Customer Reviews: Morning Departure aka: Operation Disaster
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on May 20, 2008
Released in 1950, "Morning Departure" is an excellent dramatic thriller from the UK that can still have an impact on a modern audience, thanks to fine performances and a solid script.

John Mills stars as Lt. Cmdr Armstrong, the Captain of a submarine, who is happily married and contemplating leaving the Navy to accept a job running one of his father-in-law's factories. He is taking his submarine out on manouevers for perhaps the last time before entering the business world. While World War II may be over, it is clear that His Majesty's ships and--in this case--boat must remain in first-class working order !

The Sub's crew consists of an interesting cross-section of people, from officers to lower-ranked seamen. Lt. Manson ( an aristocratic Nigel Patrick ) seems like a shallow womanizer at first, but there is more to this character than meets the eye. Then we have Stoker Snipe, a neurotic claustrophobic ( a young but rivetting Richard Attenborough )--the last guy who should be on a submarine ! It seems that he volunteered for submarine service because the pay was higher--he has an irresponsible young wife who "likes to go shopping !" A number of other fine British character actors make up the rest of the crew, including James Hayter, George Cole and Victor Maddern.

You won't be surprised to hear that something goes terribly wrong for this sub and her crew, and a rescue mission has to be organized by the "brass" on shore--"stiff upper lip" roles here for a "Pre-M" Bernard Lee and--soon to be a major British star--a young Kenneth More.

John Mills is terrific in the lead, but this comes as no surprise to those of us who have followed "Sir John's" long, illustrious career. The film is a roller coaster of triumph, tragedy, cowardice, bravery, suspense, humour and a whole gamut of emotions as the plight of our trapped sailors becomes more desperate by the hour.

The picture is full-screen, black and white, with mono sound. I had no problems with the quality.

"Morning Departure" may start slowly and comfortably, but it soon progresses to a very intense experience and an unforgettable finale. It is a shining example from the golden age of British cinema. Recommended.
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on February 23, 2009
I had not heard of this movie until I saw it on and decided to check it out. i'm glad I did.

This is an outstanding film about a topic that most navies worldwide don't really want to discuss and that is the loss of a submarine. Usually when it happens, it is the catastrophic loss of the boat and all hands ala KURSK, SCORPION, THRESHER etc or recent memory.

This film takes place in the early 1950s and is sandwiched in between two real world submarine disasters suffered by the Royal Navy which was the loss of HM S/Ms TRUCULANT and AFFRAY. The loss of TRUCULENT is addressed in the opening of the movie and the emotional impact it must have had is handled well.

The boat in the movie is out on a routine day run when it encounters an influence mine. It doesn't hit it but is close enough to detonate it with the resultant flooding of most of the boat and its settling on the bottom. She isn't too deep so her people have a chance of escape.

One man, who would have been in the part of the boat that was flooded has been given emergency leave to visit his wife and new son. His good fortune is addressed by one of the survivors - not with envy but as a matter of fact and good fortune.

Eventually the boat is located by surface units and the captain begins the escape routine. Four men at a time can exit the boat. Four leave by the forward escape hatch and a second four go out through the control room. The plan is for the remainder to leave by flooding the remainder of the boat and escaping. However the plan meets a grim fate when it is discovered that the reminaing escape equipment has been damaged in the sinking and is not useable. The last four men have to wait for rescue to come to them.

The salvage ship arrives and shortly makes contact with the four men in the boat. Air lines are attached and it seems that all is well for a quick recovery. Then again, fate intervenes in the form of bad weather which renders the operation of raising the boat difficult and then as it gets worse, it becomes impossible to hold the boat in position so it is released back to the bottom and the salvage ship heads for port to await better weather. Everyone is aware, both above and below the surface that this wait is fatal to the men in the boat and that once resumed the operation will become a salvage operation and not a resuce operation.

John Mills heads a steller cast of characters including a young Richard Attenborough. The scenes and setting are excellent and even the underwater simulations of the boat are well done. However I think one aspect of the film needs be addressed.

At the start of the film there are scenes of domestic life for Mills and Attenborough while the character of the first lieutenant is busy with his rather large social calender. Yet when the boat goes down the coverage is all of the salvage operation and nothing is seen of the women left behind until the last scenes when letters are being left for one of the wives. I know this is a part of navy's submarine life that the wives don't sign up for but I think it would have been important for the wives to be depicted accurately. In this case the two wives shown become widows. Again, not a positive morale building moment but one that should have been addressed.

I speak from experince in the matter of families and submarines as my father, by a quirk of fate and changing operational schedules, missed riding the US submarine THRESHER on her last dive. I saw first hand the reactions of families loosing husbands and sons in the boat. I remember driving onto the base at Groton and seeing one of the cars of the men who was lost with his civilian clothes still hanging on a hook in the back of the car. It was a very trying time for not just those who lost people in the boats but for the men and families of those in other boats. It was a very real demonstration of the hazards of the sea and those who go down to the sea in snhips. Watching this film rekindled those moments in my own mind.

This is a fine film but because of the lack of coverage of the families as the disaster unfolds, I down graded it. Others might not but I think it is a critical part that has been left out.
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on March 21, 2008
I first saw this film on commercial TV in the '50s (under the U.S. title "Operation Disaster") and have been haunted by the ending ever since. I recently purchased a Region 2 copy on the off chance that my childhood memory was incorrect; it wasn't. As for the story: In peacetime, British submariners are trapped on the ocean floor after their craft hits a mine. Most of the movie is about a suspenseful rescue operation. Notable for Richard Attenborough's turn as a cowardly sailor.
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on September 14, 2009
and IMO, the submarine-movie with the most heart-rending last scene. I buying it because of Sir John after seeing "We dive at dawn" and "The way to the stars". He was a really good actor- among all the others like Trevor Howard, Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, Eric Portman ...
For the fans of John Mills "Morning Departure" is a must-have, but don't forget the tissue's !
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on July 16, 2012
This film is a good addition to one's WW2 war movie collection. The film is about a submarine that is damaged by a floating mine and the following rescue attempt. After this film was made a real and similar event took place.

Not everyone on board handles to frightening situation well. Hopes are raised and dashed, raised and dashed again until the end of the ordeal.
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on November 3, 2015
Great Britain was blessed with many fine actors and actresses who starred on radio, motion pictures, and television. One of my favorite actors is John Mills. He had a lengthy career that featured many fine performances None of his performances is finer than Mills' acting as the submarine commander in "Morning Departure." This film takes an unflinching and unsentimental look at the crew of a British submarine in peacetime when things goes horribly wrong. British wartime films are often exceptional, and I would also include this film that was set in peacetime.
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on October 5, 2013
Movies like these depict the struggle and war effort made in the UK as we stood alone and took the fight to the German's. From 1939 till the beginning of 1942. Thank God we had movies makers and films which are there for future generations, to understand what war means and the sacrifices which we made by to many. Highly recommended viewing
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on April 2, 2013
This is a British film of WWII vintage that talks of the problems experienced by the crew of a submarine that gets in trouble on the bottom. It is not a feel good movie. It is a historical representation of what submarine crews and their families faced. As it is a WWII period piece it also deals with the blitz and its affect on the morale of civilians and their family members (on their return from sea). I am a retired American submarine sailor and found the movie interesting and enjoyable to watch.
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on June 17, 2010
Excellent submarine movie. Great acting & great character development. On a par with "Das Boot".
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on February 22, 2016
This movie is interesting and enjoyable but a bit antiquated, by today’s standards and the ending is more than just a bit maudlin.
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