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The Sand Pebbles (1966)

Steve McQueen , Richard Attenborough , Robert Wise  |  NR |  DVD
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, Candice Bergen, Richard Crenna, Emmanuelle Arsan
  • Directors: Robert Wise
  • Writers: Richard McKenna, Robert Anderson
  • Producers: Robert Wise, Charles H. Maguire
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 4.0), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: May 15, 2001
  • Run Time: 182 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059HAF
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,031 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Sand Pebbles" on IMDb

Special Features

  • 2 Radio Documentaries
  • 3 Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Following the success of The Sound of Music, director Robert Wise chose to film Robert McKenna's prize-winning 1962 novel, The Sand Pebbles--an ambitious choice for a director at the peak of his career. Shot in Taiwan and Hong Kong, the film combines historical sweep and intimate human drama in several parallel stories, all revolving around U.S. Navy machinist's mate Jake Holman (Steve McQueen). Holman is a skillful but fiercely independent sailor who joins the "sand pebble" crew of the U.S.S. San Pablo, a Navy gunboat patrolling the Yangtze River on the eve of the Chinese revolution in 1926. The San Pablo's inexperienced captain (Richard Crenna) obsessively defends the Navy's mission--however unnecessary or unwanted--to protect American missionaries and businessmen, blind to the more dangerous implications of American involvement with China's opposing political factions.

Holman is a defiant voice of humanity in this clash between outmoded values and inevitable change; his final line of dialogue ("What the hell happened?") is a tragic summation of misguided policy, expressing the film's criticism of the Vietnam War. Rather than preach, however, Wise lets McKenna's potent drama emerge from finely-drawn relationships--between Holman and a young American teacher (19-year-old Candice Bergen, in her second film); between Holman and the Chinese "coolie" (Mako) whose heartbreaking fate transcends all issues of racial or political difference; and between crewmate "Frenchy" Burgoyne (Richard Attenborough) and the Chinese woman he's sworn to love and protect at all costs. Combined with the film's colorful supporting cast, adventurous scope, and climactic battle scenes, these personal dynamics bring substance and spirit to a complex story of good intentions gone awry. --Jeff Shannon

