Nine Men – 1943 | 68 mins | War | B&W
Harry Watt‘s first film at Ealing was a relatively straightforward war film about a lost patrol in the desert. Nine Men is an incident from the North African war, although Watt, whose background experience was in the Crown Film Unit on a mere £15 a week, was able to shoot it on a stretch of sand dunes at Margam on the South Wales coast for only £20,000, which even at Ealing must have been a minuscule budget, and yet still produced a convincing result. Major Jack Lambert was given leave to play a resourceful sergeant faced with the responsibility of getting his own men to safety after their officer is killed. They hide out in a desert tomb and hold it against a fierce enemy onslaught for a day and a night before they are relieved.
The story originated from Gerald Kersh, author of a book about the Guards in wartime called They Died With Their Boots Clean, and is deliberately low key and uncomplicated. The dialogue is spare and understated, the men accepting their hardship courageously and without rancour. The borderline between the true documentary of Watt’s earlier work, Target for Tonight, is crossed imperceptibly, as he uses many of the same skills in creating the tensions of their plight. Like so many of the wartime documentary films, it is a close-up of men doing a job.
Extract© George Perry: Forever Ealing.
Harry Watt: Director
Duncan Sutherland: Art Direction
Charles Crichton: Associate Producer
Roy Kellino: Cinematography
Charles Crichton: Editing
John Greenwood: Music
Harry Watt: Script
Sidney Cole: Supervising Editor
Jack Lambert: Sgt Watson
Gordon Jackson: Young \’Un
Frederick Piper: \’Banger\’ Hil
Grant Sutherland: Jock Scott
Bill Blewitt: Bill Parker
John Varley: \’Dusty\’ Johnstone
Eric Micklewood: \’Booky\’ Lee