The Sand Pebbles
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Politics and low tide hold a U.S. gunboat on China's Yangtze River in 1926.
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 ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
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Top customer reviews
Steve McQueen stars as Jake Holman in one his signature roles and McQueen had a few. This sprawling story is set in the very volatile China of 1926. It's a mostly forgotten piece of history that foreign warships patroled the rivers of China in the 20's and the country tried to shake itself free of foreign domination.
Jake Holman is a lost soul who ends up working in the engine room of the San Pablo.
THE SAND PEBBLES might take some liberties with history but the story is as relevant today as it was in the 1960's during the Vietnam War. Here is a story of foreign powers interfering in a nation and culture they do not understand or respect.
McQueen heads a stellar cast that includes Richard Crenna, Richard Attenborough and Candice Bergan. Bergen was only 19 and a newcomer to film acting. Her lack of experience is evident but her sweet, gentle nature and beauty do light up the screen.
THE SAND PEBBLES is also a testament to the amazing talents of director Robert Wise who directed a very much different and sprawling epic - THE SOUND OF MUSIC. The bonus features on the 2 disc special edition give a good insight into how much detail and effort went into making THE SAND PEBBLES authentic. The warship was even built to be as real as possible.
This is a long film that tries to cover the social and political issues of the day along with exploring the lives of American sailors caught up in the drama of a culture they do not understand. THE SAND PEBBLES is another legacy to the talent of the great Steve McQueen and a true American classic.
Picture & stereo sound is good. The menu is a screaming pain where I sit to navigate. The cursor is so subtle it appears camouflaged & still trying to figure out how to turn the damned subtitles off so it lost a star. It appears that subtitles on is the default for some reason. Annoying.
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