature in this film was slightly modified for use in Sailors Three.