CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • U
  • Drama, History
  • 1953
  • 103 mins

Malta Story

Malta Story

Synopsis

At the height of the Second World War, the British desperately cling to the strategically important island of Malta. War drama starring Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and Anthony Steel

About

Although it's rarely mentioned in the same breath as classics like The Dam Busters, Ice Cold In Alex and The Cruel Sea, Brian Desmond Hurst's Malta Story is a superior British war drama featuring great work from a platoon of the country's top performers.

It's 1942, and with the war in Africa and Europe in the balance, the importance of the Mediterranean island of Malta has never been greater. With the Nazis desperate to seize the isle, it falls to the stationed British forces and the gallant locals to hold firm. And as the Allies and the natives pull together so a young RAF photographer Peter Ross (Guinness) finds himself drawn to Maltese maiden Maria (Pavlow).

If you're used to Alec Guinness playing it for laughs in the Ealing comedies or instructing young Skywalker in the ways of the Force, it's quite something to see him playing a romantic lead. As you might imagine, he's hardly an Errol Flynn-style love 'em and leave 'em Lothario. Rather he's a sensitive young fellow who's made to seem more fragile still by retrospective revelations about Guinness's love life.

Jack Hawkins, meanwhile, has rarely been more hard-faced than as Air Commanding Officer Frank. Made fully a decade before he lost his voice to cancer, the Bridge On The River Kwai star is such a burly presence, he seems capable of taking the Germans on single-handed. His co-star Anthony Steel is also very good. The closest Britain came to a Tyrone Power-style heartthrob in the 1950s, Steel's often overlooked as a serious actor, yet his work here is every bit as spirited as his performances in The Black Tent and The Master Of Ballantrae.

Beautifully photographed by The Third Man DP Robert Krasker, Malta Story is Irish director Brian Desmond Hurst's greatest contribution to cinema, his other films of note including the Alastair Sim version of Scrooge and the bizarre propaganda film The Lion Has Wings. With impressive stock footage and decent supporting performances from Nigel Stock and Flora Robson, the film has suffered the same fate as Malta, whose importance to the Allies' success is now often overlooked. Still, as the island was decorated for its gallantry, so Hurst's film deserves plaudits for documenting a significant theatre of war.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jack Hawkins, Anthony Steel, Nigel Stock, Reginald Tate, Flora Robson, Alec Guinness, Renee Asherson, Muriel Pavlow
  • Director: Brian Desmond Hurst
  • Screen Writer: William Fairchild, Nigel Balchin
  • Writer (Book): Hugh P Lloyd
  • Writer (Story): William Fairchild
  • Producer: Peter De Sarigny
  • Photographer: Robert Krasker
  • Composer: William Alwyn

In a nutshell

An excellent if underrated war drama featuring characteristically strong performances from Guinness and Hawkins.

by Richard Luck

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Woman In Black 2

    The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death

    The spectral 'woman in black' feeds off the loss and trauma of Second World War evacuees in this gothic sequel from director Tom Harper (The Scouting Book For Boys)

  • Film4 Men In Black 3

    Men In Black 3

    Agent J (Will Smith) travels back to the 1960s to stop an alien from assassinating a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and changing the course of history

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 11 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o