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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

Gift Horse (1952)
(2022 Restoration)


Starring: Trevor Howard, Richard Attenborough, James Donald and Sonny Tufts
Distributor: StudioCanal


Certificate: PG
Release Date: 04 April 2022

StudioCanal release a newly-restored version of the rarely seen classic WW2 Navy thriller, Gift Horse. 80 years ago, during WWII, British ‘Operation Chariot' stunned the Nazis, and the film pays tribute to this raid. In 1940, the Royal Navy is frantically recruiting for WWII so pulls Lieutenant Commander Fraser out of retirement to captain the HMS Ballantrae, herself recently re-commissioned and lent by the Americans to a seriously under-resourced British Navy. Despite an inauspicious start and multiple repairs, Fraser crafts the ship and its crew into an efficient fighting force, culminating in a daring mission to destroy a French dockyard which is crucial to the Nazis in maintaining their formidable battleships...

Directed by Compton Bennett Gift Horse comes to Blu-ray for the first time. This newly restored movie takes the real life events of Operation Chariot (aka St Nazaire Raid) and HMS Campbeltown's part in the proceedings. But as this is the last act of the film, Bennett spends the early part of the movie introducing us to the key players and illustrating how old and rundown HMS Ballantrae is.

For a modern audience the film is a little slow and the last act is suddenly thrust upon the viewer, a little like the crew members who don't really know what they're in for.

The effects, for the most part, still stand up today and the model work isn't overly distracting. It only becomes obvious when there are fires burning in buildings, which throws the scale off somewhat.

There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo by Sid James, who would go on to star in the Carry On series of movies.

Extras include Operation Chariot and HMS Campbeltown: James Dorrian Remembers the Real Gift Horse (19 min, 55 sec feature that interviews military historian, Dorrian, on the movie and Operation Chariot); Behind the Scenes Stills Gallery (40 sec); Ceremony Commemorating 5 Year Anniversary of the St Nazaire Raid (1 min, 36 sec 1947 British Pathé news item); and Original Trailer (1 min, 59 sec).

An enjoyable, although not essential, war movie that still holds up today.


Nick Smithson

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