ALL AT SEA (1957), also known in the UK as BARNACLE BILL, is an Alec Guinness comedy recently released by the Warner Archive
Guinness plays Captain William Horatio Ambrose, who comes from a legendary British seafaring family but is so seasick that a mere photograph of water can make him ill.
Ambrose retires from the navy and purchases a ramshackle seaside amusement pier which he proceeds to renovate, despite opposition from the local town council, who plan to condemn the pier. Ambrose finds an unexpected ally in a former enemy (Irene Browne) and gradually brings the pier back to life, while also coming up with a clever plan to prevent it from being demolished.
This "Ealing comedy" has its mildly funny moments but was not really my cuppa tea, so to speak. Some of the broader humor I found unpleasant, and more importantly, the filmmakers use every possible opportunity to make the viewing audience feel as seasick as Captain Ambrose! Due to this I actually ended up fast-forwarding through the opening credits, filmed with the camera bobbing along with waves at sea.
Ambrose's new home in the "crazy cottage" on the pier only accentuates the audience's "seasick" feelings. The constant "humor" about feeling green brought back unpleasant long-ago memories of suffering severe morning sickness rather than being amusing.
Guinness does a nice deadpan job -- I enjoyed the fact that he's thoroughly "Navy" despite his disability, and the way he addressed his second-in-command on the pier as "Number 1" -- and there are a few moments of dry humor here and there which I liked. That said, despite my great love for Britain and many British films, I simply wasn't the right audience for this one. Perhaps my constitution is too close to that of Captain Ambrose to be able to really appreciate it!
The movie was directed by Charles Frend
, with story and screenplay by T.E.B. Clarke.
Those not inclined to feeling queasy who like the film's comedy style will really enjoy this sharp-looking widescreen DVD from the Warner Archive. A trailer is included on the DVD.
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the WBShop.