Product Description

The Sand Pebbles" tells many stories. It's the story of China, a slumbering giant that rouses itself to the cries of it's people - and of the Americans who are caught in its blood awakening. It's the story of Frenchy (Richard Attenborough), a crewman on the U.S.S. San Pablo who kidnaps his Chinese bride from the auction block. It's the story of Shirley (Candice Bergen), a teacher and her first unforgettable taste of love. It's the story of Captain Collins (Richard Crenna), ready to defy anyone for his country's defense. Most of all, it's the story of Jake Holman (Steve McQueen), a sailor who has given up trying to make peace with anything - including himself. McQueen gives what is probably the best performance of his career. It's not surprising that he, Mako and the movie were up for Oscars. Portraying a character with conflicting loyalties to friend and flag, McQueen expertly conveys the confusion that leads into his final line: What the hell happened? It's to his credit that we already know.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
218 of 226 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McQueen's Greatest Performance June 7, 2001
Format:DVD
Steve McQueen was known for many things-- action films, fast cars, motorcycles, a charismatic presence (on screen and off), and his true "tough guy" persona. But with this film, another description moves to the top of that list: Actor. Anyone who doubts what a great actor McQueen was need only watch this film, because his performance here as Jake Holman is simply as good as it gets. "The Sand Pebbles, " directed by Robert Wise, is the story of Holman, a sailor assigned to the U.S. Gunboat, "San Pablo," stationed on the Yangtze River in China in 1926 (the sailors aboard are known as "sand pebbles"). It's primary function is to patrol the river and thereby establish an American presence in China, a country currently experiencing a period of political unrest and impending upheaval. It's a new assignment for Holman, and it suits him just fine; his job is to keep the ship's engines up and running, and because of the size of the ship, he's the only engineer-- it's just Jake and his engine. And that's the way he likes it. Holman is a loner by nature, and something of an iconoclast. At one point, when he is asked his opinion of American Foreign Policy and their presence in China, he simply says, "I don't mess with it. It's all look-see-pidgin, somethin' for the officers."
Eventually, however, Holman is nevertheless drawn into the conflict through a series of events that impact him beyond all personal resistance, the most significant being when American lives are threatened throughout China, and Holman and a landing party are sent ashore to protect and escort some missionaries back to the safety of the San Pablo. But at the mission, Holman discovers a way of life, the likes of which he's never known, and for the first time ever, he realizes a sense of belonging. And he likes it.
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Americans trying to stay neutral in erupting 1926 China January 25, 2003
Format:DVD
This 1966 film is a big budget adaptation of the 1962 novel by Richard McKenna. Directed by Robert Wise, it gleaned nine academy award nominations. I remember reading the book a very long time ago, and remember it as an adventure story. But by watching this DVD, I see now that it is much more. And I also see how it relates to what is happening in the world today.
The setting is China in 1926. Violent conflicts were everywhere. Warlords were fighting each other, and the Nationalist leader Chang Kai-Shek was gaining power. In addition, the Communists were fighting against the Nationalists. Because the U.S. had interests there, they had a few Navy gunboats going up and down the river. They weren't supposed to do anything - just be a show a force. But the Chinese, from all the different factions, wanted the Americans out. "Go Home Foreigners" was their battle cry. The Americans knew that at any moment an international incident could erupt. Sound familiar?
Steve McQueen, in the best performance of his career, is cast as a Navy machinist on the gunboat, which was nicknamed the "Sand Pebbles". When he joins the crew, he's surprised to discover that the "Coolies" do all the hard work - everything from cooking to cutting hair to running the engine. He opposes this as he wants to run the engine himself, and after some conflict, and an accidental death, he befriends one of the Coolies, and teaches him how to run the boat. Later, there are violent consequences.
There is tension throughout between McQueen and the crew for many reasons. And we soon know who the good guys and the bad guys are. Richard Attenborough plays a good guy. He falls in love with a young Chinese woman in bondage to the local house of pleasure. Another good guy is the Captain of the ship, played by Richard Crenna.
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48 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Format:VHS Tape
The Sand Pebbles is an absolutely terrific movie, which is centered on the pitfalls of involving the military in a culture it simply does not understand. The cinematography of the Asiatic land and seascapes is literally breath-taking, and the movie's script is compelling, multilayered, and tends to keep you guessing as to where this is going and what the consequences may be for the crew of a U.S. gunboat slowly becoming entangled in the internal domestic politics of early 20th century China without understanding the dangerous complexities of the situation.
The cast is stellar, starting with what may have been perhaps the finest and most accomplished acting by Steve McQueen in his long and illustrious career. Here McQueen does more with a series of facial shots than most actors could do with a gunboat full of dialogue. It also includes a very young and beautiful Candace Bergen, a remote and imperious "by the book" and dangerously gung-ho skipper played quite well by Richard Crenna, as well as wonderful performances by Mako, Richard Attenborough, and a number of notable others. All of them add to the progress of the drama, but it is McQueen's reawakening as a person during the progress of the movie that is the centerpiece of its story, as he slowly transforms from a selfish, emotionally remote, and cynical sailor into a person who increasingly recognizes that there things in life worth fighting and even dying for.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic movie
Watched this again although I had seen it several times before. Still a really good movie. It's long, so be prepared for that. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Flier1
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good and Historical
I have seen this movie 4 or 5 times as it depicts the turmoil that China was going through before coming Nationalist China. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Bob M.
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Steve McQueen winner
Great Movie, another Steve McQueen winner. Only drawback a little long perhaps. Current gaming generation needs more constant stimulation, but I loved it.
Published 6 days ago by Steven Koehler
5.0 out of 5 stars Long time not seeing this
Good flick, haven't seen it in years. Good to be able to see it again. Nice clean clear copy. Good quality.
Published 9 days ago by ManicBobo
5.0 out of 5 stars A Perfect Role for Steve McQueen
I think this is as true a view of our position in China and many other parts of the world before the great shift away from imperialism as you might find in a book or film. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Harold Pohl
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my all time favorite movies
Steve Mcqueen's best well written great acting a true must see . It has lessons I am afraid we are doomed to have to learn over and over again.
Published 10 days ago by tim
5.0 out of 5 stars Ablolutely Great...
If you spent time in the Navy you will really enjoy….Steve did an excellent job for sure….great cast…great story…see it and then resell it...!!
Published 12 days ago by vv0350
5.0 out of 5 stars Oldie but Goodie
One of Steve McQueen's best performances. The setting is romantic. The plot is compelling. And the castng was excellent, for a change.
Published 12 days ago by Michael Welikson
5.0 out of 5 stars DARN GOOD RECALL
Great Movie. Stayed up late to watch it. Recalled my early childhood in Shanghai and the Orient. This movie will remind us all who have lived in China.
Published 14 days ago by G Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Steve McQueen movies
This movie you will enjoy, plenty of great actors. Story based on San Pablo gun ship and its men in China.
Published 15 days ago by W.
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Roadshow version on Blu-Ray?
I believe it's the theatrical cut with the roadshow footage available seperately under special features. The Roadshow edition on dvd was not restored/color corrected.
May 31, 2008 by An Amazon Customer |  See all 2 posts
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