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Malta Story

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VHS | LP | Slipcase
103 mins (NTSC)
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Malta Story (1954)

Additional Information

Additional Information
NOW ! Another Great Performance in the ALEC GUINNESS Hall of Fame ! ...

The Malta Story stars Alec Guinness as WW II camera reconnaissance pilot Peter Ross. Crash-landing in Malta, Ross presents his photographs to the resident air officer (Jack Hawkins). The photos reveal that the Italians are planning a major invasion of the island. Low on fuel and men, the officer is all but helpless as the Italians mount their attack. Only the last-minute arrival reinforcements and supplies prevent Malta from falling into the hands of the enemies--but the story doesn't end there. Filmed on location, The Malta Story boasts some exceptional aerial photography, not to mention excellent performances from Guiness, Hawkins, Anthony Steele, Muriel Pavlow, Flora Robson and the rest of the stellar cast.

In 1942, Britain is trying hard to keep Malta while invasion seems imminent and Italians and Germans are regularly bombing the airfields and towns regardless. The RAF fight to survive against the odds using the few fighter aircraft available. Flight Lt. Peter Ross (Alec Guinness), an archaeologist, is on his way to a posting in Egypt but is stranded in Malta due to the air attacks. He is then asked to join the RAF squadron there as an air reconnaissance pilot. He meets Maria (Muriel Pavlow), a lovely Maltese girl working in the RAF operations room. The two fall in love and spend a few romantic hours in the Neolithic temples of Mnajdra and Ħaġar Qim on the island.

In the meantime, the situation becomes desperate. Many civilians are buried daily under the rubble, and famine is threatening their survival, as relief convoys are easy prey to the numerous attacks by air. Peter proposes marriage to Maria although they realise that wartime is not favourable to love affairs, as her mother suggests. Nevertheless, the young couple remain hopeful of the future. In the meantime, Maria’s brother (Nigel Stock) is arrested while trying to infiltrate the island from Italy, obviously on a spying mission, for which he is expected to be executed. [N 1] Maria’s mother lives a double drama.

The island relies on the last few ships of a convoy for supplies. The scene of the tanker SS Ohio (real footage) arriving half sunk in Valletta harbour is the apex of glory for the defenders and the island of Malta collectively receives the George Cross from Britain's King George VI.

The RAF holds on, and, along with Royal Navy submarines, is eventually able to take the offensive, targeting enemy shipping on its way to Rommel in Libya. Many air raids take place either to defend the island with Spitfires or a number of attack aircraft, including Bristol Beaufighter fighter-bombers, Bristol Beaufort and Fairey Swordfish torpedo bombers, which succeed in sinking Italian tankers and warships. There comes the moment when the most important enemy convoy is on its way to Libya under cover of poor visibility. Peter's commanding officer (Jack Hawkins) needs desperately to locate this target and orders him to find it at any cost. Peter, flying in his Spitfire, finally finds it, but has to stay close to keep contact. He is attacked by six Messerschmitt Bf 109Fs. Peter stays calm, but cannot escape his fate; he is shot down and killed, while Maria in the operations room listens helplessly to his radio transmissions. Later the next day, Maria sits by the beach, thinking of her beloved Peter. In the end it is implied (by newspaper) that the attack was a success, as the Afrika Corps has lost the Second Battle of El Alemain (in part due to supply shortages) and thus their foothold in Africa.

Malta Story was the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1953.[10] "The combination of an A-list cast, the portrayal of the iron resilience of the Maltese people, the gallantry of the RAF pilots and a tragic love story were the four components of its success."

A contemporary review in The New York Times considered Malta Story as "restrained, routine fare." The reviewer continued, "However, the commendable British reserve they display in the face of peril does not add luster to the standard yarn in which they are involved. This 'Malta Story,' unlike the actual one, does not stir the senses or send the spirit soaring." [12]Variety, however, called it, "(an) epic story of courage and endurance ..." [13]

In a later review of Malta Story, Leonard Maltin commented that "on-location filming of this WW2 British-air-force-in-action yarn is sparked by underplayed acting."[14] Aviation film historians, Jack Hardwick and Ed Schnepf gave it a 3/5 rating, noting the use of period aircraft made it "good buff material." [15]

Release Date: August 5, 1954

Distrib: United Artists


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