The Sea Wolves

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The Sea Wolves
The Sea Wolves.jpg
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Produced by Euan Lloyd
Written by Reginald Rose
Starring Gregory Peck
Roger Moore
David Niven
Trevor Howard
Barbara Kellerman
Patrick Macnee
Music by Roy Budd
Cinematography Tony Imi
Lorimar Productions
Richmond Light Horse Productions
Varius Entertainment Trading A.G.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
June 5, 1981
Running time
120 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Box office $220,181[1]

The Sea Wolves is a 1980 war film starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore and David Niven. The film is based on the book Boarding Party by James Leasor, which itself is based on a real incident which took place in World War II. The incident involved the Calcutta Light Horse's covert attack on 9 March 1943 against a German merchant ship, which had been transmitting information to U-boats from Mormugão Harbour in neutral Portugal's territory of Goa.


During World War II, German submarines are sinking thousands of tons of British merchant shipping. British intelligence, based in India, believes that information is being passed to the U-Boats by a radio transmitter hidden on board one of three German merchant ships interned in Portuguese Goa. Since Portugal is neutral, the ships cannot be attacked by conventional forces.

The head of the Indian section of Special Operations Executive authorises attempts to kidnap and interrogate two known German agents, but these operations both fail. An approach is then made to a territorial unit of British expatriates, the Calcutta Light Horse, to carry out the mission on its behalf. They all volunteer - all are trained in military skills and keen to 'do their bit'.

Whilst the volunteers are trained, Stewart and Cartwright travel covertly to Goa. By a mixture of blackmail and bribery, they arrange diversions on the night of the raid. A party is to be held in the Governor's palace, a brothel will offer free entry to sailors from the German ships and a fiesta will be held. Stewart has a brief affair with Mrs.Cromwell, a mysterious and socially well-connected woman, who turns out to be a German agent and the main conduit for information. She is eventually killed by Stewart, after she has attempted to kill him.

The raiding party sail around the coast in a decrepit barely seaworthy barge and set mines on the hull of the German ship. They then board, catching the depleted crew off-guard. Despite Pugh's order that there be no shooting, several German sailors are killed. The ship is set alight and the party withdraws, watching as the ship sinks.

Historical basis[edit]

The actual Lewis Henry Owain Pugh at a preview of The Sea Wolves (1980)

The film notes in its closing credits that during the first 11 days of March 1943, the U-boats sank 12 Allied ships in the Indian Ocean. But, after the Light Horse raid on Goa, only one ship was lost in the remainder of the month.



Fifty percent of the budget was provided by Lorimar. They fell out with United Artists, their distributor, before the film was delivered. Lorimar subsequently formed a new relationship with Paramount but producer Euan Lloyd thought that studio regarded the film as "the poor cousin" and as a result it "wasn't sold properly".[2]

The film reunited much of the cast and crew from 1978's The Wild Geese, including Roger Moore, Kenneth Griffith, Jack Watson, writer Reginald Rose, producer Euan Lloyd, director Andrew V. McLaglen, designer Syd Cain and composer Roy Budd. According to the documentary The Last of the Gentleman Producers, Lloyd says that he originally planned to reunite Moore with Wild Geese co-stars Richard Burton and Richard Harris as Pugh and Grice. Gregory Peck and David Niven had worked together on 1961's The Guns of Navarone, but were excluded from appearing in the 1978 sequel Force 10 from Navarone since it was felt they were too old to convincingly play military veterans. This film made two years later disproved this theory. Incidental music is from the Warsaw Concerto


  1. ^
  2. ^ Mills, N. (1982, May 09). MOVIES. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

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