Sunday, February 12, 2017

My VHS Purge: Search for Battleship Bismarck

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

Search for Battleship Bismarck (1989) Dr Robert Ballard searches for the lost World War II German warship. The pursuit and sinking of the Bismarck is a grand tale of a sea battle between two great naval forces: Britain's Royal Navy and Germany's Kriegsmarine. Search for Battleship Bismarck plays the straight documentary form: Archival footage from the war and battle; interviews with historians, and with men who fought on both sides. The stories are at times moving. One in particular is recounted by former Royal Navy seaman and author Ludovic Kennedy as he reads from his book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Bismarck: The HMS Dorsetshire's rescuing of German sailors from oil slicked water is abandoned after a lookout spots what appears to be a U-Boat's periscope. Perhaps the most sobering story told in the film is that of a German sailor whose arms had been blown off in the final battle. He tries desperately to stay afloat and to clench a lifeline with his teeth.

Motion picture film shot from the deck of a Royal Navy warship showing the Bismarck in its death throes may be the most potent and 'truthful' footage of the documentary.

Many documentaries have been made about the sinking of the Bismarck, but Search for Battleship Bismarck carries the National Geographic mark of quality.


Tibor said...

I think James Cameron did a doc on the Bismark...or was it the Tirpitz?

Simon St. Laurent said...

Cameron too did a dive doc on the shipwreck: "Expedition: Bismarck"

The Tirpitz was broken up in the late '50s. The process was started in the late 1940s and it took years.

Seb Palmer said...

I loved this documentary. I was moved to tears at the end, during the testimony about the survivors and those that lost their lives. I've been reading several books on the Bismarck, and watching films - Sink The Bismarck, Cameron's own expedition, and now this. It was probably the best of the lot, on a par with Ludovic Kennedy's excellent 1971 BBC doc on the Tirpitz. Cameron actually filmed this doc for NG, as well as his own one later on. I still have a load of VHS videos, but not this. I really want to acquire this on DVD.